Affinity Water's U-turn on water softening in Saffron Walden has been welcomed by the town council's leader, but the new arrangement will come at a cost.

Councillor Paul Gadd praised the supplier for promising to build a new plant to partially soften the water supply in Saffron Walden, Ashdon and Hadstock.

Affinity Water said it would stop softening water earlier this year after its equipment at Debden Road, which would cost between £3 million and £5 million to replace, came to the end of its life.

It has since made a U-turn and will have a new treatment works up and running within the next 18 to 24 months.

Affinity Water customers in Saffron Walden will need to pay a surcharge - the details of which are still being drafted - for partial water softening, similar to the arrangement in place before equipment broke down.

Saffron Walden Town Council challenged Affinity Water's decision to stop softening water after residents warned that limescale caused by hard water could damage appliances such as kettles and boilers at an economic and environmental cost.

Cllr Gadd said: "We are absolutely delighted that Affinity Water has agreed to restore water softening to the Saffron Walden area."

He added: "All credit to Affinity as it doesn’t seem the norm for large monopolies to take it on the chin, admit when they got it wrong, and then do what residents asked.

"We applaud their actions and look forward to the softening being restored for many local residents."

Saffron Walden Reporter: Cllr Paul Gadd (R4U)Cllr Paul Gadd (R4U) (Image: R4U)

An Affinity Water spokesperson said the arrangement was unique.

Kevin Barton of Affinity Water said last week: "We would like to say sorry for the unexpected change to the water hardness in Saffron Walden this year.

"The equipment used to partially soften the water failed unexpectedly and we have been working hard to find other solutions to put things right.

"We are committed to listening to our local communities and we realise that on this occasion, we let you down."

He added that hard water is completely safe to drink.

Affinity Water will donate money to St Clare Hospice, a charity chosen by consultation respondents, by way of apology to customers.