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BLUE Print

Laws & Compliance Local Authorities

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Local government is obliged to consider the impact of new developments on water quality during the Planning process. DEV2.3 ensures development will not result in unacceptable harm to the water environment through the deterioration of water quality, and will look to improve water quality. This is required in line with the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (33), and to meet requirements under The Habitat Regulations (2017). 3.39 The WFD sets out objectives to ensure the protection and improvement of the water environment, this includes achieving “good status” of all water bodies and groundwater bodies by set deadlines. Relevant information on water bodies is available via the Environment 32 33 24 Agency’s Catchment Data Explorer(34), whilst the River Basin Management Plan (35) sets out objectives for how water quality will be improved. It is expected that all developments will comply with the aforementioned documents. 3.40 All developments should consider potential impacts, direct, indirect or cumulative, to water quality during construction or operation. Any forthcoming applications that are likely to impact the water environment should clearly show how the development may affect relevant water bodies and how any negative impacts are to be mitigated, if these cannot first be avoided. Wherever possible applicants should explore opportunities to improve and/or restore water quality. The environmental sensitivity of the site should also be considered as set out at 7 'Natural environment (DEV23-DEV28)'. 3.41 All construction activities should follow Pollution Prevention Guidance 6 (PPG 6)(36) and all relevant current Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) guidance. Evidence will be required to show that impacts have been considered in relation to the environmental sensitivity of the site. The initial assessment should be proportional to the scale of the development, any significant impacts will be required to be addressed through a Water Framework Directive Assessment. (37) . 3.42 Further information can be found using the Governments guidance on Water supply, wastewater and water quality. (38) . 3.43 Further information about how to limit impacts to water quality through managing flood risk can be found at 9 'Climate change, flooding, and coastal change (DEV32-DEV36)' and 'Managing flood risk and water quality impacts (DEV35)'. 3.44 Development may not be supported if there is likely to be interruption to the quantity or quality of water available to off-site supplies. Evidence may be required if a development is identified as having an unacceptable impact on private water supplies in the vicinity of the proposed development.

The House of Lords blocked an amendment to the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill (now an Act) that the Conservative Government attempted to fast track through Pariliament that would allow developers to pollute waters draining into designated nature areas. Nutrient neutrality requires that new housing developments in certain areas (important for wildlife) should not add more ‘nutrient pollution’ to the water catchment. It applies only to new housing developments in areas with protected habitats sites that are already in ‘unfavourable condition’ (due to nutrient pollution). Shameful amendment which shocked environmental organisations.

Places a legal duty on water companies to upgrade wastewater treatment works. Key points to note are: a nutrient pollution standard of 0.25mg/l for phosphorus and 10mg/l for nitrogen an upgrade date of 1 April 2030 a requirement for the SoS to maintain and publish details of sensitive catchment areas and nitrogen/phosphorus significant wastewater treatment plants enforcement provisions for the SoS and a requirement for the EA to exercise its functions under the Environmental Damage Regulations (2015) The Government’s initial estimates indicate that, across all affected catchments, there will be around a 75% reduction in phosphorus loads and around a 55% reduction in nitrogen loads in total from wastewater treatment works, although this will vary between individual catchments. These upgrades will enable housebuilding to be unlocked by reducing the amount of mitigation developers must provide to offset nutrient pollution.

The Secretary of State commissioned Sam Richards, to undertake an independent review of statutory consultees within the planning system, with the recommendations from this to be published in March 2024. Water companies must continue to engage local planning authorities on their applications at the right time so they can input effectively and not slow down the application process. Whilst particular organisations or bodies might not be statutory consultees on planning applications, they can work proactively with local councils to identify developments where they might have an interest and can comment on proposals within the statutory public consultation period. The decision to grant or refuse a planning application ultimately rests with the local planning authority, who will take into account all relevant planning considerations and not just the advice from one consultee. Planning practice guidance encourages early engagement between local planning authorities and water/sewerage companies where water quality is likely to be a significant planning concern. Part 8 of the Development Management Procedure Order 2015 - “Miscellaneous – Local Development Orders” states that where a local planning authority has prepared a draft Local Development Order in which the interests of water/sewerage companies are likely to be affected, the authority must consult those companies. Consultation with water/sewerage companies also ensures that the companies’ investment plans align with local development needs. Water/sewerage companies should also be consulted on Local Plans in order to manage water demand locally and help deliver new development.

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