10th December 2018

We have today submitted our response to the Consultation on the draft National Policy Statement for Water Resources Infrastructure. Details of the consultation are below, followed by the main points of our response. To view or download our full response, use the link at the bottom of this item.

Details of Consultation

Update 6 – Consultation on the draft National Policy Statement for Water Resources Infrastructure begins 

We have today published our consultation on the draft National Policy Statement for Water Resources Infrastructure (NPS). All consultation documents are available from our Citizen Space website here: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/water/draft-national-policy-statement/. The consultation will close on Thursday 31 January 2019 at midnight. 

We would like your views on whether the draft NPS provides an appropriate and effective framework for the Examining Authority (the Planning Inspectorate) and the Secretary of State to examine and make decisions on development consent order applications for nationally significant water resources infrastructure projects in England. We would also like your views on the Assessment of Sustainability and Habitats Regulations Assessments that accompany the NPS. 

The types of infrastructure that the NPS will specifically apply to are reservoirs, water transfer and desalination projects. The Planning Act 2008 will be amended shortly to this effect and the Citizen Space website will include an update when this occurs. 

Friends of the Lake District Response to Consultation

Section 1: The draft National Policy Statement (NPS)

1 Do you think the draft NPS sets out a clear need for nationally significant water resources infrastructure? Please provide reasons to support your answer. 

FLD Response: We remain disappointed that the NPS does not provide a clear linking mechanism which requires water companies to prove they have significantly reduced water usage and leakage before they seek major additional infrastructure. We would urge that the ability to do this is looked at again. 

We reiterate our comments made in a previous consultation: Need is not static, it changes all the time. The Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP) are the documents which assess any potential deficit in demand and propose solutions. They operate on a 25 year timescale but are revised every 5 years. It appears rather strange therefore that there seems to be no parallel review of the NPS proposed. We may therefore end up with a situation where the need in WRMP is up to date, but is being assessed against out of date need identification in the NPS. How is this going to be resolved? 

2 Do you think the draft NPS makes clear for water undertakers, the Examining Authority and the Secretary of State, the relationship between water resources management planning and applying for nationally significant infrastructure project development consent? Please provide reasons to support your answer.

FLD Response: We welcome the statement in para 4.9.10 that “The Secretary of State should refuse development consent in these areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that the development is in the public interest”. However, we feel that this presumption should be reflected by the designated landscapes being exempt from the NSIP process and that for these areas, such plans should be determined by local planning mechanisms as per current arrangements.

3 Are the assessment criteria included in the draft NPS appropriate? Please tell us your views, including any further relevant criteria you can identify.

 FLD Response: We welcome the inclusion of many of our comments in previous consultations, particularly those relating to landscape, access, tranquillity, etc. 

5 Do you have any other comments on the draft NPS which are not covered by the previous questions?

FLD Response: We remain horrified that Table 2.1 in the Appraisal of Sustainability Report refers to the potential Borrowbeck Reservoir. It is bizarre that the WRMP are required to show all options considered even if they are financially, environmentally and socially unacceptable. This is the case with the current United Utilities WRMP in that it identifies a potential reservoir at Borrowbeck. This is in a nationally designated landscape and would be totally unacceptable in landscape and environmental terms, yet has to be put in the plan. This is frankly ridiculous given stakeholder and company feedback. It is even more disconcerting that it is referred to as a feasible option when para 4.9.10 states such schemes will not normally be approved in designated landscapes. They may be feasible in building terms but never in landscape or environmental terms. The WRMP guidance needs to be reconsidered to remove schemes that will never be environmentally and socially acceptable, and the terminology in the NPS refined to use appropriate and not feasible.

Section 2: Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) and Habitats Regulations Assessment

7 Do you agree with the conclusions of the Appraisal of Sustainability Report and the recommendations for enhancing positive effects associated with the implementation of the draft NPS? If not, what do you think should be the key recommendations and why?

FLD Response: We do not agree with the conclusions re landscape, namely that the implementation of the draft NPS is likely “to result in a positive effect in respect of conserving and enhancing our landscapes and townscapes”. We do not see how this conclusion can be reached where there are no details of any schemes available. It put a significant emphasis on potential enhancement of schemes but does not specify what this may be. Reservoirs it is acknowledged are likely to be on greenfield, not brownfield sites and as such will have a significant change in landscape character. Water transfer schemes may be underground but there will be a requirement for the area of ground above any pipes not to be planted with trees or have walls across them. So, quite apart from physical infrastructure impacts such as buildings, we consider that it is impossible to say that there will automatically be a positive landscape impact. At best the assessment must be unknown until detailed plans are available for schemes.

8 Do you agree with the proposed arrangements for monitoring the significant effects of the implementation of the draft NPS? If not, what measures do you propose?

FLD Response: There appear to be no proposals for monitoring landscape or cultural heritage. Tables 4 and 6.1 in the Appraisal of Sustainability include no indicators for either of these subject areas. On that basis, no we do not agree with the proposed arrangements for monitoring. A baseline needs to be established based on the most detailed landscape character assessments done, and if there are none, then a baseline LCA and associated monitoring framework should be established as part of the process.

Read / download our full response at this link (pdf)