Draft NPS for water resources infrastructure published

A new National Policy Statement for a forgotten area of infrastructure

At a time when Government resources are largely deployed elsewhere, there is one recent development in planning worth noting. On 29th November 2018, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (“Defra”) published a further consultation on a draft National Policy Statement (“NPS”) for water resources infrastructure. For those unfamiliar with the jargon, NPS’s set out the planning policy for a specific type of large project, Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (“NSIPs”), which fall under the regime set out in the Planning Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”). They include reservoirs, water transfer pipelines and desalination projects.

This is the final NPS to be prepared and comes a good ten years after the publication of the Planning Act 2008. Its delay is, arguably, indicative of a broader neglect of water infrastructure, which is rarely accorded the attention or significance of other national infrastructure such as rail, road and energy projects, However, its importance should not be underestimated. Demand for water continues to increase due to population and economic growth, with climate change also likely to reduce the reliability of rainfall. As a result, by the 2050s England is projected to face a water deficit of 8-22% of total demand. Ensuring resilient water supplies is crucial. The government’s approach is twin-tracked. A key part will be demand management (leakage reduction and increased water efficiency measures). However, there will also be the need for new water supplies. This will require significant infrastructure investment, and it is the delivery of these which concerns this NPS.

This consultation follows previous in 2017 and in April 2018 (which helped form the content of the draft NPS and in establishing the types and sizes of infrastructure to which the NPS will apply) and seeks view on two matters 

  • Whether the draft NPS provides an appropriate framework for the Examining Authority (the Planning Inspectorate) and the Secretary of State, to examine and make decisions on development consent orders, for nationally significant water resources infrastructure; and
  • On the accompanying Appraisal of Sustainability Report and Habitats Regulations Assessment Report, which assesses the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts of the draft NPS; and the Habitats Regulations Assessment, which evaluates whether there are any ‘likely significant effects’ on any ‘European site’ (e.g. special areas of conservation).

Alongside publishing the draft for consultation, the government has also laid the draft NPS in Parliament for scrutiny (until 16 May 2019) and approval with the intention of designating and consulting on the final NPS in 2019.

Posted on: 12/12/2018

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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