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Water: South East Region

Volume 461: debated on Friday 15 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what studies his Department has undertaken on the capacity of water resources to meet plans for increased housing numbers, with particular reference to the south-east of England. (141322)

DEFRA worked very closely with the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) throughout 2005, to analyse the environmental impacts of the increased levels of housing supply proposed in Kate Barker’s review of housing supply. This work led to the publication of the Entec Report: “A sustainability impact study of additional housing scenarios in England”, in December 2005. The comprehensive package of environmental measures announced as part of the Government’s response to the Barker review was informed by this analysis. Close inter-departmental liaison is ongoing.

My Department has been involved in the appraisal of the New Growth Point Proposals, to ensure that the environmental implications of these proposals for increased levels of growth in the wider south, have been considered from the start. We have worked closely with Natural England and the Environment Agency to scrutinise the proposals to determine whether the levels and locations of growth present any problems with respect to water resources, and also flood management, water quality, green infrastructure and biodiversity/designated sites.

DEFRA has co-funded a study with CLG and the Environment Agency to investigate how total water demand in the Thames Gateway can be managed to ensure that development does not place additional demand on existing water resources. We are calling the concept ‘water neutrality’. We are currently considering in further detail exactly what this might mean for the Gateway, and will report on the study findings in due course.

On 1 April 2007, the preparation of water companies’ 25 year water resource management plans became a statutory requirement under the Water Act 2003, and will be subject to public consultation. These plans, which had hitherto been prepared voluntarily, set out the demand and supply measures water companies plan to take to maintain security of supply for their customers. Local authorities are statutory consultees for these plans and will be able to comment on the measures water companies are taking in respect of new housing developments.