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Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2024


Wednesday 21 February 2024


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Teddington Direct River Abstraction project

The petition of residents of the constituency of Twickenham in London

Declares extreme concern regarding Thames Water’s proposed scheme to build the Teddington Direct River Abstraction (DRA) project; notes that this would involve extracting up to 75 million litres of water from the River Thames in Teddington and replacing it with treated effluent from Mogden Sewage Treatment works; further notes that this project would involve the construction of tunnels and shafts starting in Isleworth and passing through Twickenham and Ham; further declares the potential risks this presents to local areas, both in terms of the impact on human health, the environment and biodiversity, and in terms of the disruption caused by construction in residential areas, as well as in nature areas in Moormead Park and Ham Lands; further notes the opposition conveyed by local community groups and residents; further declares concern that feedback submitted through Thames Water’s initial public consultations has not been adequately reflected in Thames Water’s response so far; and further declares that more viable alternatives to the Teddington DRA, with broader public support, have been discarded.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons ask the Government to remove the Teddington DRA as an option in the Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP), which is currently under review by DEFRA.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Munira Wilson, Official Report, 12 December 2023; Vol. 742, c. 867.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Steve Barclay):

Thank you very much for sharing your petition with me, as Secretary of State at DEFRA. We appreciate the concerns of local residents in Twickenham, which is why on 19 December 2023, DEFRA Minister Robbie Moore met with Munira Wilson and Sarah Olney to discuss the Teddington Direct River Abstraction (DRA) scheme proposed by Thames Water. I would like to reassure local residents that a full environmental impact assessment will be undertaken—to cover both construction and the future operations of the scheme—before development consent is granted. The Environment Agency is also a statutory consultee, and will ensure that any development complies with environmental requirements and appropriate mitigation is taken.

As set out in our plan for water, there is a need for water industry action to improve resilience of water supplies to drought and respond to future challenges including population growth, climate change, and to protect the environment. Water companies must act now to tackle these challenges.

The need for new water resources infrastructure is determined through the statutory water resources planning process. Water companies must consider a wide range of new supply and demand management options to evaluate how best to secure future water supplies as part of their analysis to inform their plans, which are consulted on. DEFRA, supported by the Environment Agency and other water regulators, is currently assessing whether Thames Water’s plan meets the water company’s obligations before Thames Water can finalise its plan.

The design and specific location of the Teddington DRA and its associated infrastructure is being developed by Thames Water, and the construction and operational impacts have not yet been fully defined. The investigation into the feasibility of this scheme, along with other strategic water resources schemes across the country, is being supported by RAPID—Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development—which is a partnership made up of the three water regulators: the Environment Agency, Ofwat and the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

The Teddington DRA scheme has been granted a direction under the Planning Act 2008 to appoint it a nationally significant infrastructure project. Therefore, for Teddington DRA to proceed, Thames Water will still need to apply for and be granted development consent, as well as obtaining the relevant environmental permits. As I previously mentioned, an environmental impact assessment will be required to support a decision on development consent and the Environment Agency will scrutinise the proposals to ensure it is acceptable from an environmental perspective.


Road freight rates

To the House of Commons.

The petition of residents of the constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk,

Declares that the road haulage industry contributes to approximately £13.5 million annually to the UK economy; further that everything we eat, drink, wear and consume depends on road haulage services and the companies and drivers that operate them; notes that 98% of all food and agricultural products in the UK are transported by road freight; further that road freight rates have seen their biggest increase in almost a year, with UK rates climbing by 3.3%, month on month, in September, which is the sharpest rise since December 2022, according to the TEG Road Transport Index; and further that, this in part has been propelled by the reintroduction of the HGV levy, clean air changes, rising fuel prices and higher business charges.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to consult with the road haulage industry to introduce tailored support to ensure that companies can continue to operate.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martyn Day, Official Report, 6 February 2024; Vol. 745, c. 219.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman):

The Government understand the significant role that the road haulage industry plays in keeping goods flowing across the country and our borders, and in supporting the wider economy.

Following publication of our “Future of Freight” plan, the Government set up the Freight Council, which is jointly chaired by industry and the Minister for Roads and Local Transport. The Freight Council is an established forum providing a direct channel for industry’s concerns to be heard and to work with the Government on future policy for the sector.

Rates charged by the industry, as measured by the TEG index, are market driven and not set by Government. It is worth noting that the latest data, for January 2024, has shown a decrease of 10.8 points, marking the lowest overall price since March 2023, and lies 2.5 points lower year on year—

The road freight sector provides key transportation services to other sectors of the economy. Consequently, demand for its services is linked to domestic consumption and production levels. There are currently no plans to consult with the road haulage industry to introduce tailored support.

However, the Government acknowledge the pressures that the industry has faced in recent years and have taken decisive action to support the sector. This has included a range of HMG interventions in response to the acute HGV driver shortage, including the £34 million investment from DfE to train up to 11,000 drivers through skills bootcamps and the motoring agencies’ work to increase driving test slots. Lorry drivers will also soon benefit from improved roadside facilities and safer rest areas as a result of significant investment from industry and Government via the “HGV parking and driver welfare grant scheme” and National Highways funding.

Moreover, at the 2023 autumn statement, the Government announced that they are continuing their support for haulage companies by freezing HGV vehicle excise duty and the HGV levy in 2024-25. This results in a tax saving for one of the most popular HGVs— a 38-44 tonne rigid lorry with 2 axles, EURO V-l—of a total of £47 per annum. These measures form a package of support for hauliers, alongside the freezing of fuel duty as announced at the spring Budget 2023.

Clean air zones are set by local government and the sector engages directly with local authorities on this issue.