Stakeholders OK Defra plan to end abstraction licence exemptions

Defra proposals to end exemptions to abstraction licensing have been broadly accepted by water sector stakeholders but hard hit industries have baulked at lack of compensation.

Responders to Defra's consultation on the ending of exemptions for some sectors from the need to hold an abstraction licence have supported a proposed light touch to be applied in the new regime.

In Defra's summary of responses to its consultation there was a mixed response to the plan to exclude compensation to new licence holders for planned abstractions.

Farmers, who were by far the largest group of respondents, were split evenly on this while miners – the second largest respondent group sand transport were wholly against. Defra defended the proposal saying to compensate planned abstraction wold "confer a more favourable position on previously exempt abstractions than enjoyed by licensed abstractors."

The Environmental Improvement Unit Charge (EIUC) currently collected to meet compensation payments has been proposed as a source of funding for compensation. While this is broadly supported by currently exempt abstractors, licensed companies are concerned about a potential increase in the charge.

Other concerns included: volumes being placed on transfer licences along with an obligate measure and monitor those volumes; and a suggested possible "unnecessary burden" in the application process for transitional and planned abstractions.