DEFRA has started work that will ultimately allow nationally significant water resources projects, such as reservoirs and transfer schemes, to take a fast-track route through the planning system.
Last Wednesday, the department held a workshop to engage stakeholders early in its work to draw up a National Policy Statement (NPS) for Water Resources. A NPS is a planning tool provided for by the Planning Act 2008. Sectors specified by the act can by-pass local planning arrangements for infrastructure projects that are deemed to be of national significance, where a NPS has been put in place.
Water is the only sector specified in the Planning Act not yet to have an NPS. DEFRA staff explained the government plans to consult this year on its broad approach to the water resources NPS, with a view to drafting the statement for public and parliamentary scrutiny by summer 2018 and designating the NPS by spring/summer 2019.
As well as fleshing out the context and objectives for the work and providing details of the sustainability assessment that will be undertaken as an integral part of it, Wednesday’s workshop specifically asked for stakeholder views on the underpinning principles DEFRA has scoped out and how to define “nationally significant” resource projects.
More details will be in October’s THE WATER REPORT