Objectors to tight schedule for £5bn green plan win chance to propose alternatives

The Environment Agency and Defra on Friday released details of the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP), the basic measures required of water companies to meet desired environmental outcomes at PR19 for the 2020-2025 period.

This follows a challenge by environment secretary Michael Gove for the industry to deliver more by 2025 than originally proposed, bringing forward some outcomes that were earmarked for after the five year period.

Following pushback by some companies, who argued foreshortening the programme would prevent some more innovative approaches to the delivery of desirable outcomes being tried, the agency has given companies until 30 June to submit alternative proposals if they can demonstrate these would be better in the long run: “Certain aspects of the WINEP, on an exceptional basis, will be considered for extension of the 2020-2025 timeframe if they facilitate long term sustainable outcomes and maximise environmental benefits.”

As it stands, the investment earmarked totals £5bn and will:

  • Protect and improve at least 6000km of waters

  • Protect and improve 24 bathing waters and ten shellfish sites

  • Protect and improve 1800 hectares of protected nature conservation sites

  • Enhance nearly 900km of river and 4276 hectares through wider biodiversity improvements.

Gove said: “I want water companies to invest in the long term future of our environment. It is right that the Environment Agency is challenging water companies to go further. This significant investment will help tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the natural environment. It will help to improve our waterways, increase biodiversity and combat non-native invasive species. This will support our goal to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.”

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “A clean water environment keeps us healthy, sustains wildlife, and is essential to the success of the economy. Water quality has improved in recent decades but water companies are still responsible for at least one serious pollution incident every week…Water companies have until later this year to submit more detailed plans to Ofwat. I’m looking forward to seeing more innovation and less pollution.”