Defra has confirmed it will press on with the amendments it consulted on in April to the types and sizes of nationally significant infrastructure for water resources set out in the Planning Act 2008, as part of its work to develop a National Policy Statement (NPS) for Water Resources.
This follows support from the majority of the 20 respondents to its April consultation. The Department last week published a consultation response summary and the government response.
The amendments are:
A "deployable" output measure, set consistently at 80m litres of water a day, will be introduced for all scheme types. Defra said this will create a level playing field for all schemes defined as nationally significant: “This allows for schemes to be compared, and enables developers to select a scheme based on its merits in the specific context.”
Desalination will be added in as a specific infrastructure type to which the NPS will apply, to offer another water resource option and avoid bias or perverse incentives towards reservoirs and transfers.
Effluent reuse will not be included as a specific infrastructure type to which the NPS will apply. Defra explained: “By design, effluent reuse is likely to result in the transfer of effluent in order to be reused. Therefore an effluent reuse scheme designed to deliver water exceeding 80m litres per day deployable output would qualify as a nationally significant infrastructure project. Section 35 of the Planning Act also allows for schemes which do not meet the thresholds and definitions but have national significance to apply for consideration.”
The Planning Act will therefore be amended later this year as follows:
Reservoirs – The volume held back will be increased to 30m cubic metres (30,000 megalitres) and a qualifying figure of 80 megalitres per day deployable output will be introduced.
Transfers – the threshold will be reduced from the current 100m cubic metres to developments which are expected to exceed 80m litres per day deployable output. This is broadly equivalent to 30 million cubic metres a year.
Desalination – a specific definition for desalination plants which exceed 80m litres per day deployable output will be introduced.
The amendments will support a major 12-week consultation on the draft National Policy Statement for Water Resources Infrastructure in autumn this year, which will set out the need for new nationally significant water resources infrastructure and provide the detailed planning policy guidance to assess projects.