Agenda item

Planning for Future Development in Breckland (Agenda Item 7)

The following agencies have been invited to update Members on their plans for dealing with future development in the District:


Adam Ireland from the Environment Agency (EA) and Sue Bull from Anglian Water (AW) were in attendance and each gave a PowerPoint presentation.


The Environment Agency was governed by legislation including the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and European Union obligations in the Water Framework Directive (EUWFD).


The agency welcomed the opportunity to work with the Council to assist in the formation of the new Local Plan.  Natural environment Policies in the Plan needed to be evidence based and should set out the strategic priorities to address the provision of water supply and waste water.  The aim of the Policies should be to prevent new or existing development being put at risk by water pollution.  Adequate infrastructure was needed to support sustainable development.


Contamination was an important issue for consideration, as was flood risk and climate change.  There was also a legal duty to co-operate between Planning Authorities and other bodies.


The EA was the lead authority for implementing the EUWFD.  That required waters to be managed sustainably and maintained to good physical standards, defined in the River Basin Management Plan.


Potential constraints on growth in Dereham and Attleborough had been identified in the outline Water Cycle Study commenced in 2007.  Potential solutions had been identified to facilitate further growth.  During the development of the Council’s Core Strategy it had been agreed that monitoring should take place and the additional data available provided an opportunity to revisit and update the study.  During the new Local Plan preparation the water strategy would need to be reassessed to consider changes brought about by the economic climate.  Problems would be identified and ways to address them would be sought, together with means of funding.


In response to a question raised about the de-silting of Nunns Bridges in Thetford, Mr Ireland advised that watercourse management was determined through medium and long term plans.  Work was focussed on the areas with the greatest flood risk as the EA had to concentrate on reducing risk to the public and property.


In summary, the EA would be working with officers on the Local Plan process to assess water infrastructure requirements and to address the issues.  The EUWFD was aimed at reconnecting people with quality rivers and spaces.


Councillor Turner asked what the EA was doing about a large fly-tipping problem on private land in the district and Mr Ireland asked her to provide the details so that he could look into the matter.


Councillor Bambridge thought it was important that the EA looked at large planning applications in rural areas with regard to flood risk as in some cases developers were discharging to ditches that did not go anywhere.  He thought that the Agency should take a more rigorous approach.  Mr Ireland advised that there was a duty on landowners to keep ditches clear and the Agency had to focus on main rivers.  The EA did look at sites over one hectare and required specific drainage details which included looking at the impact on receiving watercourses, but they did not have enough people to look at every development application.


Councillor Bambridge suggested that Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) should be used more and should be statutory consultees on planning applications.


Councillor Richmond asked about borehole licences and whether there would be a reduced number allowed in future.  He pointed out that there was no way to grow vegetables without water.


Mr Ireland noted that a vast majority of the area was under water stress and renewals, reviews and new applications for borehole licences were considered in depth.  New licences were unlikely to be issued due to ground water levels.  The Agency would identify the reason for the use of the borehole.  They understood the need to ensure livelihoods and food production.  Each licence was considered on a case by case basis, but they were looking for savings.


Members then received the Anglian Water (AW) presentation by Sue Bull.  She talked about planning for sustainable growth.  She said that AW was keen to work with the Council and stakeholders.  They welcomed the opportunity for early engagement.  The main issues were climate change and the need to adapt and seek measures to reduce flood risk and carbon emissions.


They had adopted the ‘Love Every Drop’ logo and set a whole range of challenging goals to halve their carbon.  A lot of waste water treatment (now known as water recycling) was energy intensive.  They needed to transform their ways of working and to work with others to inspire and change behaviours through an active education programme.


They had a 25 year management plan which was reviewed every five years.  It involved extensive consultation on how they provided water and spent money.  The plan was based on both National and local growth predictions.


There were no major concerns about supply and demand in the Breckland district.  The aim was to ensure no detriment to existing customers or the environment when considering new developments.  They gave pre-planning advice and offered solutions.  Funding contributions were required from developers for any infrastructure upgrades that were needed.


With regard to leakage they worked hard to address the problems.  They aimed to make the best use of resources.  Currently about 65% of customers were metered and that number was expected to increase to 85% by 2015.


Moving on to discuss specific areas of the District, Ms Ball advised that AW had worked with the Council and the EA on the Local Development Framework (LDF) and had looked at the Water Cycle Study.  At that time there was insufficient water to allow growth in Attleborough.  However, since then they had developed the ability to monitor flows and had established that growth could be accommodated.  The EA agreed with that.  They would continue to monitor the network.


Dereham had little capacity in the current flow permit.  But Mattishall had capacity to accept further flows and by diverting flows from Dereham to Mattishall additional capacity could be provided in Dereham.


Thetford had available capacity to accommodate the proposed growth profile, including the Strategic Urban expansion with no need for additional water recycling facilities.


A question had been raised about rural areas without sewers.  In the five year period between 2010 and 2015 £70million would be invested to provide foul water drainage to about 3000 properties; about £16million would be spent in Breckland.  AW was a regulated company and their Business Plan had to go to Ofwat.


Their expenditure was focussed on upgrading systems that were harming the environment.  They had no provision for growth.  Developers were expected to make contributions for growth.


Councillor Bambridge was disappointed that rivers were not being used for power generation.  He asked them to consider that and also water farming, as some areas in the District were suitable for that.  Finally he mentioned that he had experienced problems when trying to contact AW through their website and Ms Bull asked for details so that she could look into that.


With regard to power generation and water farming, she said that they looked at all possibilities and she would take his suggestions into consideration.


Mr Ireland advised that hydo-electricity required a volumetric head and that it was very expensive to move water.  However, with regard to water farming he said that the EA tried to ensure that NCC Mineral and Waste sites alongside rivers were utilised.


Councillor Kybird said it was a shame that weed cutting had not been carried out in Thetford town centre as rubbish collected in the weeds and was an eyesore.  Mr Ireland agreed to look into the programme of works.


Councillor Richmond asked about the number of fish lost due to the hot summer and Mr Ireland said that the EA needed to be advised of areas where fish were in distress as soon as possible as they did have means of assisting in oxygenation.


The Chairman asked if the risk to humans was considered when the programme of works was prepared as the silt levels at Nunns Bridges could be a danger to children playing there and Mr Ireland advised that it was predominantly flood risk that was considered but he would investigate further.


The Chairman thanked Ms Bull and Mr Ireland for attending.