Draft Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report

Ended on the 15th January 2010
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17 Water

17.1 Introduction

17.1.1 Water quality is assessed by the percentage of river length that has good chemical and ecological status. Ecological status, in turn, is defined as a combination of physico-chemical elements (e.g. nutrients, pH, dissolved oxygen), biological elements (e.g. fish, algae), specific pollutants and hydromorphology (e.g. depth, width, flow).

17.1.2 Poor water quality is typically due to a combination of agricultural runoff, untreated drainage from built-up areas and roads, and discharge from wastewater treatment works. It can affect people’s health, and that of plants and animals.

17.1.3 The pressures on our water resources are growing. More houses are being built, our population is increasing and we are all using more water. Climate change will only add to these pressures. UK-wide, roughly 48% of the water abstracted in England and Wales is for household use, 22% for non-domestic use, and 22% is lost due to leakage277 .

(3) 17.2 What’s the policy context?

17.2.1 The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD)278 requires all inland and coastal waters to achieve at least ‘good status’ by 2015 or, where this is not possible, by 2021 or 2027. The Environment Agency has prepared draft River Basin Management Plans279 that show how these requirements will be met by 2025. This includes a plan for the Thames River Basin District which covers Harlow District. Ongoing actions with relevance to LPAs include influencing the location of development, developing specific policies for contaminated lad, and to comply with published advise (SUDS Code of Practice) for operators on sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) (this is voluntary or optional but driven by the Groundwater Directive). In addition, a number of actions may be taken by the Environment Agency past 2015 and therefore should be considered by the Plan to ensure that it is flexible enough. These actions relevant to LPAs include280 :

  • Influencing local government policies to ensure building regulations adopt high standards of water efficiency;

  • Seeking inclusion of water efficiency measures and targets with Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Framework documents;

  • Ensure the need for appropriate Water Cycle Strategies are included in regional and local plans, particularly in growth or high risk areas;

  • Influence developers and LPA on implications of WFD during preparation of development briefs for major developments;

  • Provide national guidance for spatial planners on integrating development planning and water planning;

  • RSSs to include policy ensuring the delivery of WFD requirements through planning/LDF process

  • Influence the LPA on enforcement of National, Regional and Local Planning Policy relating to pollution prevention, SUDS, land and groundwater contamination and ecological enhancement. Strengthen policy through regular review; and

  • Identify suitable development for high risk areas in this groundwater sensitive area with thin soils over Chalk and fairly rapid fissure flow.

17.2.2 Future Water: The Government’s water strategy for England (2008)281 sets out the Government’s vision for how the water sector will look by 2030 and some of the steps necessary to achieve it. The Strategy requires planning authorities to work closely with the water companies and the Environment Agency on timing and numbers of new households in areas likely to see the greatest growth. The CLG/Defra’s report ‘Water efficiency in new buildings’282 outlines policies and measures that aim to reduce domestic consumption in new properties to 125 litres per head per day (l/hd/d) through the introduction of new building regulations. Government has also consulted on amending the Building Regulations to include minimum water efficiency standards for new homes283 , and will review the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 later in 2009. However there is uncertainty about when these will be agreed, and associated implementation put in place.

17.2.3 The Code for Sustainable Homes284 outlines various target levels for the construction of sustainable homes, one aspect of which is the efficient use of water. From 2010, all affordable housing will have to be constructed to Code Level 3, which sets water consumption at 105 l/p/d for internal use for an average year.

17.2.4 The Environment Agency is developing Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies (CAMS)285 which consider how much water can be abstracted from watercourses without damaging the environment within a catchment – the most appropriate scale for planning for water. They recognise the needs of abstractors whilst also fitting in with the requirements of the Water Framework Directive. The Environment Agency is also carrying out research into environmental limits and how they relate to infrastructure provision. Harlow is within the area of the of the Thames region CAMS. The Environment Agency’s view on water metering is that the majority of homes in water stressed areas should be metered by 2015. Harlow is currently considered to be under serious water stress as shown in Figure 23.

Figure 23: Areas of water stress286

Figure 23

17.2.5 The East of England Plan contains several specific policies to manage water resources within the Region. These include Policy WAT1: Water Efficiency which aims to reduce per capita consumption rates and advocates a ‘twin track’ approach to meeting the increasing demand for water in the region. In this demand management and resource development plans are both progressed and supported by additional policies. Policy WAT2: Water Infrastructure advises that LDDs should plan to site new development so as to maximise the potential of existing water/waste water treatment infrastructure and minimise the need for new /improved infrastructure. Supportive text for this policy states that a particular challenge for certain parts of the region will be to reconcile growth ambitions with environmental limits. This is the case for the Rye Meads STW catchment area which includes Harlow. Here a strategic review of the options is required which look beyond incremental expansion to new facilities or other possible works to cope with restrictions at Rye Meads. Policy WAT3: Integrated Water Management states that LPAs should work with partners to ensure their plans, policies, programmes and proposals take account of relevant water-related plans, studies, and sites of European importance for wildlife.

17.3 What are the key objectives and other decision-making criteria that we need to consider?

17.3.1 Many of the objectives set out in the Integrated Regional Sustainability Framework for the East of England – see Table 2 – are relevant in considering future impacts on Harlow’s town centre. Particularly relevant objectives include:

  • Promote sustainable growth within environmental limits

  • Adapt to the impacts of climate change

  • Increase resource efficiency and reduce resource use and waste

  • Conserve, restore and enhance the region’s natural and built environment

  • Meet the needs of the changing regional demographic

  • Provide decent, affordable and safe homes for all.

17.3.2 Harlow also has a number of key priorities for 2009/10 to 2012/13 as outlined in the Council’s Sustainability Strategy and approved in January 2009 by the Environment and Community Committee287: Relevant priorities include:

  • Promoting a clean, green, healthy and safe environment

  • Providing value for money.

(3) 17.4 What’s the situation now? (including any existing problems)

17.4.1 Harlow District is located within the Thames River Basin District (see Figure 24) and the Thames River Catchment Area288. The River Stort is a main river in the region and runs east-west on the north boundary of Harlow District.

Figure 24: Thames River Basin District289

Figure 24

17.4.2 The Thames district is one of the driest in the UK due to low rainfall levels. Groundwater is very important, providing around 40% of public water supplies with chalk forming the predominant aquifer. However, current assessments show that groundwater is fully utilised over much of the Thames River Basin District290. Harlow is located in area designated as ‘serious water stress’ 291. The Environment Agency has prepared a Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy for the Upper Lee – an area incorporating the River Stort and the urban area of Harlow292.

17.4.3 Public water supply is provided by Three Valleys Water and sewerage is supplied by Thames Water. Responsibility for planning and managing water supply in Harlow falls within the Three Valleys Water Northern Resource Zone293. Harlow District drinking water is sourced from groundwater in the Thames region. The drinking water for the District has been tested and assessed as being of ‘good quality’, with overall compliance with drinking water standards at the consumers’ taps at 99.98% in 2007 and 2008. However, consumer contact rates per 1,000 population for ‘discoloured’ water (brown, black or orange water), are highest for the region in the area around and including Harlow (see Figure 25). Three Valleys Water is planning improvements to the Roydon treatment works to improve this situation294.

Figure 25: Consumer contact rates per 1,000 population for ‘discoloured’ water295

Figure 25

17.4.4 Within Harlow the daily domestic water use (per capita consumption, litres) was 181 litres in 2004. This is significantly higher than the national average of 154 litres for that year296 and the sustainable level of consumption advised by the Environment Agency as being 110 litres.

17.4.5 The percentage of river length assessed as good biological quality and as good chemical quality was annually assessed as 100% for the period 2002-2005 and is higher than for the District’s geographical neighbours297. The Environment Agency, however, assessed the waterbodies in the Harlow District as being of moderate ecological quality and has not assessed chemical quality298. The condition of rivers in the Upper Lee CAMS area have been affected (e.g. flow regime and quality) by factors including: urban run-off; low flows; industrial activity; public water supply abstractions; sewage treatment works discharges; and flood and drought conditions. Ground Water resource availability status for Harlow in this catchment area were assessed as being over abstracted and the water resource management units as over-licensed299.

17.4.6 Table 24 shows the percentages of metered properties in the area covered by Three Valleys Water for the period 2000-2007. This percentage has steadily increased and, although historically lower than the England and Wales averages, in 2006/07 it rose above the England and Wales average for the first time. However, it is still far from achieving the 2015 Environment Agency’s aspiration for universal water metering in water scarce areas.

Table 24: Household metering (percentage)300

1999/00

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

2003/04

2004/05

2005/06

2006/07

Three Valleys Water

13

15

16

18

21

23

26

30

England & Wales total

17

18

20

22

23

25

27

29

Are there any evidence gaps?

17.4.7 The Rye Meads Water Cycle Strategy is being produced on behalf of seven local authorities with planning responsibility within the Rye Meads study area, including Harlow.

17.4.8 Clarification of actual watercourse ecological and chemical quality is needed.

17.5 What will be the situation without the plan? (the ‘business-as-usual’ option)

17.5.1 Without the plan, key ambitions within RSS policies may not be achieved including locating new development so as to maximise the potential for existing water/waste water treatment infrastructure.

17.5.2 Without intervention of the Core Strategy many of the government targets with respect to water efficiency may not be realised. This is an issue of serious concern given the problem of water stress and the high levels of growth to be provided in the Harlow Area. Combined with the predicted effects of climate change, water quality and quantity would be likely to be adversely affected by new development, particularly in the absence of a plan that sets out the appropriate distribution and phasing of development to take into account infrastructure and environmental constraints.

17.5.3 Without the plan process there would not be the opportunity for the strategic interventions by the Environment Agency to ensure that the requirements of the Water Framework Directive are met.

17.6 What issues should be a particular focus for the appraisal?

17.6.1 In light of the information above, key issues to take into account in the appraisal in relation to water quality and resources include:

  • Harlow is located in an area of serious water stress, which will be exacerbated due to climate change and future growth and development

  • The need to maintain and improve the water quality of Harlow’s water courses in line with the Water Framework Directive requirements

  • The need to ensure distribution and location of new development takes the water supply and sewerage infrastructure into account

  • The need to reduce per capita consumption of water and maintain high levels of drinking water quality.


277 Environment Agency (2007) Water supply in England and Wales 2000 to 2007 [online] available at:
http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO0907BMXP-e-e.pdf?lang=_e (accessed 29 June 2009).

278 European Union (2000) EU Water Framework Directive [online] available at:
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/index_en.html (accessed 29 June 2009).

279 Environment Agency (2008) Draft River Basin Management Plans [online] available at:
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/33106.aspx (accessed 29 June 2009).

280 Environment Agency (2009). Water for life and livelihoods: annex C – actions to deliver objectives.

281 Defra (2008). Future Water: The Government’s water strategy for England [online] available at:
www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/strategy/pdf/future-water.pdf (accessed 22 July 2009).

282 CLG / Defra (2007) Water efficiency in new buildings [online] available at:
www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/WaterEfficiencyNewBuildings.pdf (accessed 29 June 2009).

283 CLG (2008) The Building Act 1984, The Building Regulations 2000.  Proposals for amending Part G (Hygiene) of the Building Regulations and Approved Document G: Consultation [online] available at:
www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/partgconsultation (accessed 29 June 2009).

284 CLG (2006) Code for Sustainable Homes: a step-change in sustainable home building practice [online] available at:
www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/code_for_sust_homes.pdf (accessed 29 June 2009).

285 For more information on catchment abstraction management strategies see:
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/33372.aspx (accessed 29 June 2009).

286 Source: Environment Agency (2008) Areas of water stress: final classification [online] available at:
http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO1207BNOC-e-e.pdf (accessed 17 August 2009).

287 Harlow District Council (2009) Harlow Sustainability Strategy [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/corporate_services/policy_and_performance/sustainability_strategy.aspx (accessed 13 August 2009).

288 Environment Agency (2008) Thames Region Catchment Flood Management Plan (CFMP) [online] available at:
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/33592.aspx  (accessed 17 August 2009).

289 Environment Agency (2008) River Basin Management Plan for the Thames River Basin District [online] available at:
http://wfdconsultation.environment-agency.gov.uk/wfdcms/en/thames/Intro.aspx (accessed 17 August 2009).

290 Environment Agency (2008) River Basin Management Plan for the Thames River Basin District [online] available at:
http://wfdconsultation.environment-agency.gov.uk/wfdcms/en/thames/Intro.aspx (accessed 17 August 2009).

291 Environment Agency (2008) Areas of water stress: final classification [online] available at:
http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO1207BNOC-e-e.pdf (accessed 17 August 2009).

292 Environment Agency (2006) Upper Lee CAMS [online] available at:
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/33420.aspx (accessed 17 August 2009).

293 GOEE (2008) East of England Plan [online] available at:
www.gos.gov.uk/goee/docs/Planning/Regional_Planning/Regional_Spatial_Strategy/EE_Plan1.pdf (accessed 17 August 2009).

294 Drinking Water Inspectorate (2008) Drinking water 2008: Thames region [online] available at:
www.dwi.gov.uk/pubs/annrep08/CIR%2008%20Thames%20Region.pdf (accessed 17 August 2009).

295 Source: Drinking Water Inspectorate (2008) Drinking water 2008: Thames region [online] available at:
www.dwi.gov.uk/pubs/annrep08/CIR%2008%20Thames%20Region.pdf (accessed 17 August 2009).

296 Audit Commission (2009). Area profile – Harlow [online] available at:
www.areaprofiles.audit-commission.gov.uk (accessed 14 August 2009).

297 Audit Commission (2009). Area profile – Harlow [online] available at:
www.areaprofiles.audit-commission.gov.uk (accessed 14 August 2009).

298 See: Environment Agency: Water Framework Directive – River Basin Management Plans – Rivers [online] available at:
http://maps.environment-agency.gov.uk (accessed 14 August 2009).

299 Environment Agency (2006) Upper Lee CAMS [online] available at:
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/33420.aspx (accessed 17 August 2009).

300 Environment Agency (2007). Water supply in England and Wales 2000 to 2007 [online] available at:
http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO0907BMXP-e-e.pdf?lang=_e (accessed 14 August 2009).

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