Government may open NSIP route to more water projects

The government is considering widening the definition of the water resources infrastructure that is eligible to use the planning process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), according to a consultation document released today.

Water infrastructure: work on national policy statement progresses
Water infrastructure: work on national policy statement progresses

Currently, there are three types of development that are classified as a water NSIP. These are: dams or reservoirs where the volume of water to be held back by the dam or stored in the reservoir is expected to exceed ten million cubic metres; the alteration of a dam or reservoir where the additional water held back or stored will exceed ten million cubic metres; and water transfer schemes (which move water from one river basin to another) where the volume of water to be transferred as a result of the development is expected to exceed 100 million cubic metres per year.

In a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) consultation on the process towards producing a Water Resources National Policy Statement (NPS) published today, the government proposes reducing the threshold for water transfer schemes by around two thirds to 30 million cubic metres of water, or nine-tenths to ten million cubic metres.

It also seeks views on whether the current threshold for reservoirs or dams should be retained unchanged, or whether reservoirs or dams that supply ten million cubic metres per year of water should also be classified as NSIPs, alongside those that store or hold back that volume of water.

It also proposes two new categories of water resources infrastructure that could qualify as NSIPs: desalination plants and effluent reuse facilities.

National Infrastructure Planning Association board chairman Angus Walker welcomed the widening of the definition. "This presumably shows the government’s continued commitment to and belief in the effectiveness of the [NSIP planning] regime," he said.

Elsewhere, the consultation sets out the principles that DEFRA intends to use to guide the detailed development of the NPS, as well as scoping reports that describe the approach it intend to take for the assessment of sustainability and habitats regulations assessments that accompany the NPS.

The consultation on the process towards drawing up the water resources NPS closes on 22 December. Defra said it intends to consult on a draft version of the NPS in 2018.

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