Policy Summary: Regulations revising definitions of nationally significant water resource projects

POLICY: The Infrastructure Planning (Water Resources) (England) Order 2019.

Reservoirs: water supply infrastructure
Reservoirs: water supply infrastructure

ISSUED BY: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

ISSUE DATE: 8 January 2019

Background In A Green Future, the government’s 25-year plan for the environment, ministers identified "clean and plentiful water" as one of six key policy priorities. To achieve this aim, the government committed to publication of a national policy statement for water resources infrastructure, such as dams and infrastructure.

In December 2017, the government launched a consultation seeking views on its plans to widen the range of such infrastructure that can be considered under the nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) regime. This included amending the thresholds for existing NSIP projects and the creation of a new category for desalination plants.

In August last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it would proceed with the proposed changes. This statutory instrument amends the Planning Act 2008 accordingly.

Key points The order amends the Planning Act 2008 to create a new category of NSIP for developments involving "the construction or alteration of a desalination plant". A desalination plant is defined as a facility for the extraction of mineral components from saline water.

Dams and reservoirs are already categorised as NSIPs. The order increases the threshold for when the construction or alteration of a dam or reservoir will be classed as an NSIP, from holding back ten million cubic metres of water to holding back 30 million cubic metres.

The order also creates a new qualifying characteristic of "deployable output". This is defined as the annual average volume of water that can be produced per day from a facility under drought conditions. Drought conditions are defined as "a shortage of precipitation that has a 0.5 per cent chance of occurring within a 12-month period".

Projects involving the construction of dams, reservoirs or desalination plants with a deployable output of at least 80 million litres per day, or an alteration to such projects that will create an additional deployable output of 80 million litres a day, will be categorised as NSIPs. Likewise, projects involving the "transfer of water resources" will be classed as NSIPs when they have a deployable output of 80 million litres a day.

Development consent order applications for such infrastructure that have already been accepted for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate before the order came into force on 8 January will be considered in accordance with the previous arrangements. Similarly, applications already submitted to local planning authorities that would qualify as NSIPs under the new arrangements will be determined under the previous system.

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