Click on link for CPRE Norfolk Water Resources Policy
In a rural county such as Norfolk there are major tensions between the pressures for growth and development; the needs of agriculture for the irrigation of crops; and the rivers and wetlands as a vital part of landscapes, and for wildlife habitats. It is not always appreciated that all depend on the
same source of water, the rain which percolates into the ground and is retained in strata such as chalk.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) gives significant weight to economic factors over and above environmental concerns. With the highest ever levels of growth planned for Norfolk, there remains local as well as national political and business pressure for relaxing environmental considerations. If taken forward, the adverse impact of these pressures for
growth could be far-reaching. For the GNDP and elsewhere in the county it could lead to more housing in the wrong places, more water stress, less regulation on point and diffuse sources of pollution of water, and lower standards for discharge of waste water.
• Some 80-90% of all environmental regulation in the UK and other European countries originated with the EU. The proposals did not suffer dilution to the same degree as might have happened under national government legislation. The Water Framework and Habitat Directives are crucial, particularly regarding the use and quality of water resources and capacity constraints at sewage treatment plants.
• The effects of the implementation in the UK of EU Directives regarding water availability has been visible in the rigorous public examinations of strategies and policies regarding levels, phasing and allocation of proposed major housing development in Norfolk.
• National policy calls for ‘balancing’ of the needs of nature against the needs of society and the economy. However, water is a finite resource, and continuous increase in demand and usage leads not to ‘balance’ but to a progressive reduction in the water resource left over for the natural environment and for agriculture.
• Much of the primary environmental legislation is ‘high level’. This ‘high level’ gives Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) scope for interpretation when they apply them to local land use policies. However, the lack of detail in the new NPPF, and the existence of strong and embedded development lobbies, will make protection of water resources in local policies harder for LPAs.
What CPRE Norfolk is campaigning for:
• The retention of much needed ‘higher level’ environmental legislation. Consolidation of the achievements in dealing with water stress and exploitation, and water quantity and quality as it affects the natural environment must be supported both in letter and spirit, to continue
improvements in bringing into a favourable condition our special sites of nature conservation and reversing the decades of biodiversity and habitat loss in the wider countryside.
• Recognition that water is a finite resource: Norfolk’s water resource for all uses and the natural environment depends ultimately on the underground water bearing rock strata which store the winter rain. Water resource availability is variable, depending upon weather patterns, but it is a finite resource. We need to be both ‘smarter’ in the way we use water, and accept we have to live within our means to be sustainable.
• Maximum use by LPAs of local interpretation in the implementation of EU Directives: To avoid a progressive and severe weakening of their land use planning policies, LPAs must withstand pressures from developers and lobby groups to undermine local policies on water resource management. CPRE Norfolk will continue to use the planning consultation process to oppose planning proposals which undermine The Water Framework and Habitat Directives, and will highlight bad planning decisions which could potentially damage water quality and wildlife habitat.