Water supply to new housing not an issue despite drought shortage

A picture from Southern Water's save water campaign.
A picture from Southern Water's save water campaign.

AS THE effects of drought hit Horsham, one local environmental organisation is expressing concern over water provision for future housing, and at the same time accusing the district council of complacency.

In the face of significant housing developments across the district and in neighbouring local authorities, the Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England demanded to know whether Southern Water could supply water to all the new houses.

The organisation is also questioning why our elected representatives are not asking more questions and obtaining answers, instead hiding behind legislation that abides utilities companies to supply water to new housing developments.

Following enquiries by Roger Smith of the Horsham and Crawley branch of the CPRE, Worthing-based Southern Water says it can cope with 42,000 extra people up to 2030 living in the local authority areas of Horsham, Crawley and Mid Sussex. This is despite the imposition of a hosepipe ban and other water restrictions starting from April 5 in the current climate with the current population.

Southern Water’s figures are based on a number of water-saving measures including universal water metering throughout the area by 2015 and the transfer of water to north Sussex from Worthing and Portsmouth.

The company, which at present loses 83 million litres a day from its network through leaks, also claims that groundwater source improvements could deliver savings of 11.6 million litres per day. It has also applied to take water from the River Arun starting this year.

However, Dr Smith, of CPRE Horsham and Crawley told the County Times: “The number of new houses now being contemplated together with those that will be built in consequence of permissions already granted could result in an increase in population greater than 42,000 in the area in question.

“Installing water meters might not result in a significant reduction in consumption. Adjoining areas including Portsmouth might not themselves have a water surplus sufficient to meet any shortfall either here or elsewhere.”

According to HDC’s ongoing housing consultation, the lowest amount of homes that should be build in the next 20 years is 11,800, which could equate to approximately 29,500 people. The highest, of 14,600+ new homes would mean more than 36,000 people living in the Horsham district alone.

These increases do not take into account population increases in the borough of Crawley or Mid Sussex districts where other significant housing projects are planned.

Despite the obvious importance of water supply as an issue in determining housing developments, especially in times of drought, Dr Smith is frustrated by councillors ignoring the issue.

He said: “Horsham District Council’s view seems to be that water supply is not an issue for it because the water companies will meet any substantially increased requirement because they are legally obliged to do so.

“Our elected representatives should be proactive in asking questions and obtaining answers. Unfortunately they are not and appear instead to be complacent.”

A spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “Horsham District Council works with stakeholders such as the water companies through its strategic planning work. The water companies in the District are heavily involved in discussions on the provision of infrastructure for water supply as well as waste water treatment and flooding.

“The water companies are also consulted when the Council is considering the infrastructure capacity over the coming years before allocating sites for development. The water companies in turn also consider the future planning of the District when producing their Water Resource Management Plans.

“Stakeholders such as the water companies are regularly consulted on planning applications. As a public body they are responsible for capacity and supply and comment on planning applications across the District where necessary.”

In response Southern Water said: “Our statutory duty is to ensure we have enough water available to supply customers, which includes increased demand from new development. We are not statutory consultees when it comes to granting planning permission – this is out of our control. However, we work closely with developers to achieve the best design for water efficiency initiatives.”

Despite their concerns the CPRE is urging people to take part in the housing consultation, which closes at 4.20pm on April 10. To access the portal visit www.horsham.gov.uk