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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 794: Consultation launched on water NSIP thresholds

Today’s entry reports on a new consultation on nationally significant water projects.

Water projects are the last type of infrastructure to be brought into the Planning Act 2008 regime, but they were duly ‘switched on’ as originally defined in the Act on 1 January this year, meaning that those types of nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) must already use the regime.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), having consulted recently on the principles for developing a National Policy Statement (NPS) for water resources, is now consulting on changing the thresholds and extending the types of project covered by the NSIP regime.

The consultation can be found here. It only runs for three weeks (until 26 April) so you had better get your skates, or water skis, on if you want to respond. A summary of the proposals is below:

The first question is whether ‘deployable output’ is the right measure for water projects. The remaining questions are about thresholds for particular types of project.

Dams and reservoirs: currently the threshold is a capacity of 10 million cubic metres (mcm), or an increase in existing capacity of the same amount. The proposal is to increase this to 30mcm, but also to add a threshold of the ability to provide 80 megalitres per day of output (I think that’s either of those to qualify). A megalitre is of course a million litres, or over 200,000 gallons. An Olympic-sized swimming pool holds about 2.5 megalitres, apparently.

Water transfer: currently the threshold is an ability to transfer 100mcm per year. The proposal is to change this to 80 megalitres per day. Is that larger or smaller, I hear you ask? It is smaller, by my calculations: 80 megalitres per day is 29.2mcm per year, ie about the 30mcm that was mooted previously.

Desalination plants: these are not currently within the Planning Act regime. The proposal is to add them at a rate of output of 80 megalitres per day.

Effluent reuse: this is not currently within the Planning Act regime, and the proposal is not to add it either, noting that section 35 of the Act is available for a particular project to opt in if desired. Not sure I particularly want to know what it involves.

So if the proposals are agreed, that’s one threshold going up, one going down, one being introduced and one not being introduced. The email that went round announcing the consultation goes a bit wrong but I think it says that the consultation on the draft NPS itself will be later this year (but note that projects above the existing thresholds still have to use the regime already).

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