Ministers must radically improve the policy statement that will guide planning decisions on future major waste water projects such as the Thames Tunnel, say MPs in a report about the draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on Waste Water.
Launching a report examining the proposed guidance Anne McIntosh, Chair of the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said
"We must have effective planning processes so that large new sewers and sewage treatment works can be built to handle increased flows of waste water in places such as London while taking into account the views of local people.
The Planning Act 2008 brought in new streamlined planning processes for nationally important infrastructure, but waste water transfer schemes such as the £3.6 billion Thames Tunnel were not included. The Government must rectify this omission urgently.
It is crucial also that Defra gets the guidance for those making planning decisions on such projects right, but the draft National Policy Statement on Waste Water is woefully short on detail. It should include much clearer guidance about how to judge the impacts of large-scale projects.
MPs also criticise the draft National Policy Statement for focussing on two specific London projects, the Thames Tunnel and replacement of a sewage treatment works in North East London. They argue that it should set out a strong set of general principles for decision makers to apply to any waste water project once a specific application is made.
The committee also urges Ministers to set out the justification for Defra's view that sustainable drainage schemes (SUDs) can have only a limited role in reducing waste water in London and calls for Defra to undertake further work on how increase the use of SUDs nationally.