Question from: County Councillor James Gibson-Watt Subject: New guidance on foul drainage systems
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) recently issued updated Statutory Guidance to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) in Wales with regard to proposals for foul drainage systems for new properties in areas of the county that are in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and are unable to connect to the public (main) sewer.
Proposals must satisfy the following criteria (new criteria in red):-
Private sewage treatment systems discharging domestic wastewater to ground which are:
Located more than 50m from the SAC boundary, and are more than 40m from a surface water feature (e.g. river, stream, ditch, drain),
and which have a daily discharge rate of less than 2 cubic metres (m³)
and which discharge to ground via a drainage field constructed to BS 6297:2007+A1:2008 Code of Practice for the design and installation of drainage fields for use in wastewater treatment
and where there is no other discharge to ground within 200m
and where the density of discharges to ground is not greater than 1 per 4ha (or 25 per km2).
Has the LPA and PH made an assessment of the likely impact of the above new guidance on future residential and economic (commercial) development in Powys, given the wide areas of the county that are covered by a SAC designation, with particular reference to the restriction on the installation of new systems to only locations more than 200 metres from other discharge-to-ground systems, which inevitably will have a significant impact on many Powys settlements and parts of settlements that do not have access to the public sewer?
Response by the Portfolio Holder:
Thank you for your question. Natural Resources Wales updated its planning advice on phosphorous and riverine SACs for Local Planning Authorities at the end of May 2021. The latest advice can be read here:
The updated advice from NRW introduced additional requirements in relation to the density of private treatment plants, and states that, “to ensure that there is no significant in combination effect, the discharge to ground should be at least 200m from any other discharge to ground. The density of discharges to ground should also not be greater than 1 for every 4ha (or 25 per km2).”
The advice has consequences for all planning applications within the river SAC catchments in Powys and elsewhere in Wales where development proposals would generate additional waste water or organic matter containing phosphate. The advice impacts on proposals for dwellings, tourism accommodation, agricultural and commercialdevelopment as well as other forms of development. The impacts will vary across the SAC catchments from location to location and from settlement to settlement. Applications which generate additional phosphate will only be acceptable where they can demonstrate that they can comply with NRW’s advice and have been screened (and an appropriate assessment undertaken if necessary) by the Local Planning Authority under the Habitats Regulations and found not to have a likely significant effect on the river SAC.
In my role as Cabinet member for Housing, Planning and Economic Regeneration, I wrote to Ruth Jenkins, Natural Resources Wales’s Head of Natural Resource Management in May, seeking clarity on the rationale behind lower nutrient targets, phosphate sources and, any work being undertaken by NRW to achieve future compliance across all sectors. No response has been received to date.
Given the impacts and consequences of NRW’s advice on the planning system across Wales, the authority has been working jointly with other local authorities, NRW, Welsh Government, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, the Planning Inspectorate Wales, through a River SACs Planning Group to identify and work towards potential solutions. Members will be provided further information on the actions being taken at a future Member training event. A higher tier oversight group led by Welsh Government has also been established to ensure wider cross-sector action is taken to improve the water quality of Wales’ river SACs.