Memorandum by English Nature (DWB 20)
1. English Nature is the statutory body
that champions the conservation and enhancement of the wildlife
and natural features of England. We do this by:
advisingGovernment, other agencies, local
authorities, interest groups, business, communities, individuals;
regulatingactivities affecting the special
nature conservation sites in England;
enablinghelping others to manage land
for nature conservation, through grants, projects and information;
enthusingadvocating nature conservation
for all and biodiversity as a key test of sustainable development.
2. In fulfilling our statutory duties, we:
establish and manage National Nature
notify and safeguard Sites of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSIs);
advocate to government departments
and other effective policies for nature conservation;
disseminate guidance and advice about
promote research relevant to nature
3. Through the Joint Nature Conservation
Committee, English Nature works with sister organisations in Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland to advise Government on UK and international
nature conservation issues.
4. English Nature welcomes the opportunity
to comment on the draft Water Bill. We will be responding fully
to the DETR consultation on the draft legislation at the end of
January. In this memorandum, we list our initial conclusions.
5. English Nature welcomes changes to the
legislation on abstraction licensing in order to facilitate sustainable
management of abstraction licensing. We supported the proposals
set out in Taking Water Responsibly (DETR/Welsh Office,
6. We support the introduction of time-limited
licences (Clauses 10 and 11) for new abstractions. However, most
of England's available water resource is already licensed. We
cannot find any measures in the proposed legislation to ensure
that current open-ended licences will be converted to a time-limited
basis by 2013, as envisaged in the Government's consultation paper
The Review of the Water Abstraction Licensing System in England
and Wales (June 1998).
7. Clause 17 of the draft Bill removes the
need for compensation to be paid after 2012 for revocation or
amendment of abstraction licences on grounds of serious damage
to the environment. However, during the consultation process,
it was suggested that all existing licences (often "licences
of right" from 1963) would be recalled on a "no-compensation"
basis after 2012 and placed on a time-limited basis. The lack
of this provision could seriously limit the Environment Agency's
ability to manage resource allocations and lead to a large number
of appeals, if licences were to be recalled.
8. We support the concept of bulk supply
agreements (Clause 21). They would assist sustainable water resources
management, especially where a town or industrial area can be
more easily supplied from an adjoining water company area. We
consider that the Environment Agency should have powers to require
such transfer agreements, where an analysis as part of the Catchment
Abstraction Management Strategies (CAMS) process has shown it
to be the most sustainable and cost-effective option.
9. English Nature welcomes the enforceable
duty on water companies to further water conservation (Clause
53). We would like to see this duty extended to cover major industrial
and agricultural abstractors.
10. The DETR consultation document mentions
CAMS as a strategic approach to water resource allocation. We
assume that these will be non-statutory strategies. In the near
future, we expect that CAMS will inform River Basin Management
Plans, required under the European Water Framework Directive.
We recommend that consideration be given to introducing provisions
in the Bill that would reflect the water resource aspects of the
Water Framework Directive.
11. English Nature provided a response in
July 2000 to the DETR consultation on economic instruments in
relation to water abstraction. We believe that economic instruments
could play a useful role in supporting the new licensing system.
We would like to see legislation that enables implementation of
a charging system for abstraction licences which would deliver
sufficient resources for compensation payments, where licensing
changes are required. Legislation should also enable implementation
of abstraction charges which reflect the full costs of environmental
12. English Nature considers that this part
of the draft Bill is somewhat narrowly framed and concentrates
on consumers and competition at the possible expense of environmental
aspects of water use.
13. We recommend that, alongside the new
duty on the Secretary of State and the Director General of Water
Services to further consumer objectives (Clause 27), there should
be a specific objective inserted to protect the environment and
help achieve sustainable water management. This is vital to reinforce
the aim of achieving sustainability through the new Bill.
14. Clause 27 suggests that the new consumer
objective can be achieved by promoting effective competition.
English Nature has been closely involved in the AMP process which
is delivering price cuts for consumers as well as a series of
environmental improvements. The scope for further economies, other
than economies of scale, is not clear. Water is a relatively cheap
consumer resource, and the full environmental price of water supply
and sewage disposal is probably not being paid at the moment.
It is essential that safeguards for the environment and sustainable
use of water resources are in place, if measures for increasing
competition are introduced.
15. The DETR consultation document states
that, since developments in the water industry have resulted in
changes to the structure of existing water companies, measures
will be included in the Bill to protect drinking water quality.
English Nature would also like to see similar safeguards for the
environment in this context.
16. With the establishment of a Water Advisory
Panel (Clause 22), the Director General should ensure that he
is properly advised on his environmental duties, either through
membership of the Panel or by other arrangements.
17. The Consumer Council for Water (Clause
23), should be aware that customers are not only interested in
lower prices. Customer surveys, such as that described in A Price
Worth Paying (Environment Agency, 1998), show that people do not
want to see reductions in bills at the expense of much-need improvements
to the environment. In order to reflect this, English Nature recommends
that a duty to further conservation, equivalent to the duty on
water companies and the Director General, should be placed on
18. In representing all consumer interests,
membership of the Consumer Council for Water should include environmental
19. English Nature welcomes the provision
(Clause 28) for guidance on environmental and social matters.
We suggest that English Nature is one of the bodies that is consulted
before such guidance is issued.