HC Deb 21 June 1995 vol 262 cc246-7W
Mr. Stern

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will announce what action the Government intend to take on the recommendations in the review of rural water supply and sewerage in England and Wales following the consultation exercise on the review's findings last year. [30236]

Mr. Atkins

The Government accept the review's recommendations affecting existing development. In taking them forward, my right hon. Friend will be introducing today into the Environment Bill amendments to the Water Industry Act 1991. These will put a new requirement on sewerage undertakers to provide public sewers to be used for the drainage for domestic purposes of premises in any locality in its area where there are problems arising from the existing system, and mains connection is the most satisfactory and most effective solution.

In the event of any dispute, there will be a right to apply to the new Environment Agency to rule on whether there is a case for extending the mains sewerage network. The agency will also have the power to direct a statutory sewerage undertaker to extend the mains sewerage network in a locality by a due date. The costs will be spread across all the customers for the area of that undertaker. It is intended that these powers will relate only to existing properties and will not cover future development. The Government will issue guidance to sewerage undertakers and the agency on how to address these issues.

From the date the provisions come into force, section 151 of the Water Industry Act 1991, which makes provision for the current grant regime, will be repealed and the Government will no longer pay grant towards first-time mains water supply and sewerage, but provision will be made to allow for existing commitments to be met. The reason for this is that the Government consider that mains water connection has reached its natural limits, and that better provisions are required for first-time sewerage services.

The Government will be pursuing those recommendations arising from the review which relate to the issue of further guidance about the potential problems from new development served by non-mains sewerage, and how best to prevent those problems.

In addition, other recommendations arising from the review will also be pursued, including discussing with the Director General of Water Services the operation of inset appointments and encouraging the environment agency to continue the detailed mapping of groundwater vulnerability.

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