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New homes need utilities – water, gas and electricity. That puts the feet of utility companies firmly on the pedals, and it is our job to make sure we’re not seen to be applying the brakes.
The UK needs homes. Government knows this and is promising to ‘turbo charge’ house building. The Anglia region is already the fastest growing outside of London with five of the UK’s eight fastest growing cities.
All too often utilities are seen as an obstacle to growth and this has to change. Let’s be seen as the people that enable growth. But more than that, let’s use our influence to make sure that growth is sustainable, that it makes best use of space and finite resources and creates not just homes but communities.
Anglian Water is unashamedly pro-sustainable growth and we want to play our part in getting Britain building.
That’s easy to say but how do we make it happen? We have set out our ideas in our Building a Resilient Future document.
Better collaboration between planners, developers and water companies will speed up planning decisions and go a long way to changing the perception of utilities as a block on development.
In Norfolk, Anglian Water is hosting a series of forums with planning and flood risk management authorities to find new ways of working that will deliver homes in a way that’s quick, cost-effective, responsible and sustainable.
Government can help by making water and sewerage companies statutory consultees in the planning process. This would allow us to better align our planning with development and put efficiency and sustainability at the heart of the planning process.
Packing in houses as densely as possible denies communities green space that provides not only leisure facilities and a pleasant environment but can also increase resilience to flooding through sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS).
These use the landscape to dramatically improve surface water drainage and protect homes and businesses from flooding.
SuDS and so-called super SuDS that serve a number of developments, allow a more strategic approach to drainage. They can also help to unlock building and growth.
Action should be taken at a national level to clarify responsibilities around SuDS and incentivise their use. Too often the building and adoption of SuDS is hampered because it isn’t clear who is responsible for their delivery, adoption and maintenance.
The take up of SuDS would also be helped by removing the automatic right for developers to connect to the public sewer system. This – and the lack of full involvement in the planning process – can leave water companies at the mercy of developers and local authorities.
It means houses are being built without enough consideration for surface water flooding. In fact they can make flooding more likely, especially during extreme weather. Removing the right to connect would encourage developers to consider SuDS in place of traditional surface water drainage.
We work closely with local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and key developers to align our plans and unlock growth. A few small but important changes at a national level could make that job easier, encourage sustainable development and really get Britain building.