Devon council calls for removal of South West Water as a planning consultee

A North Devon council has resolved to to contact all other district and unitary councils in the county to join it in asking the government to remove South West Water (SWW) from the list of planning consultees due to its “bland” responses.

In a full council meeting, Torridge District Council Green Party member Peter Christie said: “Over the last decade SWW have, with very few exceptions, answered TDC’s statutory consultation over planning applications with a simple answer of ‘has no objection’.

“Clearly, given the current state of our rivers and coastal waters there is a major problem - and it appears to be overlooked that SWW have a vested interest in more development as it means more customers locked into paying them as water and sewage services are monopoly service”. 

He proposed that the council “demand to know from SWW how they can justify their bland responses”. 

He suggested instead that the government should appoint an “independent organisation to oversee new developments vis-à-vis water availability and sewage capacity.”

Water companies are not currently statutory consultees on planning decisions, but they can respond to applications on which they are consulted on and will request planning conditions if necessary. 

Water companies are however statutory consultation bodies in the preparation of local plans, which set the strategic framework for development in an area.

SWW told ENDS that it reviews 30,000 planning applications each year and where appropriate it will add relevant comments. 

A spokesperson said that an initial workshop was held in October to “explore how the water company can work better with North Devon District Council and Torridge Council”. 

At this meeting it was agreed that the group will continue to meet regularly, the spokesperson added that the company will be contacting councillor Christie to “discuss his concerns”. 

A DEFRA spokesperson highlighted to ENDS that under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act it has committed to making water companies statutory consultees on certain planning applications, it said it expects this consultation to launch “shortly”.