Hosepipe ban and housing targets
25 July 2023
Dear Mr Partridge,
I accept your comments on the hosepipe ban regarding South East Water and SEW certainly should get their act together. However they have said the water shortage is also due to the amount of water being consumed. There can be little doubt that the amount of house building that has been taking place is obviously helping to cause this extra amount of water being used and that is due to the council allowing so many houses to be built and thus increasing the population without any thought of the infrastructure.
I know that you are going to say that your hands are tied because of the governments house building targets but you should be fighting against more house building until the necessary infrastructure is put in place first.
I pay an obscene amount of council tax each month (£339) which in my opinion offers poor value for money and I would like to see Wealden Council act a little more forceful when it comes to the problems house building is giving at the moment.
Dear Mr Raggett,
Thank you for your questions about new housing and its impact on demand for water.
The Alliance Group for Wealden’s number one priority is to deliver the right houses in the right places, with the right infrastructure. As you say, this is not completely within the control of the Council and is not going to be easy to achieve.
The roots of the problem are planning law and the number of houses which the government is saying must be built here. These mean that, if the Council was to refuse applications for the reasons you suggest, which are very sensible, then the refusals would be appealed. The Council would probably lose the appeals and have to pay the applicant’s costs, as well as its own. This is not a good use of council taxpayers’ money and it would be wrong to take that risk.
We need the government to change these rules and frequently tell them that Wealden does not have the space or the infrastructure to support thousands of new houses. In 2022, council leaders met with the Minister of Housing to urge the government to reduce our housing targets and I wrote to her successor about this last week.
This Council does not supply water and does not have any control over the companies which do. We liaise all the time with South East Water about new houses. They have never said that they won’t be able to meet increased demand from proposed new houses . We are moving forward with a new Local Plan, which will include action needed from South East Water (and, indeed, Southern Water) to provide water supplies and it will be interesting to see what their reaction is, when we discuss this with them.
Several years’ experience tells us that the water companies’ assurances are not entirely credible and last month Council members resolved that we should write to South East Water, asking for a full explanation of the causes of recent failures, and to the Minister for Housing, asking for a reduction in housing numbers until there is a long-term solution to the water shortage. We await replies. Please monitor our website and Wealden Weekly for updates.
I am sorry for the long answer. We are working to find solutions. It would be so much better if the government would change the law so that lack of infrastructure would justify refusing planning applications. I believe that this is the position in Scotland
Councillor James Partridge