Water resources in Crawley

Crawley is situated in an area of serious water stress, as identified by the Environment Agency.

The majority of Crawley is supplied with water by Southern Water from its Sussex North Water Resource Zone. This supply is sourced from abstraction points in the Arun Valley, which includes locations such as Amberley Wild Brooks Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Pulborough Brooks SSSI and Arun Valley Special Protection Area/Special Area of Conservation and Ramsar site.

On 14 September 2021, the council received a Position Statement from Natural England.

The Natural England position is that it cannot be concluded that the existing abstraction within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone is not having an impact on the Arun Valley sites. It advises that developments within this zone must not add to this impact.

Anyone considering submitting planning applications in the affected area should read the Natural England Position Statement in full.

Applications for planning permission in the majority of Crawley will have to demonstrate that they do not increase pressure on water resources – in other words show that they are “water neutral”.

This can be achieved by developers building significant water efficiency measures into new development and by providing offsetting measures to reduce water consumption from existing development. The onus is on developers to demonstrate deliverable water neutrality for their proposals. Developers who can demonstrate water neutrality and who enter into legal obligations to secure it will be able to proceed. For those applications which do not, the council, as Local Planning Authority will no choice but to refuse them as a matter of law.

Joint work with neighbouring authorities

The council has commissioned a number of studies related to the issue of serious water stress and water supply.

Through this work, Natural England has advised the council of the supply issues in the Southern Water Sussex North Water Resource Zone. This has necessitated further joint work with neighbouring authorities to quantify the scale of the issue and identify proposed mitigation schemes to address this issue.

There are three stages to this work:

The study calculates the individual impact of each local authority on water resources using estimates of future growth. The contribution that could be theoretically possible from different offsetting measures is also presented.

  • Part B: In-combination assessment (ongoing)

This study will combine the individual authority assessments into a Water Resource Zone-wide assessment using the same methodology for assessment as Part A.

  • Part C: Determine mitigation (ongoing)

The third part of this study will build on the analysis in parts A and B and develop a draft plan to achieve water neutrality. It will consist of:

  • A technical report containing details of measures considered to be feasible from parts A & B including clear defensible evidence for each measure
  • A draft plan developed with stakeholders defining which measures will be adopted, who will be responsible, and how they will be funded
  • A baseline water budget demonstrating how water neutrality could be maintained through the plan period based on the plan