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 (The Sussex North Water Resource Zone Map is currently being updated and will be available shortly. Contact strategic.planning@crawley.gov.uk for further information). 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. This should be read in conjunction with the Water Neutrality Advice Note (February 2022) which provides further information.

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 undertaking development in the affected area should read the Natural England Position Statement in full.

All development in most of Crawley will have to demonstrate that it will 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 that can demonstrate water neutrality and if required enter into legal obligations to secure it will be able to proceed. For those developments which do not demonstrate “water neutrality”, the council, as Local Planning Authority will have no choice but to refuse them as a matter of law. If developments area are undertaken without demonstrating “water neutrality”, they could also be liable for enforcement action.

Applicants' questions and answers

Natural England has prepared answers to frequently asked questions for developers in considering the Statement when applying for development in Sussex North. Read these on West Sussex County Council's website.

Householder and minor applications

The council has developed a framework to allow certain types of developments and applicationsto be screened out of Habitats Regulations Assessment process therefore saving time and costs for some applicants/agents in preparing information that would otherwise have been required in order to demonstrate ‘water neutrality’. This work has resulted in two Habitats Regulations Assessment Screening Reports which allow for the following types of application to be submitted without the requirement for further information to demonstrate water neutrality. 

  • Householder Applications (excluding annexes and swimming pools) including those defined under Schedule 2, Part 1 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended)
  • Applications for Advertisement Consent
  • Applications for Tree Works
  • Full and Prior Approval applications for Telecommunications Infrastructure, including those defined under Schedule 2, Part 16 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended)
  • Minor developments where there is no water usage (e.g. surface car parks/hardstanding, vehicular crossovers, shopfronts, recladding)
  • Applications for Development comprising Minor Operations as defined under Schedule 2, Part 2 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended)
  • Applications for Non-Material Amendments involving no increased water usage

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.

This study combines 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