Water neutrality in Crawley

The majority of Crawley Borough is supplied with water by Southern Water from its Sussex North Water Supply 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.

View map of Sussex North Water Resource Zone on the West Sussex County Council website.

Natural England has advised in a Position Statement that existing abstraction within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone may be having a negative impact on the Arun Valley sites. Further detail is provided in the Water Neutrality Advice Note (February 2022).

New development must not add to this negative impact. This means that development in Crawley, where it is located within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone, will have to demonstrate that it will not increase pressure on water resources. This can be achieved by making development “water neutral”, where for every new development, total water use in the region after the development must be equal to or less than the total water-use in the region before the new development.

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.

Gatwick Sub-Region Water Cycle Study (August 2020)

Addendum to Water Cycle Study (January 2021)

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:

Part A: Individual local authority areas assessment (July 2021) 

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

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

This report outlines a strategy to achieve water neutrality within the Sussex North Water Resource Zone, throughout the timeframe covered by the Local Plans of Crawley Borough Council, Chichester District Council, Horsham District Council, and South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA). The objective of the Strategy is to demonstrate compliance with the Habitats Regulations Assessment and enable the Local Plans to proceed towards adoption. The strategy has been endorsed by Natural England. It should be noted that the Natural England Position Statement continues to apply, and planning applications remain subject to water neutrality requirements.

Until such a time as the strategy is implemented through an adopted Local Plan, planning applications will remain subject to the Natural England position statement.