Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Friends of the Lake District (DWB 04)


  1.1  The Friends was established in 1934 to campaign for the Lake District to become a National Park. We are a Registered Charity with approximately 7,000 members. We act throughout Cumbria as the County Association for the Council for the Protection of Rural England. Our Charitable objects state "to promote and organise concerted action for the protection and conservation of the landscape and natural beauty of the Lake District and County of Cumbria as a whole. . ."

  1.2  We have been involved in a number of water resources issues since our formation and have continued to take an active role in trying to influence the water industry on those matters appropriate to our charitable objects. We have previously submitted a Memorandum to the Environment Committee's Inquiry into Water Conservation and Supply (Report Published November 1996). We note that a number of the conclusions and recommendations of that Inquiry have been taken into consideration in the draft Water Bill.

  1.3  The main author of this Memorandum is also Deputy Chairman of North West Water's Conservation, Access and Recreation Advisory Committee and he previously sat on Regional Advisory Committees for the National Rivers Authority and the Environment Agency. One of my colleagues and three of our Trustees sit, in their own right, on the Area Environment Groups of the Environment Agency in the North West whilst one Trustee, in their own right, is also a member of the Agency's Regional Environment Protection Advisory Committee.


  2.1  Our comments that follow are based on our experience but are largely kept within our Charitable remit. These are Clause 22, Clause 23, Clause 28, and Clause 53. Where parts of the draft Bill are not commented on, it should not be taken as approval or disapproval for those clauses.


  3.1  There is one area of concern that underlines our comments and that is the use of the term "consumer" throughout the Bill. In this context we warmly welcome the focus that the draft Bill puts on the position of the consumer. However, we should want to ensure that the Bill recognises that "consumers" is not too narrowly applied. It is our view that consumers should be considered also as those people who benefit from the substantial land and water body holdings of the water undertakers. These areas offer significant opportunities for recreation and amenity. Often they are sited in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or other delightful rural areas. Sometimes they constitute more urban locations with magnificent buildings of industrial archaeological value.

  3.2  It is our view, based on correspondence, that OFWAT have previously looked only to standards of service and costs of water utility bills when considering consumer interests. They have failed to recognise this wider interest in our definition of consumer.

  3.3  We view the use of the word "environmental" as also one that can too often fail to recognise the recreational, access and conservation context. Environmental is often about clean rivers, sustainable water resources and wider, but important matters. The Bill would benefit from being clear about the need to encompass recreation, access and conservation as being inclusive within environmental especially, for example, when applied to Clause 28.


  4.1  In welcoming the establishment of these new bodies we note that the draft Bill (including Schedule I) offers no indication in the proposed balance of interest in the make up of either the Water Advisory Panel or the Consumer Council for Water (and their Regional Committees). It may be inappropriate for the Bill to carry such an indication. However, it is our view that this Inquiry should seek to recommend that, within the balance of interest on these bodies, they should include a person or people with the relevant experience in recreation, access and conservation applicable to the wider consumer interest we have defined.


  5.1  We welcome the ability of the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Director on social and environmental matters. There are two issues and the first, the lack of clarity of the use of "environmental", is covered above. The second is that this Clause appears to us to raise confusion between the environmental duties of OFWAT and those arising from statutes pertaining to the Water Utilities and the Environment Agency (Water Act 1991 and the Environment Act, 1995). We think there is a need for clarification. We can perhaps best try to explain this though the provisions for the Water Utilities and the Environment Agency as bodies for whom the Water Act 1991 provided a Code of Practice. This Code was not made applicable to OFWAT. The DETR have, in 2000, re-issued that Code of Practice, and we welcome the way it addresses the various issues related to recreation, access and conservation for the Environment Agency and water undertakers.

  5.2  We have already noted that when OFWAT undertakes the periodic price reviews is appears to us that they appear not to take into account the costs of the Water Utilities in caring for their estates etc in line with this statutorily based Code of Practice.

  5.3  It would be useful if the Secretary of State could apply the Water Act 1991 Code of Practice to OFWAT. However if the Code is given as guidance to the Director, under the Draft Bill Clause 28, then the Code will have a different level of statutory emphasis on the Director's duties than currently applies to the Environment Agency and the Utilities.

  5.4  We would recommend that the Environment Committee should consider how environmental (and social) guidance to the Director, that follows from the enactment of Clause 28 of the draft Water Bill, might be applied to the Water undertakers and the Environment Agency if it is equally appropriate. However, we would be keen to encourage the Environment Committee to consider how the Code of Practice should either form part of that guidance; or otherwise applied to the Director. Indeed it is our view that the Code needs a strong statutory application than its current status in its application to relevant bodies. In addition there is a need for a mechanism for monitoring compliance of these bodies to be included in the legislation. This latter matter could be considered to form part of the duties of the Water Advisory Panel or the Consumer Council for Water.

  5.5  The Environment Committee, during its Inquiry, should further be content that the provisions of section 62 of the Environment Act, 1995 which places a duty on, amongst other bodies, water utilities and the Environment Agency to have regard to the statutory purposes of the establishment of National Parks is applicable to the Director, OFWAT.


  6.1  We welcome this clause but recognise that water conservation is only part of the need to restrain water resource usage. We would ask the Inquiry to consider if the words "and water demand management" could reasonably be added to the end of this Clause. We may have assumed wrongly that the phrase "water conservation" already encompasses demand management. However it is our experience that both phrases are frequently used in tandem by the utilities and the Environment Agency, thus implying they are considered different concepts and both capable of applying remedies to the intention of the draft Bill.

  7.  If the Committee feels in need of any further information of clarification of these points we should be happy to supply further information.

December 2000

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