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Standing Committee Debates
Water Bill [Lords]

Water Bill [Lords]

Column Number: 347

Standing Committee D

Tuesday 21 October 2003

(Afternoon)

[Mr. Bill O'Brien in the Chair]

Water Bill [Lords]

Clause 98

Adoption of lateral drains

Question proposed [this day], That the clause stand part of the Bill.

2.30 pm

Question again proposed.

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 19—Power to require adoption of private sewers—

    'After section 102 of the WIA there is inserted—

    ''102A Power to require adoption of private sewers

    (1) The Secretary of State may be regulations establish a scheme to enable a sewerage undertaker to be required to adopt a sewer to which this section applies.

    (2) A scheme under this section may apply to any sewer which is—

    (a) situated within the area of a sewerage undertaker or which serves the whole or any part of that area; and

    (b) not vested in a sewerage undertaker.

    (3) Regulations under subsection (1) may amend section 105 so as to extend the appeals procedure to the scheme, provided that the appeal shall be heard by a person other than the person imposing the requirement to adopt.''.'

I understand that the Minister was responding to the debate when the Committee adjourned at 11.25 am.

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): I had almost finished on the dot; the only problem was that I was a few seconds out. I was telling my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) that he, together with others, has made a good case about the problems. There is still much work to do because we must respond properly to the consultation, which we cannot do until the beginning of next year, and evaluate the options, which will also take time. Nevertheless, it may be that an enabling power, such as the one that my hon. Friend argued for, could be useful. He will appreciate that we will have to consult parliamentary counsel, and so I ask him not to press his new clause and assure him that we will consider it on Third Reading.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood): Well, what can I say? Job done; enough said. I am grateful to my hon. Friend and look forward to discussing the issues with him again on Report. I appreciate how hard he has worked and how helpful he has been on the issue, and I understand that the enabling legislation will take time to work through.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 98 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Column Number: 348

Clause 99

Requisitioning and adoption of lateral drains: supplementary

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): I beg to move amendment No. 212, in

    clause 99, page 123, line 46, after 'building', insert

    'and is outside the curtilage of that building'.

Welcome back to our chilly Committee Room, Mr. O'Brien. You will be amused to know that my wife has just rung to say that the boiler at my home has broken down, so this Room is home from home.

The amendment would ensure that the previous debate, which the Minister just summed up, does not extend to the gap between the curtilages of people's property and home. The definition of a ''lateral drain'' in the Bill could be interpreted as meaning the whole of the drain, from the building that it drains to the public sewer, and not from the boundary of the property of which the building forms a part.

The purpose of this enabling amendment is to clarify the exact meaning of ''curtilage of a building'' and the situation that people would face if the lateral drain between their house and the public drain were damaged. Obviously, if it is in their garden, it is their property and they must deal with it, but we are trying to tighten up the wording so that there is no misunderstanding.

If, as the hon. Member for Sherwood wants, all sewers are taken into the ownership of the water companies, a small section between the public sewer and the house will still be the responsibility of the homeowner. That is my understanding of the drafting, and I want to tighten up the wording so that there are no grey areas about who owns what.

Mr. Morley: The hon. Gentleman is correct. The definition of a ''lateral drain'' in the Bill makes it clear that it is the part of the drain that runs from the curtilage of a building to the sewer, so it is outside the ownership of the property. The Bill deals with the fact that new drains will come under the responsibility of the sewerage undertakers. The definition already makes it clear that a lateral drain runs outside the curtilage of the building and from the curtilage to the sewer. I hope that that clarifies the matter.

Mr. Wiggin: The Minister has given way, but my intervention may be prolonged. Lateral drain means

    ''that part of a drain which runs from the curtilage of a building (or buildings or yards within the same curtilage) to the sewer with which the drain communicates or is to communicate''.

I understand that the wording attempts to define the garden—that which is outside the curtilage of the building but within the curtilage of the property.

Mr. Morley: The curtilage is the boundary of the property, and is usually the edge of the garden. The drain will be the responsibility of the householder up to that boundary. Nothing will change on that. The lateral drain runs from beyond the boundary line of the property to the main sewer.

Mr. Wiggin: The matter has been properly examined. If there is ever a dispute in the future, the Minister's clarification is on record. We have a fair

Column Number: 349

amount of business to deal with, so I will not delay the Committee further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 99 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 100

Communication with public sewers

Mr. Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 136, in

    clause 100, page 124, line 26, at end insert—

    '(2A) Substitute for paragraph (b) of subsection (2)—

    ''(b) to discharge directly or indirectly—

    (i) foul water into a sewer provided for surface water; or

    (ii) except with the approval of the undertaker, surface water into a sewer provided for foul water; or''.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 137, in

    clause 100, page 124, leave out lines 27 to 32 and insert—

    '(3) Substitute for subsection (4)—

    (4) At any time within 21 days after a sewerage undertaker receives a notice under subsection (3) above, the undertaker may by notice to the person who gave the notice—

    (a) refuse to permit the communication to be made, if it appears to the undertaker that the mode of construction or condition of the drain or sewer—

    (i) does not satisfy the standards reasonably required by the undertaker; or

    (ii) is such that the making of the communication would be prejudicial to the undertaker's sewerage system; or

    (b) where the drain or sewer which it is sought to communicate with the public sewer is to be used for the draining of surface water, refuse permission for the communication to be made, or grant permission for the communication subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, subject to taking into account the considerations set out in subsection (4A) below.

    (4A) Under subsection (4)(b) above, a sewerage undertaker may only refuse permission for a communication to be made, or grant permission for the communication subject to conditions, where it has reasonable grounds for considering that—

    (a) it is feasible for an alternative method of drainage to be provided, utilised, maintained and kept in repair—

    (i) which does not involve communication with the public sewer; but

    (ii) which may include the provision of a lateral drain or sewer by any of the means provided for in this Chapter;

    (b) this is justifiable taking into account the relative cost to the applicant of—

    (i) providing the alternative method of drainage referred to in paragraph (a) above; or

    (ii) requisitioning a lateral drain or sewer under sections 98 to 101B above for communication with the public sewer of the undertaker;

    (c) where communication of the drains or sewer with the public sewer might contribute towards one or more of the following—

    (i) the overloading of the public sewer or the sewerage system of which it forms part, and the consequential overflowing of its contents and the flooding of adjoining property or land;

    (ii) the overloading of any sewage disposal works forming part of or connected with the system, so adversely affecting such work's capacity to treat or dispose of

Column Number: 350

    sewage in compliance with any statutory requirement or consent applicable to it;

    (iii) increased flows in and resulting overflows and discharges from combined foul and surface water sewers which may have adverse effects on the aquatic environment; or

    (iv) the pollution of inland waters, the flooding of property or land, or the impairment of river or drainage systems, whether or not arising from the matters described in paragraphs (i), (ii) or (iii) above.''.'.

Amendment No. 139, in

    clause 100, page 124, line 43, at end insert—

    '(5A) Substitute for subsection (9)—

    ''(9) In this section—

    (a) 'factory' has the same meaning as in the Factories Act 1961;

    (b) 'inland waters' has the same meaning as in the Water Resources Act 1991;

    (c) 'sewer provided for surface water' and 'sewer provided for foul water' excludes any sewer provided for the combined drainage of both surface and foul water.''.'.

Mr. Wiggin: Once again, we discuss sewerage. In this case, we are dealing with the difficulty that sewerage companies face in dealing with foul water—water that, perhaps, has come from a lavatory—as opposed to surface water, which may have run off the road. Those are very different types of water, and there is a different demand and supply for them. For example, if there is a thunderstorm, a huge amount of surface water is generated, but that will not necessarily correspond to the amount of foul water. The problem is that when water flows into the sewers, it can be of both types. That means that cloudbursts or sudden flash floods can cause the foul water in the sewerage to flood.

We need to ensure that surface water is kept separate in calculating the sewerage capacity required, and that is what we seek to do in amendment No. 136. That means that the sewers that are provided for foul water will be able to cope, because foul water is a regular flow, which is understood. Run-off water is a different kettle of fish, however, and we must ensure that not all the water is pushed into the same type of sewer. The question of allowing access to the public sewer from new developments must therefore be handled carefully, and the amendment seeks also to address that.

 
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