Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (FL 139a)



  During the 6 February evidence session, the Committee asked the Department to provide the following information:

1.  A note about the progress being made with the 15 Pitt urgent recommendations (Q 992)

  Attached separately [Annex A].


"Managed Realignment" from urban areas

2.  How will "Managed Realignment" be implemented in urban areas without creating planning blight?

  Managed realignment is the process by which the operating authorities deliberately breach or otherwise remove an existing defence so as to incorporate the land behind the original defence into an inter-tidal area or river flow corridor. Where this is undertaken it is always by agreement with the landowner and often the land concerned is purchased outright. The process of deciding which areas are to be accepted for managed realignment can lead to some uncertainty and therefore some possibility of blight but we are not aware that this is a major issue.

  The process that which we understand the Committee are referring to is much more likely to be "withdrawal of maintenance" or "do-nothing" options where notice is given but there is no provision in current legislation for any land purchase or compensation due to loss through the ensuing natural erosion or flooding.

  Approaches to helping such communities adapt to flooding and coastal erosion are being considered in a project[1] under our Making Space for Water programme to assess the scale and effect of these concerns and investigate the need for a broader portfolio of options for addressing them. This work is still under development and we hope to start discussions with Local Authorities and Councils in the Spring about ways forward. All levels of government have a role to play in promoting adaptation and local authorities can already help, for example through the planning process and wellbeing powers.

Provision of water during an emergency

3.  How soon will the requirements for potable water provision be revised upwards from 10 litres per day?

  Defra welcomes the interim conclusions and recommendations of the Pitt Review and is already taking action to address specific recommendations. Defra is leading a review of the current guidance on the provision of alternative water supplies during a water supply emergency and this will include a review of the minimum supply requirement.

  The review is looking into the adequacy of current planning provisions for alternative water supplies and the methodologies by which they are delivered and maintained. This review will draw on expertise from water companies, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Ofwat and other government departments including the Welsh Assembly Government. The review group is expected to report by the end of June 2008.

  Defra will use the report to produce updated Guidance under the Security and Emergency Measures Direction 1998. The Direction sets a legal requirement on water companies to plan to deal with emergencies.

4.  Will the figure of interruption of supplies to 200,000 people as the requirement against which the water companies are to plan be revised upwards?

  The aim of this planning guidance document is to provide a generic framework that water companies can use in approaching their local Category 1 responders. This enables them to develop a multi-agency response that would be required in the event of major water or wastewater incidents. The Guidance adopts a value for up to 200,000 people without a piped water supply for a week, or three days without power as a planning threshold. The intention is to develop further guidance for larger incidents in incremental steps. However, 200,000 was a reasonable incident size applicable to the water industry as a whole, but does not limit those that could have larger incidents. Those water companies are already planning for incidents affecting greater numbers of people.

  The guidance is additional to, and supports any existing national, regional and local generic command and control protocols. The National Risk Assessment process identifies hazards that may impact on services and people. For the 2008 NRA two scenarios have been identified, one of which is an event affecting a population of 350,000 people for up to two weeks.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

March 2008

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