Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeEvidence submitted by Home Builders Federation Ltd


1. The HBF, on behalf of the house building industry, welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the EFRA Committee tasked with dealing with the Water White Paper.

2. After many years of lobbying both Ofwat and Government, we are encouraged to see that the White Paper now recognises the need for change with regard to (a) the levels of service WaSCs give to developers and (b) the need for a more transparent charging regime. If more substantive progress can also be made with the introduction of greater competition in the inset regime, then the White Paper heralds a major, beneficial step forward. That said we have a number of concerns as to whether our expectations will be met if the recently published DEFRA Consultations on Sewers and SuDS is indicative of how Government Policy is implemented. This is explained in more detail later in our response.

3. On a separate matter, it is interesting to see that the White Paper labels developers under a section relating to customers. If this was only the case. For this to take place there will need to be a seismic shift in attitude on the part of all WaSCs.

Evidence on whether the White Paper’s aims are supported and the likelihood of these objectives being effectively fulfilled by the approaches it proposes

4. In relation to the latter part of this question we would express some disappointment over both DEFRA’s and OFWAT’s ability to convert Government Policy into practical and workable legislation and guidance. The recently published Consultation on Section 42 of the Flood and Water Management Act being a case in point. If the Regulations, (or lack of effective regulation), were to be enacted as they stand at present we can predict with some certainty that house building in England could be severely constrained whilst the necessary legal agreements are crystallised for all new developments. To provide a wholesome explanation on this issue alone would exceed the 1,000 words limit that has been imposed for the submission of evidence. That said we would be more than willing to provide more detailed verbal evidence.

5. To a lesser extent the SUDS Consultation raises similar issues but not to the same extent as the Sewer Consultation. However, with the SAB having been given no powers of requisitioning outfalls from SuDS infrastructure to the point of discharge, the prospect of expensive ransom payments when an outfall needs to pass through third party land is very real. Moreover, a number of sites allocated for development will be unviable.

6. Returning to the DEFRA Consultation on Sewers, we are disappointed with its content and the lack of completeness. In essence it does appear that both DEFRA and OFWAT have taken “light touch” regulation to mean that WaSCs take the lead as only they know best. As a result there are a number of serious issues, previously flagged up by the HBF, and which have not been effectively addressed. Without resolution, there is an inevitability that our members will have no alternative other than to have such matters dealt with/resolved through the Courts—this is anathema to effective and efficient new housing delivery .What we find most disturbing is that sensible and practical solutions offered by the HBF have effectively been ignored.

7. The HBF ethos is to work with Government towards the introduction of efficient and appropriate primary and secondary legislation, accompanied by guidance, when appropriate. This has not been allowed to happen in terms of the MBS and SuDS Standards.

How best can the White Paper’s aims to promote water efficiency and the use of sustainable drainage be implemented?

8. As the Committee may be aware new homes are water efficient when compared to the existing housing stock and always have a meter installed. The progressive reduction in water usage driven by both the CfSHs and Part G of the Building Regulations continues to make an effective contribution to efficient water usage.

9. In relation to the implementation of sustainable drainage we will be providing a substantive reply to the recently published consultation. That said we would ask the committee to take cognisance of the fact that the consultation makes no reference to the statutory obligation placed on all WaSCs to “effectually” drain their area”. This applies equally to surface water drainage. Somewhat surprisingly even Sir Michael Pitt failed to understand what Section 94 of the Water Industry Act meant in terms of the effective management of surface water.

10. We would suggest that Section 94 is a key issue in terms of what can or cannot be achieved in relation to SUDS. Moreover, it could begin to support the future funding regime for SUDS if it is finally accepted that commercial imbalances are distorting more effective means of funding, for example the payment of infrastructure charges and how these will be misaligned with the legislation.

Does the White Paper omit any key issues where further policy action is required to ensure sustainable, reliable and cost-effective water supplies?

Section 185 of the Water Industry Act

11. With regard to further Policy action we would note the omission of a minor change to Section 185 of the Water Industry Act. This was originally contained under clause 248 in the draft Flood and Water Management Bill but did not get incorporated into the Act.—see below.

248 Cost of moving pipes

After section 185(7) of the Water Industry Act 1991 (water undertaker’s duty to move pipes costs) insert:

“(7A) A dispute about the reasonableness of the amount of security, costs or interest under subsections (4) to (6) may be referred to the Director for determination under section 30A.”

This in essence is a piece of legislative sweeping up that is of intrinsic importance to developers when a dispute occurs involving the diversion of either a water main or a sewer.

12. The HBF also considers that a commercial imbalance exists in this area when a diversion is required of either a water main or sewer. In almost all instances old infrastructure is replaced by new entirely at the developer’s expense. When similar situations arise involving other utilities, an element of deferral of renewal takes place. Consequently it is fair and reasonable to expect such provisions be extended to developers, albeit this may require a change in primary legislation.


In response to the call for evidence in respect of the Water White Paper, HBF would welcome the opportunity to give further verbal evidence on the issues that we have raised. The intended changes in water supply and drainage legislation are profound and far-reaching. More importantly they have a direct correlation with our ability to provide the new homes that are so urgently required. To encapsulate a meaningful response covering several fundamentally important issues in just 1,000 words is just not possible and we close this submission with a plea to provide more detailed verbal evidence in front of the committee.

January 2012

Prepared 4th July 2012