Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Northumbrian Water Ltd

Executive Summary

1. Northumbrian Water Ltd (NWL) supports the Government’s ambitions as set out in DEFRA’s Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP). NWL believes that the water industry is and can continue to be a significant partner in delivering an enhanced natural environment as well as growth of the green economy, and that there are already many examples where this is happening. The discussions around the NEWP are an ideal opportunity to share best practice, encourage further partnership working and to identify gaps where Government support is desirable.

Mrs Heidi Mottram OBE

2. Heidi Mottram is submitting this memorandum in her capacity as Chief Executive Officer of Northumbrian Water Ltd (which includes Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water companies). The group serves 2.4 million customers in North East England with water and waste water services and 1.4 million people in Essex & Suffolk with water services. Mrs Mottram is also a member of the Government’s Green Economy Council.

Main Points

3. Within DEFRA’s definition of “natural networks” and “natural capital” water is rightly identified as a very important component.

4. Water companies are already actively participating in numerous schemes aimed at enhancing the natural environment. NWL sees one of its key aims is to conserve and enhance the natural environment where appropriate, working to avoid, or minimise, adverse impacts through good land management and operational practice.

5. NWL has put into practice protected species management to protect and to ensure the survival of protected species that occur within our landholdings. In order to enhance our existing data in 2008, we began comprehensively mapping the type and extent of Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitats on our landholdings and undertook specific species surveys. To date, 69 BAP species have been identified with at least 11 priority BAP habitats including five waxcap grassland sites of international importance, 84 hectares of blanket bog and upland wet heath and 19 hectares of fen, marsh and swamp. Comprehensive data is now collated for waxcap grasslands, reptiles, butterflies, dragonflies, woodland, calcareous grassland and ponds. Recognising the power in partnerships we proactively seek to work with partners on land and conservation management, including all of our local wildlife trusts, Natural England, RSPB, the Broads Authority and others.

6. NWL supports DEFRA’s aim of establishing catchment level partnerships but urges that existing good practice is recognised and built upon. NWL believes that pro-active identification, investigation, monitoring and engagement through catchment management activities are important ways to reduce or prevent pollution at source. We have a long history of catchment management and have been a lead partner in many projects, most notably the Tees Water Colour Project and the award winning Trinity Broads Partnership which we formed with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Broads Authority in 1998. To implement our catchment management programme, we employ a Catchment Team Leader and four Catchment Advisors covering the Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water catchments. While the focus of their work is on reducing pesticide concentrations in the rivers, their remit covers many other diffuse inputs including water colour, nitrates and sediment.

7. The NEWP correctly identifies that enhancing the natural environment is not just about rural landscapes, but also about what can be achieved on more urban and industrial sites.

8. In the North East of England, NWL constructed The Howdon Wetlands on a derelict industrial site- the work began in 1999 and was completed in 2000 using spoil from the development of the tertiary treatment process at the sewage treatment works. There are two large ponds, a westerly pond with a large island in its centre and an easterly pond that has no island. There is what is best described as a deep moat, connecting the two ponds and which meanders around the site area, isolating some substantial areas of land where wild birds can breed. There is a considerable mixture of shrubs, grasses and flowering plants scattered all over this site. A very large variety of flowering plants, trees and shrubs both native and introduced occur here and this site must rank as one of the finest florally rich sites along the banks of the River Tyne. A variety of dragonflies, damselflies, bumblebees and butterflies can be found at the site, recently Speckled Wood and Painted Lady butterflies have been spotted onsite, which is significant in this area of the country. Bird life that has been seen visiting includes Redshank, Oystercatchers, Swallows, Swifts, and House Martins and in previous years a pair of resident Swans has raised cygnets on the ponds. The site is regarded as a “hotel” for migrating birds. As part of the Durham Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) an Otter Holt has been constructed in early 2011, as Otters are a priority species in the BAP.

9. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) – NWL believes that SuDS play an important role in separating surface water from the foul system, providing a sustainable approach to flood management as well as enhancing the biodiversity of the environment providing natural habitat. With responsibility for drainage divided between a large number of organisations, the need for joint responsibility and action is needed if drainage and flooding issues are to be effectively addressed. Northumbrian Water has initiated a sustainable sewerage study on Tyneside and leads a project with the Consumer Council for Water, Environment Agency, Tyne and Wear Emergency Planning Unit and Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland County, North Tyneside and South Tyneside Councils, which will impact on 912,000 customers, 5 local authorities, 6,490KM of public highway and 87km of river. We hope that there will be continued focus on this solution, both as the NEWP process goes forward and within the forthcoming Water White Paper.

10. NWL supports the idea of the formation of Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) and hopes the Committee and DEFRA will recognise the excellent partnership working that is already in existence. The £1M of funding that is being made available for 2011-12 should be accessible to already functioning groups that are working as de facto LNPs.

11. NWL has established the Kielder Water & Forest Development Trust, the first charitable trust to be set up by a UK water company with the aim of developing and managing a significant natural resource encompassing the UK’s largest forest and man-made lake. Partners include the Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, English Nature, the local Wildlife Trust, local business and local government as well as Calvert Trust, a charity which operates outdoor activity holidays for disabled children. This partnership has seen significant success in recent years which includes, the creation of the Tynedale renewable energy trail, growth in visitor numbers by 30%, the return of nesting ospreys and the construction of 12 affordable homes. It has also secured £5.6 million of public private investment in infrastructure including a 26 mile multi-user track around the lake, wildlife hides and outdoor art programmes. This also covers the general management, protection and enhancement of the natural environment within the partnership area, creating both sustainable employment, tourism and safeguarding one of the last bastions of the red squirrel in the UK. At the micro/local level LNPs have the potential to be real drivers of the green economy and water companies are ideally placed to take a lead. We think the Kielder example shows the real potential for LNPs to make a difference.

12. The recent setting up of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the country, combined with new LNPs, offers an ideal opportunity to integrate the economic development and natural environment agendas. It would be very helpful if the Committee could further examine the scope for the two types of partnerships to work together, particularly as developing the green economy has been identified by Government as such a central part economic and sub-national policy.


13. The water industry is well placed to help deliver many of the aspirations contained within the NEWP. The Government should scope out and acknowledge where there is already positive work being undertaken, with a view to supporting and replicating successful models. To truly embed the “value of nature” then mechanisms need to be devised which will continue to encourage the full participation of the business community. This is perhaps easier in relation to companies which are subject to statutory regulation, but NWL would encourage the Committee to press DEFRA on the “how” and the “when” of implementation, as this seems to be the less focussed aspect of the NEWP.

14. We are grateful to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee for launching this enquiry and NWL is very willing to supply further information on any aspect of this evidence, in either a written or oral submission.

26 September 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012