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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, it is a regrettable fact that unadopted sewers have an awkward parallel with unadopted roads. Sometimes, trying to put the situation right is a moot point. If people have lived with unadopted sewers and unadopted roads, often the problem of getting them into a state in which they can be adopted—which means lifting them to a standard where they are of comparable quality and comparable stamina to existing public roads or sewers—places the householders with considerable financial liabilities.

It may be a regrettable reality, but if the Secretary of State produces a protocol on the matter—it would not cost the Exchequer exorbitant sums of money—there will be great difficulty and disappointment. The Secretary of State can, and probably should, come up with a protocol. But none of us should begin to assume that the protocol will necessarily provide relief or an immediate solution to those who must live with such problems, if there is a problem.

The situation will be rectified only when property owners who are affected eventually dip into their pockets and lay out the necessary capital, as has been the case with unadopted roads. If they do so, and must subsequently put their property on the market, they will normally get their money back in enhanced value. But that does not alter the fact that many of them will not want to sell their property; nor will they want to put their hands in their pockets. This is a quite fruitful way of causing divisions in what are often tight-knit communities.

That said, I agree entirely that, where such problems exist, they should be tackled if possible. However, they can be tackled only with the voluntary agreement and co-operation of those who have enjoyed the benefit of living for so long with an unadopted sewer.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise some of the points and problems referred to. However, the amendment is slightly misconstrued. The protocol to which the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, and I referred deals with the design, construction and adoption of new sewers and the process of development. In this amendment, for the most part, we are talking about what should be done about existing unadopted sewers. It is doubtful that a protocol for unadopted sewers would be parallel to that which has been produced for new development.

The next stage of the work is to look at existing private sewers. We will shortly produce a consultation paper engaging with everyone concerned about solutions for dealing with existing private sewers in England and Wales. I am not sure of the outcome of the consultation. However, it will not be the same sort of protocol to which I referred in Committee. Therefore, it is premature, and

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probably inappropriate, to stipulate a protocol in this part of the Bill. I must therefore resist the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, for his support of the amendment. I note what the Minister says; however, as he said previously, there will be a consultation paper on unadopted private sewers. I am sure that we will all be anxious to know the outcome of that consultation. It is not asking much of the Minister in these circumstances to produce a protocol and to give a commitment that it will incorporate the findings of the consultation paper. The amendment was deliberately loosely framed, but we seek a commitment.

In the circumstances, it may be necessary to return to the matter on Third Reading. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 [Requisition of lateral drains]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 166:

    Page 108, line 43, leave out subsection (8) and insert—

"(8) The substitution by subsection (7) of section 101 of the WIA does not apply in respect of requirements notified under section 98 of the WIA before subsection (7) comes into force."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

11 p.m.

Clause 91 [Communication with public sewers]:

Baroness O'Cathain moved Amendment No. 167:

    Page 113, line 42, at end insert—

"(2A) For paragraph (b) of subsection (2) there is substituted—
"(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 noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 167, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 168, 169 and 170. The background to these amendments is that sewerage and drainage systems are designed to cope with existing and planned development. Systems have to be managed to cope with excessive rainfall or demand. However, water companies have no discretion as to where a developer or householder connects to the drainage and sewerage systems. Some developments are designed with sustainable drainage systems such as soakaways. That may mean that there is no surface water sewer. Currently, there is nothing to prevent a householder from connecting his surface water run-off to the public foul sewer. Such overloading of systems can lead to flooding.

There is a case for allowing water companies to reject or amend developers' plans or householders' requests for connection in cases where it may lead to problems for existing infrastructure and to suggest

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alternative connection solutions. The amendments will allow sewerage undertakers some discretion as to whether to allow connection of private surface water sewers and drains to public sewers in circumstances where less costly provision for surface water disposal could be made. It will enable sewerage undertakers to develop a sewerage system planned and managed in a sustainable manner, to reduce the risk of flooding from sewers and to ensure consideration of sewerage and ancillary works at an early stage of the development and construction process.

In Grand Committee, the Minister acknowledged the importance of sewerage and the necessity for developers to take account of the problems that can arise if the developer does not recognise what has happened there already and what will be needed in terms of increased pressure on the system. He said that the Government were in discussion with water companies and the ODPM about sewerage development. He continued, recognising the problems. He responded that sustainable surface water drainage systems are being considered by a working group under the chairmanship of the agency. He suggested:

    "If we can develop such systems, they can significantly reduce pressure on the sewerage system by collecting, treating and disposing of surface water locally into the ground. ... We also need to establish the responsibilities and the costs of building and maintaining such systems".

The Minister referred to the consultation paper launched on 22nd May.

He added:

    "Until that work is completed and decisions have been taken on it later in the year, I believe that it would be premature to accept the amendment as it stands and to see whether . . . we should amend Section 106 of the 1991 Act".—[Official Report, 29/4/03; col. GC 163.]

There is a lot of good reasoning in the Minister's arguments. We understand that the Government will publish its own consultation on SUDs in the autumn, along with a consultation on private sewers—should these be adopted by the industry. We are concerned that there is no guarantee that these amendments, if withdrawn, would feature in a subsequent Bill, which we assume would be the environment Bill.

Supporting the case against the Minister's arguments, subsection (4A)(a) in Amendment No. 168 states that where,

    "it is feasible for an alternative method of drainage to be provided, utilised, maintained and kept in repair",

and in (b) that it is,

    "justifiable taking into account the relative cost to the applicant".

The fallback position for the industry would be to seek assurances that provisions covering the amendments would be incorporated within a subsequent environment Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, we support the amendments, particularly those which relate to foul water. It is a huge problem in some areas and a very serious degradation of the water environment.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise that and the problems which this group of amendments seek to

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address. But I repeat what I said in Committee. We have issued the Framework for Sustainable Drainage Systems in England and Wales as a consultation paper which, among other things, focuses on the issues of sewerage, including the problem where foul sewers also carry surface water and the surcharge and discharge that results from that.

That consultation is quite complex. I am still of the view that we should await that consultation before proposing amendments to the 1991 Act, to which these amendments are directed.

A further consultation stage may be necessary later this year so that we can consider further all the specific disposal arrangements, including the issue of enforceable ownership and arrangements relating to the connection and maintenance of private sewers. Until we have gone through that process, it is premature to amend Section 106 of the 1991 Act.

Therefore, while registering similar concerns to the noble Baroness, I would not wish to see the amendment in the Bill. However, as a result of the consultation, it may be that some other piece of legislation may be appropriate to carry forward similar amendments.

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