Private Water Supplies - Case Study 2013/16

Are local authority records of private supplies being taken into account proactively and beneficially during planning and housing decisions?

This case study concerns a shared private water supply for domestic purposes serving four properties. The source of the supply is a borehole sunk in the 1960s from where water is pumped to a large concrete storage tank. Water then gravity feeds, by means of alkathene pipes, to each of the properties. Residents had made the local authority aware that the large storage tank can run dry in the summer months, therefore they are all aware of the need to conserve water to ensure the sufficiency of the supply.

In July, after one of the properties had been sold, the new owner applied for planning permission to develop outbuildings into several holiday cottages. The other residents contacted the environmental health team of the local authority to express concern about the additional demand this development would put on the supply, particularly in light of the change of use from owner-occupied to holiday let (Regulation 10 to Regulation 9). It was felt that visitors would not necessarily be motivated to conserve water putting the whole supply at greater risk.

The environmental health team, being familiar with the water supply situation, was able to explain this to the planning department, specifically the sufficient and wholesome duties on local authorities in the Water Industry Act 1991. They requested that any planning permission should be subject to a condition requiring a separate water supply for the development of new holiday cottages. This was put in place and the owner did not appeal the planning condition. A drilling company was engaged to install a new borehole to supply the holiday cottages; however, a new source with sufficient yield could not be established easily. Not wishing to expend further drilling costs with no guarantee of success, the owner did not proceed with the development.

This case study illustrates the importance of the questions about sufficiency embedded in the Inspectorate’s risk assessment tool. Specifically when carrying out a risk assessment of a shared supply, local authorities should ensure information is sought from all the residents.

The Inspectorate recommends that local authorities put in place procedures that ensure the planning application process and housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) takes full account of private supply records and duties in relation to both sufficiency and quality. Also see Case study 2.