Decisions on householder and minor applications for planning permission across Crawley have recommenced with immediate effect thanks to a new water neutrality screening assessment proforma developed for Crawley Borough Council as the Local Planning Authority (LPA) and endorsed by Natural England.

Following the position statement received from Natural England on 14 September 2021, the Local Planning Authority [the council] is required to demonstrate that any development proposed on sites supplied by Southern Water from its Sussex North Water Resource Zone did not increase pressure on water resources – in other words show that they are “water neutral”. The LPA is the body with overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with these requirements.

The LPA has responsibility for undertaking the Habitats Regulations Assessment process under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. These regulations add a new requirement into the planning process as the LPA has to decide whether each application has an impact on the Sussex North Water Resource Zone as result of increased water demand.

Under the regulations, the ‘assessment’ process for making this decision is in two stages. The LPA has developed a framework to allow certain types of householder and minor applications to be screened out at the first stage, therefore avoiding time and costs for applicants and agents in preparing information to support their applications. This work has resulted in two Habitats Regulations Assessment Screening Reports having been prepared for the LPA with input, advice and feedback from an independent ecological consultant and Natural England, who have endorsed the two screening reports for use.

The production of these two screening reports allows the LPA to resume the positive determination of planning applications for certain categories of development within the Sussex North Water Resource Zone. This will allow householders to progress with home improvements (excluding annexes and swimming pools) and other minor works to proceed.

We have recognised how important these new water neutrality regulations are to householders and businesses in Crawley. Our team has worked hard to find a resolution so that planning applications for the majority of home improvements and other minor works can resume with immediate effect. The screening templates that we have designed provide a consistent and evidenced approach to address the water neutrality issue as required by the habitat regulations.

Cllr Peter Smith

Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development

Crawley Borough Council