Council unblocks two key housing schemes with water neutrality solution

Crawley Borough Council has pioneered a strategy to retrofit water saving devices into its existing housing stock in order to unblock two new affordable housing schemes that are required to be “water neutral”.

In an initial pilot, 100 existing council properties have been retrofitted with a flow-regulating device. This pilot will now be further extended to provide sufficient water savings to allow the two new affordable housing schemes at Breezehurst Drive and Longley House to proceed.

This is in response to Natural England’s decision in September 2021 requiring the council, as local planning authority, to demonstrate that any development proposed on sites supplied by Southern Water from its Sussex North Water Resource Zone do not increase demand on water resources – in other words show that they are “water neutral”. This requires sufficient water savings to be found to offset any new demand for water from the new developments.

The two housing schemes at Breezehurst Drive and Longley House will deliver 206 much-needed affordable housing units for Crawley. For them to be “water neutral” before being ready for occupation, the council will need to retrofit approximately 1,000 existing properties with the new flow-regulating device.

A water strategy for both housing schemes has been submitted for planning approval so that water neutrality can be achieved prior to the scheme being occupied.

As water neutrality is an unprecedented planning requirement, this retrofitting strategy is the first of its kind, with Crawley leading the way towards finding a solution. These two new developments will provide much-needed affordable housing for our town. In addition, the new-build properties will be highly water efficient, with retrofitted properties having improved water efficiency, so it is expected that occupants will benefit from reduced water bills, as well as reducing their energy consumption. We believe the lessons learned through this pilot initiative will benefit other local authorities in the region that are affected by water neutrality and could lead to this strategy being adopted on a wider basis.

Cllr Sandra Buck

Cabinet member for Housing

Crawley Borough Council