More homes in South East could lead to water supply and quality problems

Government plans to allow construction of extra new homes and offices in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire could damage the region's environment and water supplies, the Environment Agency has warned.

The environmental regulator voiced particular concerns about the Thames Basin and Ashford in Kent, calling the Government’s plans ‘over-development’.

In its response to the Government’s draft regional planning guidance, the Agency says development pressure could also affect towns such as Basingstoke, Ashford and Aylesbury, where river water quality could be affected as wastewater treatment works deal with increased volumes of effluent.

The Agency has also voiced concerns that development pressures will lead to the building of homes and businesses in areas that are prone to flooding. Since climate change may increase the risk of flooding, the Agency believes it is vital to take this into account in future planning.

In order to assess the impact of planning decisions and other activities, the Agency’s Southern region has produced a ‘state of the environment’ report for the region, giving detailed information on the South East’s rivers, bathing waters, quality of air and prospects for wildlife to help monitor the impact on the environment of future development.

David Jordan, the Agency’s Southern regional director said: “This report will help the Agency to monitor and manage the impact that any future development will have on the region.”

The move follows action by councillors on the South East Regional Planning Authority, SERPLAN, to reject Government plans for 43,000 new homes each year for the next five years. They argued that this target would harm the environment and voted to retain the original plan, developed in 1996, which would see 33,000 new homes built annually until 2016.

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