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Could New Housing Harm the Chess?

Nov 26, 2010

Category: General
Posted by: Kathryn

For the second time this year, the RCA has made a detailed submission as part of the consultation process on the Core Strategy for Chiltern District. The strategy is part of a new way of planning, which sets out the overall vision to guide new housing up to 2026 and sets a target of 2,400 new houses for the whole district, with Chesham being one of the key settlements for development.

In its consultation response, the RCA raised its concerns over the impact that the new housing could have on the Chess in terms of water quality and low flows. The RCA called for the establishment of an Abstraction Working Group to develop a plan to reduce the need to abstract water from the chalk aquifer in the Chilterns, and specifically the Chess catchment. The working group should include Chiltern District Council, Veolia, Thames Water and voluntary groups such as the RCA.

Paul Jennings, RCA Chairman, said, "The Chiltern District is already designated as an over-abstracted area. Any new housing will cause further over-abstraction. The new proposed Policy 14.16 states 'Where a proposal generates the need for abstraction, these will only be permitted where this does not cause over-abstraction.' This is the key to solving the problem of low flow rates in the River Chess and would mean no new housing until the over-abstraction is resolved."

The RCA also commented on the fact that the Core Strategy includes the acknowledgment by Thames Water that a large section of the district's sewerage infrastructure is operating at or near capacity. Many of the locations where new housing developments are likely to be located are known areas of sewerage infrastructure stress.

Paul Jennings commented, "I am delighted that there is now a public admission that new houses cannot simply continue to be built in the district without urgently required infrastructure improvements taking place first. The River Chess and its rare habitat are already suffering from pollution incidents and this is the only way to ensure that the sewerage system can cope with the demands being made upon it.

We will continue to lobby for a robust planning process which adequately protects our chalk streams now and for the future."

The RCA's consultation response has been processed by Chiltern District Council and will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in January 2011, ahead of a hearing later in the year.

Download the RCA's consultation response (PDF, 96 KB)