Planning Portal

Draft PPS14 Sustainable Development in the Countryside
Policy CTY 14: Justification & Amplification

4.105 Water is one of our most vital natural resources. Not only is it essential to sustain life itself, but it also plays a crucial role in our economic development and social well-being. Some uses can however threaten the very water quality on which they depend. Pollution can arise from point sources such as industrial or sewage effluent discharges, or can be diffuse such as road or agricultural run-off. It is important therefore that our water bodies - rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, groundwaters and reservoirs - are protected from pollution and managed as a sustainable resource for all of the activities that depend on them.
4.106 The context for the protection of water resources is provided by the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) Opens link in a new browser window that came into force in December 2000. This established a new framework for the management, protection and improvement of the quality of water resources across the European Union. The WFD requires the completion of management plans for all river basins in Northern Ireland by the end of 2009. Among the objectives of these management plans is the protection and improvement of the ecological and chemical water quality of the Region.
4.107 The Directive consequently has implications for decisionmaking in the development sector. New development relying on non-mains sewerage may, either individually or cumulatively, increase the risk of groundwater pollution. As such, it has the potential to adversely affect the ecology and chemical quality of the water environment.
4.108 Accordingly it is desirable for new development to connect to mains services wherever possible. However, it is acknowledged that it will not be feasible for many buildings in the countryside to connect to a public water borne sewerage system and they will rely instead on some means of ‘on-site sewage treatment’, such as a septic tank or package treatment plant. Effluent from such installations is usually dispersed through a system of channels or field drains before percolating to the nearest watercourse.
4.109 The aim of this policy is to protect the Region’s water resources from the actual or potential polluting effects of onsite treatment plants, particularly in areas identified for the abstraction of water for human consumption.
4.110 The planning and pollution control systems are separate but complementary systems of control and regulation designed to protect the environment from harm as a result of development and related operations. Pollution controls seek to protect public health and the environment. Planning controls are concerned with the appropriate use of land and the impact of development on the environment.
4.111 Under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 Opens link in a new browser window, the consent of the Department of the Environment’s Environment and Heritage Service is required to discharge any trade or sewage effluent or any other potentially polluting matter from commercial, industrial or domestic premises to waterways or underground strata.
4.112 However planning applications for development in the countryside relying on non-mains sewerage are often made prior to applications for ‘Consent to Discharge’ under the Water Order. It then falls to the planning system to assess whether the arrangements for the treatment of effluent would create or add to a pollution problem. In such cases consultation will be undertaken with Environment and Heritage Service and the Environmental Health Department of the local council.
4.113 The number and type of on-site sewage treatment plants which, will be acceptable in a particular area will be determined by the sub-soil conditions, the sensitivity and capacity of the receiving watercourse and the vulnerability sensitivity of water catchment areas. In addition such installations should be located at least 15 metres away from any dwelling and soakaways should not drain across the curtilage of any neighbouring property.
4.114 Planning permission will be refused for development relying on non-mains sewerage where the physical arrangements proposed for on-site sewage treatment are unsatisfactory or in cases where ‘Consent to Discharge’ under the Water Order is unlikely to be forthcoming due to pollution risks. Environment and Heritage Service may identify certain areas where a pollution risk exists sufficient to warrant no further development relying on non-mains sewerage arrangements. In appropriate circumstances these will be highlighted in the relevant development plan for the area.
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