Planning Portal

Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
Regional Planning Policies: Policy PSU 9 Septic Tanks

Policy PSU 9 Septic Tanks
The provisions of PPS 21 will take precedence over this policy.
Subject to other policy constraints, planning permission will normally be granted for a development which requires the provision of a septic tank, provided it would not result in the creation of or an addition to an unacceptable pollution problem.
The provision of mains water and sewerage services is the responsibility of the Water Executive. Consultation will take place with the Water Executive on all applications for new buildings in rural areas. In the countryside it is desirable to connect new development to mains services if possible. However few buildings in the countryside will be within reach of a public water borne sewerage system and will rely instead on a septic tank or other small disposal plant for sewage disposal. Effluent from such installations is normally dispersed through a system of field drains before percolating to the nearest watercourse.
The District Council and the Department's Environment Service advise on the acceptability of sewage disposal where public facilities do not exist. In such circumstances the number of septic tanks which will be permitted in a particular area will be determined by the subsoil conditions, the capacity of the receiving watercourse and the vulnerability of water catchment areas. Where the Department is satisfied that further development could cause or add to a serious problem, that development will be refused planning permission.
Throughout the Northern Ireland countryside soil conditions are generally conducive to the safe and effective use of domestic septic tanks and soakaways. However, with the increasing number of rural developments and the use of chemical detergents in the daily water consumption of individual households, there is a potential pollution risk involved in this form of drainage. This policy is designed to ensure the protection of water resources from the build-up of septic tanks, particularly in areas protected for the abstraction of water for human consumption.
The planning and pollution control systems are separate but complementary. 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. Close consultation takes place between the planning and pollution control authorities.
Development plans will identify water catchment areas that are used or proposed to be used for public water supplies. In preparing plan policies and proposals account will be taken of the constraints on development as a result of the need to comply with any statutory environmental quality standards within these areas. In some circumstances, in order to protect the most vulnerable environments, it may be necessary to set thresholds for the number of septic tanks that would be acceptable. Exceptionally, where these thresholds have been passed or are threatened, planning permission may be refused for any further development involving an additional septic tank.
Planning Service will consult with the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) of the District Council on all planning applications involving the installation of septic tanks. Applicants must satisfy the EHO and the Department's Environmental Protection Division that the ground conditions are suitable for accepting a septic tank and soakaway discharge. The Department's consent to discharge effluent from a septic tank into a watercourse, or to a soakaway into the ground, is required under the Water Act (NI) 1972. Planning permission will be refused where it is clear that the necessary consent under the Water Act is unlikely to be forthcoming.
Applications involving the use of septic tanks must show accurately the proposed location of the installation and soakaways, and of drainage ditches and watercourses in the vicinity. Septic tanks and soakaways must be located within the application site and be within the applicant's control and therefore subject to any planning conditions relating to the development of the site. Septic tanks should be located at least 15 metres away from any dwelling and the soakaways should not drain across the curtilage of any neighbouring dwelling. If planning permission is granted for a development requiring a septic tank the requirements of the Environmental Health Officer and the Department's Water Executive and Environmental Protection Division will be added as informatives on the decision notice or incorporated as conditions of the planning consent.
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