River Pollution (House Building)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 4th February 2010.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Children, Young People and Families) 10:30 am, 4th February 2010

What recent discussions he has had with the Environment Agency on the effect on river pollution of the level of house building.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Farming and the Environment)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for marine and natural environment, my hon. Friend Huw Irranca-Davies, held discussions with the Environment Agency in November 2009 regarding the approval of the river basin management plans developed under the water framework directive, which were published on 22 December 2009. Those discussions covered the implications of housing growth and other pressures on meeting our water quality objectives, as well as the Environment Agency's plans to improve water quality during the first river basin planning cycle, which runs from 2009 to 2015.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Children, Young People and Families)

I thank the Minister for his reply. The Environment Agency, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight wildlife trust and a new residents group, "Save our Loddon Valley Environment" are gravely concerned that the River Loddon in Basingstoke is polluted with phosphate levels six times the legal standard. Will the Minister confirm that his Department will endorse new house building only if it does not involve perpetuating river pollution of this scale?

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Farming and the Environment)

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. It is quite straightforward for us that the Departments for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and for Communities and Local Government, the Environment Agency and Ofwat work together to ensure that environmental limits in regional spatial strategies and predicted housing growth data are aligned with water resource management plans and river basin management plans. The water framework directive has raised the bar in terms of what we need to achieve. DEFRA and the DCLG are working together with the Environment Agency to produce water and planning guidance. They are aware of the phosphate issue that the hon. Lady correctly raises, and I know that it is very much under review.

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