My noble friend has engaged in something that clearly is part of the reason why we need to be thinking about a range of things. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in quizzing my perhaps imprecise language, pointed to the need for a balance of work that will need to be done. I live in Suffolk—Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and many parts of the east are dry and will have increases in population. Part of the responsibility, working collaboratively across the piece, is to ensure that in building these houses we ensure resilience of water supply. This is precisely why a lot of work is going into this. A lot of work needs to be done in increasing supply and reducing demand.
My noble friend raises an issue that is an enormous part of the challenge. We need to supply more houses in some of the driest parts of the country. That is why I deliberately stressed in setting out the challenges that we may need to use a range of options to deal with the elements in different parts of the country. I do not want to go into desalination, because I probably do not know enough about it. However, one can imagine that there may eventually be parts of the country where this is a viable or commercial option. For the future, with a growing population—we know that there could be another 4 million in England by the end of the decade—we will need to find more water and reduce demand. My noble friend raises an absolutely acute point, certainly in relation to Cambridgeshire.
I want to emphasise a point that came up in our debate last November. When decisions are made at the national level, the Planning Act 2008 and regulations made under it set out the consultation requirements for development consent order applications, which include extensive pre-application consultation and engagement with those affected by the proposals. Furthermore, members of the public can participate in the examination process by registering their interest, thus ensuring that local views can be heard. I think that we would all agree with that.
The national policy statement is an essential piece of work to ensure that our nation has sufficient water supply and that we use it wisely. It forms part of a wider framework, which will deliver on our goals in the 25-year environment plan. Our current estimate is that up to three nationally significant projects—all reservoirs—are likely to come forward in the next five to 10 years to provide sufficient infrastructure. Looking to 2050 and beyond, more are likely to be required.
I look forward to hearing from noble Lords on these essential matters. I can assure your Lordships that the Government and their agencies are working on this matter with rigour. A number of questions may be posed and I will endeavour to answer as many as I can. However, the Government and I are most interested in assessing your Lordships’ further commentary on this matter so that we can use parliamentary scrutiny to the best benefit. I beg to move.