Venue: Medway Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions
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RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 27 February were a correct record and that they be signed by the Chair.
1. Alan Turner (KCC) provided an overview of the key issues and discussion points considered by the sub-committee so far. These were broken down by the different groups and agencies which had engaged with the sub-committee in previous meeting. Some of the key points included the following:
· Water and wastewater companies had used planning conditions to push burden and costs on to developers.
· Water companies had a duty to develop their network to meet new demand and were best placed to judge the certainty of the development.
· Ofwat expected companies to engage with develops and local authorities at an early stage on development plans.
· Companies should manage expectations on infrastructure cost and timing.
· Concerned that planning permission rules put unfair burden on developers.
· Advance charges for infrastructure work to ensure connections were in place within one year was a challenging risk for developers to take.
· ‘Right to Connect’ to sewers was strongly defended by developers.
· Charging regime was unfair and unfairly applied.
· Water utilities were not responsive to developers’ needs.
· Network reinforcement and strategic infrastructure work was too slow.
· Poor development forecasting by the water companies.
· Lack of transparency around water company charges and decisions.
· Communication with water companies could be improved further (some progress already made)
· Highways process for utility corridors have increased costs for developers.
· ‘First comer’ for multi-developer sites faced disproportionate costs.
· Final invoices for charges could often be much higher than estimates.
Water Supply Companies:
· Not statutory consultees on Local Plans but had a duty to provide infrastructure services.
· Agree that the charging regime was too complex and caused misunderstandings with developers.
· Local plans did not provide enough assurance regarding infrastructure needs.
· Housing market fluctuations increased risk.
· Planned build out rates were unrealistic.
· Agree that early contact and discussion with developers was very helpful.
· Communication was often challenging.
· Progress had been made on improving communication and engagement through the use of case workers for each site, contact logging and planned meetings prior to and during development.
· Changing market conditions made keeping pace with development challenging.
· Large development programmes made engaging with correct developers more challenging.
· Recommended the use of intermediaries or broker agents between developers and utilities.
· Keen to find solutions for new developments that would also help solve existing sewer flooding problems.
· Looking at pilot arrangements for improved strategic planning.
· The planned new charging regime could overcome problems with Right to Connect and provide certainty for developer and utilities.
2. Mr Turner also advised the sub-committee regarding comments from Local Authorities and Highways which recognised that utility infrastructure provision was complex which made any disputes with any involved party more challenging and this was exacerbated by local planning authorities not always being made aware of discussions between developers and the water companies. In terms of Highways, Mr Turner commented that the streetworks restrictions and costs were unpopular with developers and water companies but were necessary. The works were supported by extensive engagement with the public, local business and other stakeholders.