Tapping into private water supply grants

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Scottish Borders Council’s scrutiny committee has been assured that the area’s planning system is robust enough to protect private water supplies (PWSs) from new developments.

But after a hearing last week, the watchdog told the council’s executive it should ensure it has “sufficient resources available” to fulfil its statutory obligations to the 14,000 Borderers who depend on private supplies.

The committee agreed an awareness campaign should be launched to highlight the availability of grants from the council, worth up to £800, for the owners of PWSs to improve supplies and ensure they pose no risk to health.

The hearing wasrequested by Councillor Catriona Bhatia (Lib Dem, Tweeddale West) who feared PWSs, particularly those from groundwater sources, could be threatened by windfarm and major forestry developments or by landowners wishing to service extra houses from existing supplies.

Anthony Carson, SBC’s regulatory services manager, said his department reviewed every planning bid for developments which required to be serviced by private supplies.

In the absence of detailed information from the applicants as to how this should be achieved, the following standard condition was imposed: “No development shall commence until the applicant has provided evidence that the site will be serviced by a wholesome supply of drinking water of adequate volume…and should not have a detrimental effect on other PWSs in the area”.

Mr Carson admitted that with large planning applications, such as wind farms, there was a potential for installation works to impact on groundwater and local PWSs.

He said, in these cases, the council, in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) demanded a hydrological risk assessment and imposed appropriate conditions.

Private water supplies in Scotland are defined as “drinking water supplies not provided by Scottish Water as part of its core function”. They are the responsibility of their owners and users.

There are currently 1,421 registered PWSs in the Borders – the fifth highest of Scotland’s 32 council areas – serving 12.26% of the region’s population, compared to a Scottish average of 3.53%.

Of these, 143 Type A PWSs supply 50 or more people. There are 1,278 smaller private supplies (Type B), mainly serving single properties.

SBC already has a duty to assess all of the larger private supplies in the region to determine if they pose a potential risk to health.

The council has no statutory duty to check Type B supplies, but it “must provide advice and assistance” to owners to carry out such risk assessments.