Implications of the new Water Act provision

    A new provision of the Water Act 2003, due to come into force on 15 July, will pose a significant threat to aspects of rural business. The changes will allow water abstraction licences to be revoked or modified without compensation, where the abstraction is considered to cause ‘serious damage’.

    At a time when many areas of the country are experiencing drought, the possible withdrawal or change of water abstraction rights without compensation is a serious setback. I expect to see a flurry of notices being served by the Environment Agency to amend or revoke abstraction licenses; farmers should seek advice on challenging any decision which impacts on them.

    The impact is likely to be most severe in parts of the South and East of the country which rely on irrigated agriculture. Reduced access to water has the potential to restrict cropping choices and threaten both the capital value of farmland and the profitability of agriculture and the diversified rural business.

    Any potential grounds for compensation in the event of extraction rights being revoked should be explored. Consultation on the interpretation of the term ‘serious damage’ is ongoing; meanwhile, there is uncertainty over the extent to which licences will be amended without compensation. We hope that the Environment Agency would take into account the impact on rural businesses of any licence changes, and set out a clear appeals process before the latest section of the Act comes into force.

    If you would like further information on rural water management or assistance in challenging Environment Agency notices revoking or amending abstraction licences, I should be delighted to hear from you on 01865 269 162.

     
     

    Key contacts

    Sophie Barrett

    Sophie Barrett

    Director MRICS, FAAV
    Estate Management

    Savills Oxford

    +44 (0) 1865 269 162

    +44 (0) 1865 269 162

     

    Helen Stevens

    Helen Stevens

    Associate Director
    Press Office

    Savills Bristol

    +44 (0) 1179 100 388

    +44 (0) 1179 100 388