Part of Chichester District (and surrounding area) falls within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone.

This area is served by supplies from a groundwater abstraction at Pulborough. This has the potential to impact upon the Arun Valley, a Special Area Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site.

In September 2021, the council received advice from Natural England. The full interim advice note is available to view:

Frequently Asked Questions

Following the advice from Natural England the council has released the following guidance in regards to water abstraction in the north of the district.

Anyone considering submitting planning applications in the affected area is advised to read the guidance note in full. In short the advice is that at the present time, any planning application will need to demonstrate water neutrality, through a mixture of water efficiency and offsetting.

Why is Natural England concerned about water abstraction in the north of the district?

Natural England is concerned that existing water abstraction in the Sussex North Water Resource Zone, which supplies part of the north of the district, is having an impact on protected sites in the Arun Valley. The increasing demand for water is thought to be harming internationally protected species, with the potential threat of extinction for some of these species. In response to this, Natural England has advised that new developments within this zone, which affects Horsham, Crawley and part of our district (including some parts of the South Downs National Park) must not add to this impact.

What is water abstraction?

Abstraction is the permanent or temporary removal of water from a river, lake, reservoir, canal, estuary or groundwater. It changes the natural flow pattern and the amount of water in the environment. This can reduce the amount of habitat, prevent natural movement of species and concentrate pollution in the water environment. Abstracted water is used by everyone in their day to day lives for: drinking water; cleaning; irrigating crops; supporting industry; producing food; generating power; and, for use in households and many other goods and services.

What do you mean when you say that development must not add to this impact?

Natural England has raised concern that further water extraction in the affected area may be having an adverse impact on protected sites in the Arun Valley. It has advised that any development must be 'water neutral' if it is to proceed. This means that new development should not increase the rate of water abstraction from the current water supply site above existing levels.

Does this mean that we can't have any further development in the district?

No. This affects a small proportion of our district. Any new development that has a material impact on water demand from this site must demonstrate that it will be water neutral. This is most likely to affect new housing development and commercial activities that use high volumes of water. In some circumstances it may affect other types of development - for example, an extension to a home that could lead to a significant increase in the number of people occupying the finished development. While Natural England's position statement will have an effect on some development within out district, it has a much greater impact on Horsham and Crawley, who rely on this site for all of their water supplies.

What action are you taking in response to this situation?

We have been working with Natural England and Southern Water on longer term solutions for water neutrality for the affected area, within our emerging Local Plan. In the short term, any planning applications that materially increase water demand in those areas will need to be water neutral. We are also working on a Climate Change campaign, which will encourage residents and businesses to make small behavioural changes that will make a difference. This includes encouraging people to think about how they use water in their own home, and taking simple steps that collectively will make a big difference.

Why does this affect the north of the district and not the south?

This issue only affects the development which falls within the Sussex North Water Resource Zone. This covers some of the northern parishes of Chichester District and other neighbouring authorities, because it is in an area of serious water stress, where there is the threat of serious environmental harm.

Joint study

The council is working on a joint study with neighbouring authorities to quantify the scale of the issue and identify proposed mitigation schemes to address this issue. 

It is currently envisaged that the study will comprise of three parts:

Part A: Individual local authority areas assessment

The study calculates the individual impact of each local authority on water resources using estimates of future growth. The contribution that could be theoretically possible from different measures is also presented.

Part B: In-combination assessment

The individual authority assessments will then be combined into a Water Supply Zone assessment.

Part C: Determine mitigation

The third part of this study will build on the analysis in parts A and B and develop a draft plan to achieve water neutrality.

Further updates will be available on this webpage.