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Who needs the River Test?

The River Test The River Test

29 March 2018

Update on the appeal by Southern Water against the EA changes to the abstraction licences from the River Test at Testwood. 

Who needs the River Test?

It would seem that we all do. As you will know, Hampshire is part of the South East England area of water stress. We are in danger of using more than the rainfall delivers. We take it out of the aquifers using boreholes, from springs in the chalk and crucially from our rivers directly. Water companies are legally obliged to deliver water to any development which has planning permission and, as we are all well aware, there are countless dozens of these. One of Southern Water’s (SW) existing but smallish, sources for supply is the River Test at Testwood which is added to the water taken from the Itchen and other aquifer sources. But there are new protections on the Itchen; the level below which it can't be touched (the hands-off flow -HOF) has been raised. SW now needs to replace that water and one way is to take more from its existing abstraction licences on the Test which has a lower degree of protection. The Environment Agency (EA) has the legal duty to protect the river, so it has changed the abstraction licences and the HOF to ensure that water levels do not run so low that they compromise the river’s ecology.

This change is being challenged by SW in the courts and a Public Inquiry is being held. It is a much more complex scenario than this simplified account can show and the EA, Natural England (NE) and SW have all produced long statements of case as have the fishing fraternities led by Fish Legal (FL) and the landowners.

CPRE Hampshire has written a letter to the Inspector in support of the action of the Environment Agency because we believe that the River Test is too important a river to risk. There will inevitably be long discussion about the impacts or otherwise of reduced flows on the ecology but we feel that a precautionary approach is essential to protect this iconic chalk stream in its crucial lower reaches where migrating salmon and trout first find their way into their home stream. We therefore support the EA’s move to protect it. We also support the fisheries people in believing that SW’s Water Resource Management Plan should have factored in other sources rather than planning to deprive a drought-afflicted river of even more water.

We have reached a point where the disconnect between planning and water, (building too many houses for the natural capital to support) has become critical. This view was also recently reflected in our contribution to the government’s Freshwater National Policy Statement consultation document last December.

The Inquiry (in Public) started at the Holiday Inn, Grove Road, Basingstoke on the 13th March at 10 am and is scheduled to run for three weeks. CPRE Hampshire is attending and making representations. More information is at www.hwa.uk.com Select “Itchen Candover and Testwood Water Abstraction Inquiry”. If you want to read the statements of case from the main players, go to Inquiry news and select the inquiry docs list and click through.

Moya Grove 2nd March 2018

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