This is entry number 233, published on 13 April 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today’s entry reports on a House of Lords debate on the draft Waste Water National Policy Statement.

In the last event in a recent run of activity on nationally signficant waste water projects, the House of Lords had its chance to consider the draft Waste Water National Policy Statement (NPS) last week. It was rather less critical of it than the Commons, whose committee report had been published earlier that day and was reported in this blog entry. The debate only lasted for 39 minutes, though. The report of the debate can be found here, starting on page 59, but as always here is a summary.

The draft NPS can be found here - it was published on 16 November 2010.

Lord Henley, for the government, introduced the debate. He said that the report of the Commons committee that had been published that day 'showed some degree of support for the national policy framework', conveniently omitting to say that it showed a large degree of criticism of the draft NPS.

Lord Teverson asked how many projects were expected to come forward and was told that the two in the NPS (the Thames Tunnel and an Edmonton sewage works) were the only two expected in the next five years, as blog readers will know already.

Lord Dixon-Smith said that the threshold for a project to be nationally significant should be lower. Lord Henley said that it was likely to stay at the level of treating the equivalent of 500,000 people.

Baroness Quin said that she couldn't find the associated appraisal of sustainability on the Defra website. I can help her on that one - it is here - although I agree that documents such as this one seem to get archived with increasing zeal. She also made the unintended joke of the day, that in setting out waste water policy generically and applying to two particular projects, the NPS ran the risk of falling between two stools.

In reply, Lord Henley apologised that the NPS had not been given more publicity, but said that 'quite a number' of people had attended the public sessions on it. I didn't see any of them when I went along, but perhaps they came later. He also revealed that a grand total of 43 responses had been made to the consultation, in contrast to 3,120 on the energy NPSs. Sewage treatment works are rather better at being inconspicuous than nuclear power stations, it seems.

The next steps are that Parliament has a deadline of 17 May where if any report is made, the government has to consider it. The Commons has already published its committee report, and the Lords has now had a committee debate. What might still happen by the deadline is a debate on the floor of either House. The Commons report called for a debate, and the Lords had one on the energy NPSs, although there is less interest in waste water. We shall see if waste water manages to find any Parliamentary time before 17 May.

Defra will then publish its response to the Parliamentary scrutiny and the public consultation, once it has ploughed its way through the 43 responses. A revised NPS is likely to appear, which may or may not undergo further consultation. The Localism Bill, not likely to be enacted until next April, makes it clear that further consultations on NPSs are not always necessary, but for now this is not so clear.

In the 'race' to be the first finalised NPS (29 months since the Planning Act came into force and counting), despite Commons criticism, the Waste Water NPS is still probably the front runner.