Reform proposed for abstraction licensing

In the biggest shake-up of water-abstraction licensing in 50 years, Government consultation paper Making the Most of Every Drop has proposed replacing the existing system of licences with abstraction permissions.

Seasonal conditions and separate licences for winter or summer abstraction would disappear. Instead, abstraction permissions would contain conditions linking access to water availability.

This would allow higher flows to be abstracted all year round, not just in winter, but would restrict use on all abstractors during very low river flows.

HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis-Machin, who has been working with the Government on the issue, said: "A good, reliable water supply is crucial to a grower's livelihood and many large nurseries are built around a consistent supply. A disruption in supply of as little as 24 hours could be catastrophic.

"The HTA favours the proposals, which guarantee consistent supply. We are also in favour of simplifying the trade system for abstraction licenses, but not through brokers as suggested in part of the consultation. We believe that all licenses should be held by the owner until sold or leased.

"Although nurseries and farms take less than one per cent of abstracted water, they account for almost 70 per cent of the licenses, so we are a very significant stakeholder in this process. We will continue to make the horticulture industry voice heard at the highest level, making our concerns understood."

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