We review the upcoming National Policy Statement (NPS) for Water Resource Infrastructure.

Population growth, the impacts of climate change and the need to maintain sufficient water in our watercourses mean that the pressure on existing water infrastructure is increasing, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.

From taking a shower to preparing our food, a regular and constant supply of water underpins almost every one of our day-to-day activities. As highlighted in our previous blog in May 2019 on the communications challenges facing the water industry, James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, warned that England could run out of water in 25 years.

The government took this into consideration and began consulting on a draft NPS for Water Resources Infrastructure late last year. The aim set out in the “clean and plentiful water – a reliable, robust service without compromising the environment.”

The current planning requirements for significant water infrastructure comprise a Water Resource Management Plan (WRMP), as per the Water Industry Act 1991, which is reviewed every five years to coincide with the AMPs (Asset Management Plans). This is to ensure that information, technology and customer requirements are met.

But an NPS is accompanied by more responsibility – including a duty to consult with local authorities, businesses, communities, and those with a legitimate interest.

So, what needs to be considered when planning for a consultation?

A core narrative is imperative. Every good narrative has a beginning, a middle and an end. What is it? What does it mean to those you are consulting? How will it affect stakeholders? Distil the benefits (and impacts) down from national significance, to how it will affect the one person in that one house in that one street.

There’s a difference between the requirements, and best practice. Successful consultation relies heavily on the willingness and openness to engage that your local stakeholders have. Open and honest relationships with local communities provide endless benefits.

When thinking about how best to reach your stakeholders, reverse the situation. How would you like to be communicated with? What would your expectations be?

This is where hyperlocal knowledge is key. Thorough research on the local communities you plan to consult with will give you valuable information on the most effective way to communicate with them. The aim is then for this support to turn into advocacy.

You can’t pick and choose who you consult with – concerned stakeholders that may challenge the scheme are just as important as your advocates. Although not a voting system, a successful consultation is about properly informing and educating stakeholders on the proposals.

For more information on our experience in managing stakeholder engagement for complex infrastructure and development projects, please contact info@copperconsultancy.com.