House building is a significant part of the UK economy. And making sure developers can deliver the housing society needs is a really important issue. Everyone, including water and wastewater suppliers, needs to play their part to remove unnecessary barriers that could hold things up.
At Ofwat we’ve been doing a lot of work to support and challenge the water sector in England and Wales to:
- improve levels of service for developers
- ensure effective competition in the market for new connections
- plan for and enable housing growth
- develop new charging rules for new connections.
But is there more water and wastewater suppliers could do to support house building?
We think they can. Like other customers of water and wastewater services, developers need to have trust and confidence that they will receive the services they want, when they need them and for the right price. And one area that can hold things up and affect the progress of a development are ‘adoption agreements’ for new water and wastewater connections.
So what are they?
Developers can choose who provides their new water and wastewater connections. But if they use somebody other than the local water or sewerage supplier they either must or can choose to enter into a contract so that the supplier will be responsible for that new infrastructure in the future.
These adoptions agreements let developers benefit from having a choice in who provides the new infrastructure they need. They also help protect the suppliers’ other customers in terms of safety, security and the future costs of the new infrastructure. But independent contractors and developers sometimes complain those agreements are too onerous and take too long to agree. On the other hand, water and wastewater suppliers say they need to make sure that the agreements protect their other customers.
So what can be done?
Well, the Water Act 2014 has created a new role for Ofwat to issue codes that set out rules that water and wastewater suppliers would need to stick to in reaching adoption agreements. And we want to develop codes that enable customers and society to have trust and confidence in how water and sewerage suppliers deal with adoption agreements. But we need your help in working out what the codes should (and shouldn’t) include, and how they can help:
- make reaching adoption agreements easier and quicker to support the delivery of new housing
- enable effective competition in the new connections market to give developers choice
- make sure customers continue to receive safe and reliable water and wastewater services
- protect and provide certainty to those signing up to agreements
So please read our discussion paper and let us know your views by 31 October 2016.
Associate Director, Casework