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Working closely with local communities in Cumbria

To meet statutory obligations under the EU Habitats Directive to protect England's largest population of freshwater mussels, our licence to abstract water from Ennerdale Water will end in 2022. To address the future supply/demand deficit that will result from this, we are creating a major pipeline and water treatment works using Thirlmere reservoir to supply drinking water to West Cumbria.

Community involvement and stakeholder engagement have been central to the development of our water supply strategy for West Cumbria. This is the single biggest project to go through the Lake District National Park in recent times. How we engaged within the constraints of the planning process was key to a successful planning outcome.

Innovative approach

We needed to be innovative in our approach and engage the communities of Cumbria. Core to our approach was a Planning Performance Agreement funded by us and created in conjunction with Natural England, the Environment Agency, the three Local Planning Authorities, and Cumbria County Council.

We were clear from the outset that local communities and stakeholders would be encouraged to have their say on any plans, creating a wide range of opportunities for local people and groups to give their views and raise any concerns to help us develop our proposals.

Collaborating with stakeholders, we developed a Construction Code of Practice, giving confidence that the environment would be protected during construction, and in particular to support the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).

Best practice

We submitted a planning application in January 2016 and in November 2016, four months ahead of schedule, all three local planning authorities voted unanimously to grant full planning permission.

We have shared our experience with our regulators and other interested stakeholders, carrying out a series of presentations and tours of the pipeline construction. This project has been recognised externally as best practice in relation to our approach to planning applications in sensitive areas such as national parks.

The project is now underway and is in its second year of construction. We have held further public exhibitions and sessions with stakeholders across Cumbria to keep them informed on the project.

In January 2018, we launched two legacy funds, totalling over £1 million, with Cumbria Woodlands and Cumbria Community Foundation so that local communities affected by the pipeline can apply for help with projects that deliver social or environmental benefits.