NO new reservoir is on the cards for North Devon, as top up plans for Roadford will be adequate, South West Water has assured district councillors.

The water company says it wants to work closely with North Devon Council to ensure sewerage infrastructure is in place for new housing sites.

The Torridge and North Devon Local Plan, which is a blueprint for development, will be reviewed later this year to make sure it is fit-for-purpose for the next 20 years.

The council’s policy development committee was told 200 sites in North Devon and a similar amount in Torridge are being investigated.

South West Water’s head of developer services and technical performance Ian Lake said the company is obliged to make provision for growth.

It is holding workshops with the council to understand its plans and where additional infrastructure may be needed.

The two organisations say they are committed to work hand-in-hand so new housing is built in the right place, after concerns were raised by councillors over a “limited” response from the water company when it came to planning applications.

Councillors are concerned by sewage spills from overflows causing dirty water to enter local rivers and seas. They say additional housing and pressure on the sewage system is making matters worse.

South West Water, which is asked to comment on around 30,000 planning applications each year, has commited to reducing reduce spills at every storm overflow to fewer than 10 per year by 2040, a decade ahead of the government’s new 2050 target.

Mr Lake said the water company realised it had “significant challenges” and had ideas to stop contaminated water going into the watercourses.

When questioned by Cllr Matthew Bushell (Ind, South Molton) over whether there is enough drinking water to supply North Devon’s residents, Mr Lake said the water company’s largest reservoir Roadford, which supplied 850,000 people from large parts of Devon and Cornwall, is currently full and is adequate for the future.

“We don’t have a plan for another reservoir in North Devon because we don’t need it,” he said. “We had a problem in Roadford, but we have got a plan to make sure it is topped up. We have also done other things to allow us move water around from various assets to get water around our network.”

Part of the plan is to take water from the River Tamar at Lifton in the winter when river levels are high. An abstraction and pumping facility were given the go ahead by West Devon Council last week.

He said the drought during 2022 was as a result of two long dry summers, a dry winter and extra demand.

Customers were being educated on how to manage water more effectively and install water-saving devices, but he said the company would bring more water resources online if they had to.

“There are two options. You either limit what you use or you try and find water from somewhere and store it.  The second is very expensive but we will not shy away from that if we need to.”

Council officers said they are engaging much more with South West Water than a few years ago.

Cllr Malcolm Prowse (Ind, Bratton Fleming), who heads a panel looking at land for development, said there was a completely different feel now “Capacity and infrastructure and these sort of issues will be right up front, so we can give communities that reassurance when we are looking at new development sites in their areas.”

By Alison Stephenson