26. Given that Scotland's planning system is plan-led, 5 up-to-date and effective development plans are essential. Development plans should provide clarity and certainty about the way communities will change and evolve over the longer term. As discussed above, issues relating to water and drainage should not be viewed in isolation but considered in relation to the plan's objectives.
27. Scottish Water will advise planning authorities, to the best of its knowledge, on the current and programmed capability to accommodate development. SEPA will provide the planning authority with advice on the requirements of environmental legislation, the content of drainage policies and on strategic environmental issues, such as areas vulnerable to cumulative impact from waste water discharges.
28. Planning authorities, Scottish Water and SEPA should not wait until the formal consultation stages of the development plan preparation process to discuss water and drainage issues. Working together is important throughout the process to ensure that, as they are prepared, development plans reflect an up-to-date and accurate picture of water supply and drainage capacity and are informed by a shared understanding of how new development can be accommodated. An awareness of such things as available capacity, demographic changes, economic objectives, regulatory controls and a practical and efficient investment programme will assist in making informed choices. The plan should evolve with all parties satisfied that the development strategy is achievable within the desired time period through the removal of any constraints.
29. Planning authorities should work with Scottish Water and other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate sites for any new strategic Scottish Water assets are identified within development plans (See paragraphs 54-56 ' Developments by Scottish Water'). Local plans should also include policies setting out the considerations which will be taken into account by the planning authority in determining applications for development on sites not allocated in the development plan and development proposals which include private schemes.
ASSESSING THE IMPACT ON WATER AND WASTE WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
30. Assessing the likely impact of new development upon water and waste water infrastructure is not always straightforward. Less detailed information on demand is available at development planning stages than when submitting development designs for connection approval to Scottish Water's network. Developers need to present sufficiently detailed information to allow consultees to comment on the likely impacts.
31. Scottish Water is funded to build strategic asset models required to test options for delivering the objectives it has been set by Scottish Ministers. Identifying the most appropriate pattern of future development may involve more detailed asset modelling, building upon Scottish Water's existing models. There may be opportunities for a planning authority to work with neighbouring authorities and Scottish Water, combining their efforts and sharing the costs of modelling work.
32. Preparation of Scottish Water's Quality and Standards III (Q&S III) investment programme for the period from April 2006 to March 2014, has highlighted the scale of development anticipated by Councils to 2014. A programme of investment in strategic infrastructure has been identified. Scottish Water is required to publish annually a Strategic Asset Capacity and Development Plan providing a current assessment of strategic capacity levels and future development plans.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
33. Scottish Water and SEPA have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) 6 on additional connections to the waste water system. The principle of the agreement is that both parties will examine how existing assets can be maximised to allow as many connections as possible without causing a significant detrimental effect on the environment. This will inform Scottish Water's advice to planning authorities on the capacity available to support additional development.
34. In November 2005 Scottish Water and SEPA carried out a detailed study of the application of the MoU. The initial outputs were incorporated into the first Strategic Asset Capacity and Development Plan in April 2006. In summary, over 7,000 housing units were initially released from constraint and a further 2,000 units were released following a subsequent review.
35. The provision of new strategic infrastructure capacity should be programmed to coincide with the phasing and delivery of new development. Planning authorities and Scottish Water should work together to ensure that, as far as practicable, development plan priorities and the timing of investment are in accord. Through its annual review process Scottish Water may be able to accommodate changes in phasing to take account of any changes in the requirements of planning authorities or developers.
36. Consideration of these issues does not end once a plan is adopted: they will continue to be important in determining the way and the speed with which the plan is implemented. The White Paper, Modernising the Planning System (2005), set out the Executive's proposals for the preparation of an action programme alongside each development plan. It is intended that action programmes will set out the steps required to implement the plan's policies and proposals and be updated at least every two years. With regard to water and drainage infrastructure, the action programme should clearly state what is to be done, who is responsible and when it is to take place. Although not all the necessary infrastructure will have firm investment commitments attached to it, the regularly updated action programme will assist by setting out how development will be taken forward by stakeholders and how any outstanding issues are to be resolved. This will help to create a climate of certainty for users of the system.