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Ofwat criticised for scrapping environmental projects

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THE ENVIRONMENT Agency this week accused water regulator Ofwat of undermining efforts to meet Government environmental improvement targets by allowing water companies to scrap £440M of capital investment schemes.

In a letter written by Water Management director Dr Geoff Mance, the Agency accuses Byatt of removing 61 capital investment schemes from his draft calculations for water price increases between 2000 and 2005.

This would effectively allow water companies to scrap the projects so they can limit price increases. Manse claims that scrapping the schemes will mean basic environmental improvements will not take place. Projects involved include sewage treatment improvements for the Fylde coast and a scheme to eliminate low flow problems on the River Avon.

Speaking to NCE on Monday, Mance said he was puzzled as to why Byatt had removed schemes which had already been signed off by Ofwat reporters. He added: 'We think ministers have been very clear about the amount of work they want water companies to do within the next regulatory period. We will be implementing that programme and we don't want Ian Byatt to be under any illusions about that.'

An Ofwat spokeswoman said the 61 schemes represented 'only a small part' of the overall £7bn environmental investment programme allowed for in the draft price determination.

She added: 'The director is not satisfied that companies have proposed the most cost effective solutions for these schemes, and at the end of the day the consumer will have to pay.'

Final water price limits are due to be set on 25 November.

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