SuDS plans slammed by floods adviser

29th October 2014

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  • Adaptation ,
  • Construction ,
  • Property ,
  • Public sector


Angela Goodhand

New plans for sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) are significantly weaker than those the government has scrapped, the adaptation sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change has warned.

In September, the government published a consultation promoting SuDS, such as ponds and permeable surfaces, in new development by creating an “expectation” in the planning system that they will be used.

This was a change in the original system advocated by the 2008 Pitt review on flooding and the Flood and Water Aanagement Act 2010, which would have seen SuDS approval bodies specially set up in unitary or county councils to approve and oversee systems design, construction, operation and maintenance.

Lord Krebs, chair of the CCC sub-committee, has written to environment secretary Liz Truss and communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles to express concerns over the revised plans.

The committee is particularly worried that the new approach excludes developments of nine homes or fewer. There were around 100,000 developments of this size approved in 2013/14, Krebs pointed out. These developments are often urban infill, and can exacerbate surface water flooding by putting extra pressure on drainage systems in already built-up areas, and as such, they should be a primary focus for encouraging SuDS, he wrote.

The new proposals also retain the automatic right for new developments to be connected to sewer systems. The Pitt review had recommended that this be removed, so that SuDS was the default option for developers, Krebs said.

In addition, Kreb said the government’s plans do nothing to address the two main barriers identified by Pitt to the uptake of SuDS; the automatic right to connect and uncertainty over adoption and maintenance.

Planning authorities have been encouraged to give priority to SuDS in new development since 2008, and this was reiterated in the national planning policy framework in 2012. It is therefore hard to see how the new proposals would improve on the current approach, which has failed to bring about widespread uptake of SuDS, Krebs wrote.

“SuDS are a low regret adaptation measure with construction and maintenance costs similar to conventional drainage, while delivering a range of wider benefits, including flood risk management,” Krebs wrote.

The Environmental Industries Commission has also criticised the proposals. In its response to the consultation, the commission said that revised plans could lead to inconsistent and lower standards being applied as local authorities will need guidance on SuDS.

Measures to increase the uptake of SuDS were included in the 2010 Act. Secondary legislation was expected in 2012, but arguments over approval of SuDS, and who would pay for maintenance of schemes, has led to repeated delays.

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