Flexible friends

Developers can no longer ignore SUDS. Which is why manufacturers have such an important role to play in developing adoptable solutions, says Mike Shaw.

THERE IS now a general acceptance that our climate is changing – the only point of debate seems to be the degree of man’s influence. The UK Government has shifted emphasis, with adaptation to climate change an additional driver behind policy decisions that will, hopefully, mitigate the effects.

This need for adaptation led the Government to address the issue of Improving Surface Water Drainage. In April it announced its Draft Flood and Water Management Bill, with a raft of measures swiftly expected to form new legislation.

SUDS featured heavily, taking into account the quantity and quality of run-off, together with the amenity value of surface water in urban environments. Historically, surface water has been moved away from the area quickly, but this strategy has severe limitations when faced with changes in rainfall pattern and increasing housing density.

SUDS offer developers the ability to manage run-off flow rates more effectively; protect water quality and even recharge natural groundwater, where appropriate. But we must stop thinking of SUDS as merely a means to control flooding – it is now a wider issue encompassing water quality and the overloading of current sewerage systems.

Developers can now use a full range of SUDS to develop existing urban sites, where the sewerage system may be near to capacity and unable to cope with increased flow rates.

Statutory right

Whilst SUDS offer some carrot to developers, the Draft Flood and Water Management Bill delivers plenty of potential stick in the form of a change to Section 106 & 115 of the Water Industry Act 1991. This change removes the statutory right of developers to connect surface water drainage from buildings to public surface water and combined sewers.

The adoption process for SUDS will be tightened, with systems having to meet government set minimum National Standards, before they are adopted by the relevant local authority. These standards will cover every development from a single property on a brownfield site, to a greenfield site with planning permission for hundreds of homes; these standards will be the underlying approach to surface water drainage and will become central to a local authority’s planning decisions.

If a developer’s plans do not meet the required standard, there will be no right to connect to the public sewer, as there is now. To ensure minimum standards are achieved, developers may be required to deposit a financial bond with the SUDS approving body, before work begins and only have the money released on satisfactory completion. For developers, the option to ignore SUDS has now been removed and planning efficient systems to an accepted standard will be mandatory. It is expected many developers will seek specialist assistance in planning their SUDS and as manufacturers we have to take this into account when developing new products or increasing the design and planning support we offer customers.

Flexibility key

The increasing pressure for higher density housing developments in urban areas is leading to the increasing popularity of modular geocellular structures to manage intense water flows and provide a temporary store for run-off. Lakes, reservoirs and wetlands can provide a more artistic solution for water storage, but they are expensive, occupy a lot of space and can be a danger to children living on the development.

In direct response to the issues developers now face, we recently introduced AquaCell Plus as an addition to our Intesio Stormwater Management range. It can be mixed and matched with our existing Core and Lite ranges to offer unrivalled design flexibility. Because of its increased loading capacity, it can be buried much deeper, allowing the same volume of water to be stored with a smaller surface footprint – crucial when space on a development is limited.

Flexibility will be the key to meeting the new SUDS minimum standards; the more options a developer has, the better the chances of getting approval for the SUDS and therefore the development as a whole. Manufacturers are constantly developing systems and products to solve particular problems posed on different sites and developments.

It is this knowledge of the regulations and ability to design adoptable solutions that always makes it worth talking to manufacturers before finalising a SUDS plan.

Mike Shaw works for Wavin. W: www.wavin.com

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