Government uncertainty delays sustainable drainage regulation

Regulation making Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) compulsory for new developments has been delayed by government uncertainty over proposed national standards.

Local Authority SuDS Approving Bodies (SABS) were due to begin work assessing SuDS schemes on new developments from October 2012. However, Defra deferred the date for SABs to begin the assessments causing concerns that progress has been “undermined”.

Alex Stephenson director of the Hydro International’s UK Stormwater Division and chair of the British Water SuDS Focus Group said: “There are strong indications that both local government and industry believe the standards, as they currently stand, are not yet fit for purpose and responses to the consultation cried out with one voice for more clarity”.

Floods in 2007 prompted a review of SuDs, which can be used to reduce the impact of development on flooding and the environment. The review called on the Government to make a decision on where responsibility for SuDs should rest.

Mr Stephenson said: “We have been experiencing unprecedented flooding reminiscent of summer 2007 which prompted far-reaching proposals for reform. Yet, as the rains came down once again [this year], there were still no workable plans for SuDS in place”.

“More flooding this summer only goes to emphasise the urgency of the situation and the importance of getting things right from the outset. Even following implementation we risk patchy and inconsistent implementation of SuDS across England and Wales”.

He added: “The Government has promised detailed guidelines to accompany the National Standards. There’s little doubt that the Standards in their current form are insufficient without them. Many agree the guidelines would need to have been written, scrutinised and agreed by industry before the new SuDS approval system begins. To be effective, the guidance also needs to be binding, not just advisory.”

In response, a Defra spokesperson told edie: “We are developing our proposals on sustainable drainage systems, including the national standards, in light of responses to the recent consultation. It is important that we listen to all views expressed which takes time, however, we intend to implement the policy as soon as possible.”

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee also made it clear that Defra should do more to encourage retrofitting of SuDS.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie