Government proposes planning changes to deliver urban drainage push

The approval and long-term maintenance of sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) should be handled via the planning system rather than through a separate mechanism, a consultation document has proposed.

SuDS: fresh consultation published
SuDS: fresh consultation published

SuDS are designed to mimic nature by managing excess rainwater where it falls rather than the traditional approach of channelling it through drains. Examples include ponds, reed beds, drainage channels and porous driveways.

Following the Pitt Review into the 2007 floods, the government said that SuDS would become compulsory on all new developments from April 2014, as mandated by the Flood and Water Management Act.

Under the plan, the adoption and maintenance of SuDS would have transferred to SuDS Approval Bodies (SABs) that would be established by local authorities.

However, implementation of the plan was delayed until all councils had set up SABs.

Now, a government consultation which sets out an alternative approach to the one envisaged in Flood and Water Management Act 2010, has said that the planning system will be used as the main delivery vehicle for the approval and maintenance of SuDS.

The document says that local government and housebuilder representatives had "identified a number of issues" with the original proposals.

"These included the impact on development of approving sustainable drainage systems under a separate consenting regime from that to approve planning applications, and the fact that these regimes were to have been run by two different parts of local government, rather than just the one", it says.

The consultation says that there were also concerns about the further risk of delay if local authorities "were not fully prepared to take on their new duties, including a new duty to maintain sustainable drainage systems that had been approved".

The document says the government now wishes to consult on delivering sustainable drainage systems through changes to the current planning regime.

"The system proposed by government builds on the existing planning system, which developers and local authorities are already using. Policy changes to the planning system can also be introduced relatively quickly ensuring that sustainable drainage systems flood risk benefits can be brought forward as soon as possible", it says.

The consultation document contains proposals to strengthen planning policy to "make clear that the expectation is that sustainable drainage systems will be provided" in new developments of ten homes or more.

"This would give scope for decision-makers to give increased weight to the provision and maintenance of sustainable drainage systems for the management of run-off, alongside other material considerations during the determination of a planning application.

"Planning applications that fail to meet a policy requirement to normally deliver SuDS first over conventional drainage could be rejected".

The document also proposes that planning conditions should require that provision is put in place "so that the sustainable drainage systems to be constructed must be maintained to a minimum level of effectiveness".

It says that a maintenance option "must clearly identify who will be responsible for maintaining the sustainable drainage systems and funding for maintenance should be fair for householders and premises occupiers; and, set out a minimum standard to which the sustainable drainage systems must be maintained".

The document says that a "suite of viable maintenance options will need to be available to developers to ensure that at least one option is open to them in every case to enable them to satisfy a planning condition".

The government proposes to "set out in the planning policy", options for delivery of long term maintenance of sustainable drainage systems", the document says.

The government hopes to have the changes in place by spring 2015.

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