The Government has published its response to the Sustainable Drainage Systems Consultation. This consultation looked at delivering sustainable drainage systems through changes to the current planning system.

The consultation and change of approach was in response to concerns raised by house builder representatives and local government that the method of implementation set out in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA 2010) could cause delays to development.

FIVE KEY POINTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE:

  • Planning policy will be amended - planning policy will be amended to make sustainable drainage systems a material consideration in planning for “major development”. These are broadly defined as 10 housing units or more or equivalent-sized commercial developments.
  • Planning conditions to be used to secure long term maintenance - sustainable drainage systems will be put in place and their long-term maintenance will be achieved through the use of planning conditions. Local planning authorities (LPAs) already have the powers to enforce such conditions.
  • Clear planning guidance to be issued - The Government acknowledges the need for sufficient guidance to be available to developers/local authorities and proposes to issue clear planning guidance. This will utilise much of the work that has gone into drafting the national SuDS Guidance.
  • Small developments will be exempted from the new regime -  Only the major developments (see above) will be covered. Smaller developments will remain subject to current arrangements for drainage and flooding. This is despite the fact that 62% of respondents were not in favour of such an exemption and a large number of respondents underlined that multiple small-scale developments could have a cumulative, detrimental impact on flood risk.

The Government continues to exempt minor developments from the proposed revisions to planning policy in order to “avoid excessive burdens on local planning authority resources” and to keep “the regulatory burdens on smaller businesses at an appropriate level”.

  • No changes to building regulations at this stage - The Government noted the concerns raised about the LPAs’ technical capability to inspect the construction of sustainable drainage systems. It proposes to monitor the issue and keep the option of amending building regulations under review.

Commenting on the Government’s response, Richard Smith, head of Penningtons Manches’ environmental group, said: ”Given the huge investment in flood protection projects planned over the next few years, it makes sense to make sustainable drainage systems a higher priority when building larger housing developments.

“However, it is also sensible to exempt minor developments from the new regime provided that the proposed planning guidance is sufficiently clear and rigorous to ensure that small-scale schemes are not located in areas where they could exacerbate the flood risk.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Government will make a written ministerial statement to Parliament setting out next steps and the date that changes to planning policy would come into effect. This is believed to be 6 April 2015.