The UK government has announced that it will implement Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 that will mandate sustainable drainage (SuDS) in new developments in England. The decision to implement the almost 13-year-old law follows a review by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Flooding due to climate change, urban development and the overloading of existing drainage systems presents an ever-increasing risk, however, the threat of flooding can be managed effectively by the use of SuDS.
What are SuDS?
SuDS are a nature based solution to drainage problems. They reduce the impact of rainfall, for example by using grassed and other permeable surfaces, creating rain gardens or building attenuation ponds in order to reduce the potential for surface water or river flooding. The excess rainfall is captured and then slowly filtered into the ground.
Currently, developments can contribute to surface and sewer flood risk by covering permeable surfaces like grassland and soil that would otherwise assist in absorbing heavy rainfall.
Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow has stated, “The benefits of sustainable drainage systems are many – from mitigating flood risk by catching and storing surplus water and reducing storm overflow discharges, to enhancing local nature in the heart of our developments and helping with harvesting valuable rainwater.”
However, these benefits can only be realised if SuDS are designed, constructed, adopted, and maintained to national standards for the lifetime of a development.
Some key features of the proposed changes include:
- SuDS will have to be incorporated into new developments in England.
- Applications for the approval of SuDS on new developments that meet the criteria will have to be made to a SuDS Approving Body, or “SAB”, which will sit within the Council.
- SAB approval will be separate from the Local Planning Authority approval.
- SAB approval could be subject to conditions and may require a non-performance bond.
- Construction works covering an area of under 100 sqm or single properties will be exempt. Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects will also be exempt.
- Applications for approval could be made to the SAB directly or through the Council combined with the planning application. A fee will be payable and there will be rights of appeal against refusal.
What does it mean for my development?
The changes may require the submission of more detailed design proposals earlier in the planning and approval process than developers are accustomed to. Advice earlier in the planning process will therefore be crucial, including when SuDS approval applications need to be made.
As well as planning conditions, developers also face the prospect of compliance with additional conditions attached to SAB approvals. Also, in order to bring a scheme forward, developers may need to find further room within their books to foot the non-performance bond.
There will, however, be transitional arrangements for those developments at an advanced stage of planning so further costs are not incurred.
DEFRA will consult on the statutory instruments in 2023 and expect the statutory provisions to be implemented in 2024.