Legislation for sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to be mandated through planning in England has come into force but the results have been branded "pathetic".
The obligations come eight years after serious flooding, seven years after the Pitt Review, five after the Flood & Water Management Act and four after the Government released national standards for creating SuDS. But they are far from what was originally expected.
From 6 April, the Government has required planning authorities to ensure SuDS for the management of water run-off are put in place in developments of 10 dwellings or more or equivalent non-residential or mixed development "unless demonstrated to be inappropriate".
In addition, "economically proportionate" maintenance and operation should be part of any SuDS design.
Long-time SuDS advocate and former Landscape Institute president Sue Illman said: "It's pathetic. We had 30 pages of standards that were going to be statutory. Now we're down to two pages of large-print A4. That is just 14 standards and most of them start with 'where reasonably practicable'. It's full of absolute get-out clauses."
One of the most damaging parts of the final policy is it does not remove the right for new development to connect to the sewer system, said Illman. Limiting the requirement to "give priority to the use of SuDS" to areas of flood risk only "utterly misses the point about SuDS reducing flood risk everywhere".
Illman was a member of the commission of inquiry of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment. In its report Living with Water, the commission called flood resilience and water management "a Cinderella issue" at the top level of politics and called for it to have the same political standing as HS2.
Chairman of the all-party group Oliver Colvile said: "Increased urbanisation and climate change are likely to increase the risk of flooding and our entire national infrastructure including water supply and our drainage network is under threat, which poses both societal and economic disruption.
"Failure to take the issue of comprehensive water management much more seriously will have severe economic impacts."
Commission member and chair of the Construction Industry Council Tony Burton added: "Too many organisations have responsibility for aspects of water and drainage and they are under no obligation to co-operate even where it is essential to deliver resilience."
Despite disappointment, recent research has revealed that the market for SuDS products is expected to rise by 20 per cent by 2017 as a result of the legislation.
BDS Marketing Research interviewed architects, civil engineers, landscape designers and housebuilders. It found more than 70 per cent expect to see "a noticeable increase".
"The new regulations will have a significant impact on manufacturers in the medium term," said owner Julian Clapp.