SuDS legislation to come into force from April

Long-awaited legislation on sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) will finally come in from April 2015 - five years after the law was changed to alleviate flood risk.

A streetscene SuDS
A streetscene SuDS
But the rules have been watered down from those originally proposed in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, leading to concerns that what is brought in could be a toothless system.

The plan adopted is one which 62 per cent of respondents objected to, in a six week consultation held in September and October.

Local authorities had been pushing ahead with the creation of SuDS Approval Bodies (SABs) which would be responsible for the adoption and maintenance of SuDS.

However there had been disagreement on who should pay for maintenance of the systems and in September the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) changed direction and instead proposed in a joint consultation that SuDS approval should be brought within the mainstream planning system.

Now communities secretary Eric Pickles has announced that from April 6 2015 all residential developments of 10 or more homes and major commercial schemes should include SuDS "unless demonstrated to be inappropriate".  It is unclear from the document published by his department the DCLG what would be considered "inappropriate".

He said: "Under these arrangements, in considering planning applications, local planning authorities should consult the relevant lead local flood authority on the management of surface water, satisfy themselves that the proposed minimum standards of operation are appropriate and ensure through the use of planning conditions or planning obligations that there are clear arrangements in place for ongoing maintenance over the lifetime of the development.

"The sustainable drainage system should be designed to ensure that the maintenance and operation requirements are economically proportionate."

Funding for lead local flood authorities will be cut by a third from next year.

Immediate past president of the Landscape Institute, who used her tenure to raise the profile of SuDS, Sue Illman, said it was hard to see how they would cope with the extra work.

"The Government appears to have ignored 62 per cent of the people who responded. All of the institutions who responded said it was not a good idea. There are really important questions that haven’t been answered. Clearly they are going ahead because that’s what they had decided to do.

"The most important thing is we know what is going to happen but until we know what the detail is it’s hard to judge the effect it will have."

But she added: "It’s hard to see how they are going to make it the all-encompassing system that is needed."

In its response to the consultation, the DCLG and Defra revealed the results - 71 per cent said they did not think the proposed revision to planning policy, as set out in the consultation, would deliver sustainable drainage which would be maintained.

Illman said she was concerned the revised policy had removed the "back stop" which meant that meant that if landowners did not want to manage SuDS themselves they could require the local authority to adopt them.

Local authorities in England also learned yesterday how much would be cut from their Governement grants. The DCLG said this would be 1.8 per cent on averagle once other income was taken into account but The Local Government Asssocation said the figure would be 8.8 per cent on average in reality.

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