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Implementation of the Flood and Water Management Act (2010) moved a step closer last week with the closing of the consultation period on the National Standards for SUDS.

The Act will make the incorporation of SUDS compulsory for new development, with approval for surface water drainage design from a SUDS Approval Body (SAB) required before construction work can commence.  This approval can be achieved by submitting a joint application for both planning consent and SAB approval concurrently (the SAB becomes a statutory consultee to the planning process), or alternatively the applicant may prefer to submit a freestanding application direct to the SAB.

In order to receive approval from the SAB, the drainage scheme would need to be designed to meet the requirements as outlined in the National Standards for SUDS. These standards require that the mandatory drainage requirement of the Code for Sustainable Homes (Sur1) is met. The additional credit available within the Code for the first 5mm of any rainfall event to not leave the site also becomes mandatory. Once in place, the Act requires that all SUDS are adopted by the SAB.

While the affordability statement in the National Standards does appear to offer the possibility of following a more conventional drainage design in certain circumstances, it is yet to be seen how affordability will be defined and how policy makers and decision takers will respond to this.

Our key points for the consultation were: –

  • How will affordability be defined? This could take many factors into account, including loss of significant developable area;
  • SABs should be operating for a reasonable time in an advisory role before they start receiving submissions;
  • SABs must be composed of suitably trained professionals with an appropriate level of technical competence;
  • Clarification is needed over the adoption process, and how this will overlap with the responsibilities of the Highways Department.

Provisions for the implementation for the Act have been slow in coming forward, but as more secondary legislation is prepared and as consultation on the National Standards for SUDS closes, it is important for developers to ready themselves for what is to be a significant shift in the way England and Wales deal with the issue of development surface water run-off.

Posted on March 20th, 2012