Weakened SuDS Plan Could Worsen Flooding, Groups Say

On Sept. 12, the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Department for Communities and Local Government released a consultation for delivering sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS). The goal of the consultation was to examine SuDS implementation options and long-term maintenance strategies.

The need for greater use of SuDS was recognized following extensive flooding in the U.K. during 2007. Some 55,000 properties were damaged, with as many as two-thirds resulting from drains and sewers unable to cope with the heavy rainfall, according to a press release by the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the U.K. Committee on Climate Change. The independent Pitt Review that followed made a number of recommendations and promoted the widespread use of SuDS.

The UK Parliament endorsed the Pitt Review’s approach to SuDS in passing the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act. However, implementation of the SuDS portion of the act has been repeatedly delayed due to concerns about the effects on homebuilders and the pace of new development. Further, despite widespread flooding in the U.K. at the end of 2013, spending on flood defenses has actually decreased, according to a Nov. 5 report from the U.K.’s National Audit Office. The government has now consulted on a different approach, one that relies on the planning system to promote use of SuDS.

The consultation period closed at the end of October. Many groups, including the Adaptation Sub-Committee, have said the proposed change weakens plans to use SuDS in new developments. Groups fear that SuDS standards will no longer be statutory and will rely on the discretion of developers and local planning authorities, which could result in a piecemeal approach where SuDS is enforced only through conditions on planning permissions. The proposed changes also include exemptions for minor developments.

According to the Blueprint for Water coalition, more than 100,000 houses per year have been built since the Flood and Water Management Act was passed, and more than 4 million properties are at risk of surface water flooding. “The status quo is no longer an option; SuDS need to be incorporated into all major and minor developments,” the group said in comments on the proposed changes. Blueprint for Water also says that expanding traditional stormwater infrastructure to cope with climate change could cost £1 billion per year, while £10.4 billion in savings could result from not having to make new sewage connections.

Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 would have required local authorities to establish SuDS Approving Bodies that would review these systems to ensure they follow the government’s national standards on design, construction, operation, and maintenance. The approving bodies also would adopt and maintain SuDS where appropriate. The changes, which would come into force in spring 2015, leave confusion about the role of approving bodies and other actions previously established under the 2010 act. Read more views on the SuDS consultation.

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Flooding is a serious problem in the UK with 1 in 6 properties at risk of flooding. A new website, www.floodready.co.uk, has been launched to raise awareness of flood risk in the North West. The website has been funded by the North West Regional Flooding and Coastal Committee and developed by Sefton Council and the Southport Eco Centre, with support from the Environment Agency.

The Landscape Institute is hosting a competition asking entrants to submit initiatives on how to prevent flooding. Entrants are asked to explain and demonstrate their ideas on film. Submissions are due January 5. Read more.

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