A new report, that attempts to provide a roadmap for flood prevention in the UK, has been described as a ‘direct challenge’ to the Government’s existing policy on sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS).
The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s (EFRA) report, titled Future Flood Prevention, highlights the role that SuDS systems can perform as part of catchment management in preventing flooding, but criticises current implementation and the lack of understanding amongst key stakeholders of the role that the systems can play.
Specifically, the report calls for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to respond to the report by February 2017 and set out how SuDS are to be implemented in the UK. Currently, measures in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 – specifically Schedule 3 that calls for SuDS Approval Bodies that will approve all new drainage systems for new and redeveloped sites – remain non-implemented.
According to the EFRA report, a number of witnesses expressed strong concerns about problems with planning requirements for the drainage systems in new developments, which ‘lack teeth’. Indeed, the committee was told that fewer than 15 per cent of planning applications in flood risk areas included SUDs measures.
Dr David Smoker of ACO Water Management commented: “In effect the EFRA committee is directly challenging the Government to clarify the process of SuDS implementation, specifically what it intends to do if Schedule 3 remains non-implemented. Currently, we have a situation where there is no approval body or oversight of SuDS schemes, which inevitably leads to some poor designs, poor implementation and an increased risk of flooding. We need much greater clarity about the Government’s intentions in regard to Schedule 3 or a clear idea of what alternative measures it intends to adopt.”
Dr Smoker also welcomed the committee’s focus on calling for water and sewage companies to become statutory consultees on planning applications, encouraging them to take a wider role in local drainage, potentially leading to their adoption of SuDS schemes.
“The current situation is that there is little or no incentive for these companies to adopt and, crucially, maintain SuDS. If we can incentivise water companies to take a wider role in local drainage, including the management of the systems we will have a much more joined-up solution.”
He concluded: “The EFRA report is a very important step, because it is a strong recommendation coming from an important Government committee and not from an outside body. Opinion is clearly building that SuDS can play an integral role in flood risk mitigation and making them mandatory is the way forward.”