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Sustainable Drainage Systems: new planning guidance for new homes

29 April 2015

New planning guidance came into force from 6 April 2015 for the implementation of sustainable drainage systems at major new housing developments.

Government policy seeks to encourage the use of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) as part of a new development to lessen the likelihood and impact of surface water flooding. However estimates suggest that only 40% of new developments currently utilise SuDS.

Original proposals to increase the use of SuDS

The government’s proposals for increasing the use of SuDS have proven to be controversial. Originally, it was proposed (through the Flood and Water Management Act 2010) that SuDS should be approved before development commences by a body set up by local authorities to ensure that SuDS are designed according to national standards.

There was concern amongst developers that the system could cause delays to developments as a result of a second approval being required (in addition to planning permission). There was also concern that the approval bodies might not be fully prepared to cope with their new duties in a timely manner. Further, the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 requires Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to adopt and maintain approved SuDS which are functioning properly and serve more than one property.

New guidance

Following recent consultation, planning guidance was issued which came into force on 6 April 2015 and concerns all “major” housing developments (developments of 10 dwellings or more). The points of note are as follows.

  • LPAs will be required to consider SuDS in connection with planning applications, rather than a separate local government body.
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) will become statutory consultees on surface water management regarding planning applications. LPAs must satisfy themselves that operational standards and maintenance are provided for the lifespan of the development using for example planning conditions or Section 106 agreements. The operation and on-going maintenance of SuDS must also be economical.
  • A clear set of non-statutory technical standards for SuDS has been produced by the Government working closely with the Environment Agency, local authorities and developers to reduce the risk of surface water flooding, improve water quality and the environment and to ensure that SuDS are robust, safe and affordable. They should be read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Practice Guidance.

It is good news that guidance has been provided on the approval and implementation of SuDS. As weather patterns become more erratic it is important that surface water flooding is properly dealt with in new housing developments. Developers must seriously consider SuDS and their on-going maintenance throughout the planning process.

This article was written by James Bateman, for more information please contact James on +44 (0)20 7427 6761 or james.bateman@crsblaw.com.