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Consultants File 2010: SUDS issues

Surface water drainage is facing radical changes under the forthcoming Floods and Water Management Bill. ACO Technologies managing director Simon Harvey discusses the political rain dance

As the Floods and Water Management Bill makes its way through the House of Lords it is an opportune time to consider the implications of the planned legislation in the context of surface water management.

Surface water management has been one of the most prominent subjects of debate since the heavy rainfall of 2007 when flooding was made worse by inadequate and damaged drainage systems.

Following on from this in June 2008, the Pitt Report called for a radical change in the approach to management of flood risk.

The report concluded that existing legislation did not cover flooding from groundwater or from run-off from impermeable surfaces within the urban environment.

For its part the government promised to act on all of Pitt’s findings and its response was the draft Floods and Water Management Bill in April last year.

“Local authorities will create surface water management plans to take into account local features and historical flooding data”

One of the key objectives of the Bill is to try and provide improved clarity in flood risk management, particularly in relation to surface water flooding. It is proposed that overall responsibility for management of flood risks sits with the Environment Agency

Responsibilities will include things like national policy statements and flood maps.

However, it is local authorities that will be responsible for managing local flood risk. Their task will be to create surface water management plans (SWMPs) that will take into account local features and historical flooding data.

The new Bill makes it clear that local authorities are responsible for the SWMP but states other agencies such as water companies and highways authorities are to cooperate.

However, in the light of a forthcoming General Election current political thinking seems to suggest this might be different according to which party is voted into power.

“SUDs have been around and under development for many years and good progress has been made in building an approach to using such systems despite the lack of any legal backing.”

What is certain is that any developer submitting a planning application will need to submit a drainage plan.
This could be a statement saying there are no flooding issues, to a large scale investigation. Of course, this will depend on the scale of the development and the flood risks in the area.

The Bill also proposes the adoption of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs) in all new developments in order to alleviate the overloading of the existing infrastructure.

SUDs have been around and under development for many years and good progress has been made in building an approach to using such systems despite the lack of any legal backing.

As a surface water drainage products specialist, ACO’s own product ranges have, for many years, provided vital elements for sustainable drainage schemes.

“With a focus on surface management, it is vitally important to ensure there is adequate technical knowledge and engineering expertise available.”

During the last decade the product range has been specifically developed to provide solutions that work sustainably from kerbside drainage systems that prevent road run-off entering water bodies, to attenuation devices that prevent homes from flooding.

The importance of SUDS as part of the solution can not be overstated and the Bill specifically requires these are approved by the Local Authority as the SUDS Approving Body (the “SAB”).

In addition to giving approval the SAB would also be responsible for adopting and maintaining SUDS. This would overcome the biggest barrier that has affected the use of these drainage systems in the past as stakeholders were uncertain and unwilling to become responsible for them in the long term.

With such a focus on surface water management and SUDS, it is vitally important to ensure there is adequate technical knowledge and engineering expertise available and this is perhaps one of the biggest challenges to delivering a successful implementation of the Bill.

It will become law, but as to who will be ready for it remains an uncertainty.

  • ACO remains committed to supporting the industry with technical expertise and product innovation that will assist planners and designers in delivering what the law requires. To learn more go to the ACO website

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