The Government has announced it will review law and policy on new homes connecting to mains drainage in response to an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill.
The bill aims to help build 1M homes by 2020.
The move has been welcomed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) which said that the rules to stop new homes in England from causing flooding might be inadequate.
The WWT said that new homes could cause flooding because they replaced open land – which soaked in rainwater slowly – with surfaces that rainwater runs off quickly, like roofs, patios and driveways. With thousands of new homes being built, it said that this increased volume of water which does not drain away naturally could overwhelm the existing drainage systems.
The bill amendments, tabled by Baroness Parminter, Lord Krebs and Baroness Young, have proposed that all new homes should absorb rainwater onsite by using features like soak-away chambers, ponds or green roofs, rather than connecting to drains which often have limited capacity to take more water.
“We welcome this step forward on flood mitigation in England. The case for strengthening the legal requirements for sustainable drainage in new homes is compelling and has been supported by a wide group of experts from across the industry and across the political spectrum,” said WWT head of government affairs Richard Benwell.
“This review must run rapid and deep, finding out what’s happening on the ground in time to make sure that the new homes we need are delivered in a way that is safe and environmentally sound – especially in our increasingly erratic climate. We look forward to clear evidence and appropriate action from government next year.”
The WWT said that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales had all made greater progress than England regarding policy to promote sustainable drainage. It said that in Scotland sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) are now a general requirement; in Northern Ireland a bill to end the automatic right to connect to drains was passed earlier this year; and Wales has extensive standards for sustainable drainage.
The trust also said that impact assessments carried out by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had shown that sustainable drainage was often cheaper than conventional ‘hard piped’ alternatives. This, it said, was even before the additional benefits to flood defence, water quality, biodiversity and recreation that sustainable drainage could provide were considered.