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Water: Enforcing current legislation is critical to driving the adoption of SuDS

As communities across the UK continue to be devastated by floods, why are local authorities not enforcing existing sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) legislation, and what is really causing the delays to the release of the national SuDS standards.

As communities across the UK continue to be devastated, why are local authorities not enforcing existing SuDS legislation, and what is really causing the delays to the release of the National SuDS standards?

Inland flooding is occurring more often for two main reasons. Firstly, weather patterns are changing, meaning that rainfall events are happening more frequently, more intensely and for longer periods of time. In addition, as we continue to pave over porous green landscapes, rainwater is prevented from soaking naturally into the ground at source and instead accumulates and flows at high speed into water courses and drainage systems that were not built to cope with this deluge.

During the recent flooding, Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith, was quoted as saying that we must make a difficult choice between protecting town or country from the worst effects of flooding, as he claims that there is “no bottomless purse” to subsidise defences.

Lord Smith’s position is not an unreasonable one. Protecting against the devastating effects of floods is a difficult and expensive undertaking.

However, we are acutely aware of the possibilities which exist to minimise the risk of inland flooding in the first place – largely through the installation of SuDS such as swales, rain gardens, green roofs and permeable paving. Legislation already exists to ensure that these practises are followed in the building of new developments and the renovation of existing landscapes – but these regulations are rarely enforced in England and Wales, which means that the likelihood of flooding is growing rather than reducing.

In addition, the introduction of the National SuDS Standards has been delayed yet again, leaving designers and contractors free to leave the drainage of their developments to standard, traditional means – which usually involve antiquated and limiting point drainage systems.

The industry needs good design to minimise flood risk in the first place. The 2010 Flood & Water Management Act has still to deliver meaningful results, and the media focuses all too frequently on last-stand defences rather than the long term solutions of mitigating flood risk. We would like to understand why, when the news broadcasts the devastating effects of floods on a daily basis, existing SuDS planning legislation is not enforced. We would also like to know why the release of the National SuDS Standards, which seem to be welcomed by everyone within the water management community, continues to face delays after more than three years.

  • Chris Harrop is director of sustainability at Marshalls




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