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Suds guidance sits on fence

Delays and lack of definition could compromise new national standards for sustainable drainage systems (Suds), drainage experts are warning.

The government last month began a long awaited consultation on the standards, which are designed to help new Suds Approving Bodies (SABs) make judgements on the acceptability of drainage schemes for developments and redevelopments.

“The considerable delay in the publication of this consultation has already put the Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) on the back foot,” said Hydro International stormwater director and chair of the British Water Suds focus group Alex Stephenson.

“It looks unlikely that the SAB roles will come into force as the government originally intended in April 2012. Instead it will be October - or possibly later.”

Inconsistent approach

Stephenson also expressed concern that the new standards will fail to address the inconsistent approach to Suds around the country, and about the proposal that developments could be exempt on the grounds of “disproportionate cost”.

“The draft standards propose that full compliance is not required where the Suds design would be more expensive than a conventional design,” he said. “But what exactly constitutes a conventional design?”

Stephenson is worried this clause gives developers a “get out of Suds free card”, and said the draft standard contains a “liberal sprinkling of ‘where practicable’”.

Polypipe Civils marketing and development director Jason Shingleton agreed.

Too many caveats

“There are a lot of ‘where reasonable’ statements which require definition if we are to have a national standard, and if we are to not delay the planning approval process,” he said.

“It [the draft standard] is so open-ended that it is difficult as a manufacturer to know what solutions are going to be acceptable,” he added. “We would like to innovate and be able to offer solutions, but we need more definition.”

Consultation about the new national standard for Suds is open until 13 March.

  • For more information go to www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/12/20/sustainable-drainage-systems-1112/

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