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SuDS proposals slammed by environmental sector

The government’s revised proposals for delivering Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) through local planning authorities have been criticised by key environmental industry figures.

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), which represents businesses in the ‘green economy’, is concerned over the impact of the mooted revisions on water quality.

The joint consultation from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), ‘Delivering Sustainable Drainage Systems’, sets out an alternative approach to SuDS.

The consultation, which closed last week, suggests that effective SuDS can be implemented and maintained through changes to the current National Planning Policy Framework, which means the change will only cover developments of 10 houses or more, and decision-making will rest with local planning departments.

The response from the EIC said: “The consultation document frames SuDS almost exclusively in terms of flooding, and does not take into account their potential impact on water quality”.

It is also concerned that “hastily delivered but inappropriate or poorly installed SuDS have the potential for much higher maintenance costs in the long run”.

EIC’s deputy public affairs director, Sam Ibbott, said: “The government’s new proposal to deliver SuDS through the planning system is the path of least resistance – it will see SuDS delivered quickly, but not automatically to a high standard.”

He added “Whilst this new approach is not ideal, it is workable – and believe it preferable to find a workable version of these latest proposals than starting again and incurring further delays.”

Gareth Twohey, national sector manager for utilities at civils and drainage distributors Keyline, said: “With the momentum around responsibility for mandating SuDS in new developments having moved to local planning departments, there is now the clear potential for the emergence of a piecemeal approach.

“By nature, local planning looks at local needs when it comes to new development, and not at the wider context. SuDS has to be holistic rather than site-specific to work properly, looking at the crucial ramifications downstream of new installations.”

Developments under ten houses are exempt from SuDS requirements. However, the EIC warns this could be a loophole where major developments are reclassified as numerous smaller ones.

The consultation closed on 24 October 2014 and new arrangements are due to come into force in spring 2015.

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