Stronger sustainable drainage policies to help cut flood risk needed

26 April 2017

In its report, the Environment Food, and Rural Affairs Committee criticises the Government's sub-standard sustainable drainage (SuDS) approaches.

The "Post-legislative scrutiny: Flood and Water Management Act 2010" report highlights deficiencies in implementation of the Act. It condemns the resulting weak SuDS policies which fail to protect communities from flood risk and miss opportunities to enhance the amenity and environment of local communities.

Chair's comment

Environment Food, and Rural Affairs Committee Chair, Neil Parish MP said:

"Plans to deliver some one million new homes by 2020 must be achieved without increasing flooding. Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) are an essential part of the solution as they provide a cost-effective, green method of removing surface water from built-up areas. The Government purports to support SuDS but has not commenced provisions to set up a robust policy framework to promote their use. Instead it has adopted sub-standard planning policies which have led to far too few schemes, many of which are of low quality, being installed in new developments. Significant improvements in the numbers and quality of SuDS schemes installed must be delivered by the end of 2018. We urge our successor Committee to consider calling for the full commencement of SuDS provisions in the 2010 Act if this is not achieved.

Planning rules must be strengthened to ensure that all new developments, of any size, are required to install high-quality sustainable drainage systems.  Guidance must be tightened to reduce significantly the potential for developers to opt-out from installing schemes on cost or site-practicality grounds.  In addition standards for SuDS construction must be made statutory to provide a stronger basis for enforcement and make it easier for Water and Sewerage Companies to adopt SuDS. We call for an ending of the automatic right of new developments to connect surface water discharges to conventional sewerage systems to spur developers to develop sustainable alternatives."

Other measures

Water customer debt

Customers are paying on average £21 a year to cover the debts of those who do not pay their water and sewerage bills.

With a high proportion of debt attributable to those living in rented properties, voluntary schemes for landlords to share information about tenants with water companies must work more effectively.

Improvements must be secured by the end of 2018, or the Committee recommends that its successor committee considers again whether provisions in the Act should be commenced that require landlords to provide tenant information to water companies.

Private sewer transfer

The Committee's report also calls for measures in the Act to be commenced to enable the automatic transfer to Water and Sewerage Companies of private sewers, lateral drains and pumping stations built since July 2011.

This would remedy the unfair position where those dependent on sewerage systems and pumping stations built since July 2011 have to bear the costs of operation themselves whilst those using older systems have the costs shared out amongst all of a WaSC's customers.

Reservoir safety

The Committee supports the Government's current decision to retain the threshold for the application of the Reservoirs Act 1975 to raised reservoirs with a capacity of 25,000 cubic metres or more.

However, it must provide an update on the findings of its research on lowering the threshold to raised reservoirs with a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres or more.

If the Government proposes in future to reduce the threshold, it must set out a full evidence base to justify how this decision balances safety, economic and water management issues.

Further information

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