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Drainage Systems SuDS Are Coming......

EVERYONE in the business of Sustainable Drainage and Flood Risk Management in the UK has their collective fingers crossed that 2012 will be a momentous year for the industry - the culmination of a lot of hope, hard work and haranguing. Defra’s long-awaited consultation on National Standards for SuDS (closing on March 13) has set out the Government’s thinking on the criteria for Sustainable Drainage systems when they become compulsory in England and Wales, writes Alex Stephenson, Operations Director of Hydro International and Chair of the British Water SuDS Focus Group.

There are some events that stick in a country’s collective memory long after they have been consigned to the history books. One such “where were you when....”moment in Britain was in the Summer of 2007 when devastating floods claimed 14 lives, caused £3.2 billion worth of damage, and affected 48,000 homes and 6,000 businesses. Two thirds of those floods were attributed to surface water flooding and they turned out to be a major driver for change in the way stormwater drainage schemes would be planned and implemented in England and Wales. The new National Standards are a major milestone along that road to change, which everyone in the industry should be delighted to see.

The floods prompted the Government to commission Sir Michael Pitt’s seminal review and his recommendations were embodied in the Flood and Water Management Act (FWMA) 2010. The Act brought in radical changes to make Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) compulsory for new developments and redevelopment (greater than one property) and removed the automatic right of a developer to connect to a public sewer.

Overall, the proposals are extremely positive. For the first, time, the Standards will introduce a regulatory requirement to remove silt, sediments and pollutants from surface water runoff. They also emphasise the need for designers to think in terms of a treatment train of SuDS measures which can incorporate a variety of appropriate components according to the specifics of the site. Defra has promised to publish more detailed guidelines for SuDS which will help Local Authorities, designers and contractors to interpret the Standards. These guidelines will critical.

It should be pointed out that legislation in Scotland through the Water Environment and Water Services Act (Scotland) is already ahead of England and Wales and some valuable lessons can be learned from developing Scottish best practice, particularly in terms of stormwater treatment. There have been some concerns about the speed of implementation of the proposals in England and Wales. The date when Lead Local Authority Flood Authorities are expected to begin their roles as SuDS Approving Bodies (SABS) has already been delayed until October 2012, it’s possible they may even be put back until April 2013.

My impression is that only about a third of Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) have the people they need in post for SABS and the delays have made it more difficult for them to get the necessary funding and staff in place in time to meet budget deadlines.

It will be the SAB’s role to work closely with developers and contractors from the earliest stages of a project. So, to do their job, the standards must drive through consistent


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