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Industry News & Views Alex Stephenson,

Alex has over 36 years experience in stormwater drainage design and related issues.

As well as being the UK Stormwater Director with Hydro International he is also Chairman of the British Water SuDS focus group. He is ideally situated to keep you up to date with the industry changes and legislation.

Clarity is required for the Local Authorities

With one voice, a cry for ‘clarity, clarity, clarity’ has gone out to Government as Local Authorities in England and Wales prepare to commence their roles as Approving Bodies for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).

Further delays in the implementation of those parts of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which will make Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) compulsory in England and Wales seem inevitable. Local

Authorities are due to commence their roles as SuDS Approving Bodies (SABs) in October 2012, but many important questions remain unanswered relating to the National Standards by which the SABS will be expected to judge drainage schemes in proposed developments.

There are strong indications that both local government and industry believe proposed National Standards, as they currently stand, are not yet fit for purpose. A three- month consultation into the National Standards closed in March this year, but many of the concerns raised in the responses both by industry and local authorities appear to remain unanswered. There were significant concerns about the lack of clarity in the proposed National Standards. The Government has promised detailed Guidelines to accompany the National Standards.


little doubt that the Standards in their current form are insufficient without them. Many agree the guidelines would need to have been written, scrutinised and agreed by industry before the new SuDS approval system begins.

To be

effective, the guidance also needs to be binding, not just advisory. In their responses, local authorities have called for at least 6 months’ notice before commencement and many believe an earlier start is unrealistic. It seems April 2013 is looking an ever more likely date. Recent flooding has been a sobering reminder of the devastating 2007 floods which led to the Flood and Water Management Act, but many are worried that a dilution of the original principles has crept in, introducing exemptions in a number of areas which could undermine the whole intent.

Amongst all of the questions to be resolved, affordability is the most hotly debated. While many developers welcome a proposed

exemption on the grounds of affordability, many fear such a test could be used as a ‘get out’ clause and would focus on capital costs alone.

There are strong arguments that SuDS are often cheaper or comparable to conventional systems. Affordability must not be allowed to dilute the whole spirit and principles of the Flood and Water Management Act,” he stresses.

Current thinking on SuDS focuses much more on the multiple benefits such as amenity and biodiversity and on the holistic, whole-life contribution to a project in ecological and environmental terms.

A second area requiring clarification is around the term ‘reasonably practicable’, which is used 15 times in the proposed standards. In a dispute between a developer and a SAB – who decides what that means exactly?

The proposal that SuDS Approval and subsequent Local Authority adoption should only be required for drainage systems serving more than one property is a cause of inconsistency, if not confusion. Why should a large commercial scheme, such as a supermarket for example, not go through the SAB process? What about residential buildings in multiple occupation? Unadopted SuDS on these developments would have to be maintained by the tenants or building owners. Runoff from large single properties could have significant impact on surface water drainage in the area. What recourse would the water company have in such circumstances? Surely a ruling based on minimum area of land would be more reasonable? I must stress that there is overwhelming support for the Government in implementing the Flood and Water Management Act, and for the principles embodied in Schedule 3, which seeks to implement the National Standards and the Local Authority SAB roles. It’s been five years since widespread flooding in England set us on the road to radical changes in surface water management and flooding this year is still a costly scourge on our infrastructure. We must neither falter, nor delay any further.

Contact Alex by:

email: Telephone: 01275 878371 9 DESIGN. DESIGN.




consultancy backed by over 30 years experience n leading-edg

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consultancy backed by over 30 years experience iin leading-edge drainage design and implementation.

design and implementation. We can provide:

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assessments (FRA) compl 

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     LITY Y..

For further information call 01275 337966 or .hydro-consulta

For further informatio call 01275 337966 or visit

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