As part of the Government's initiative to implement sustainable drainage systems ("SuDs") the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ("Defra") and the Department for Communities and Local Government ("DCLG") have launched a joint consultation setting out a possible approach for implementing SuDs, and mechanisms for ensuring their long term maintenance, through changes to the current planning regime.
An independent review into the causes of the 2007 floods, The Pitt Review, concluded that sustainable drainage systems were an effective way to reduce the flood risk from new developments. Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 Councils would have become the SuDs Approval Bodies ("SABs") for the adoption and maintenance of SuDs in new developments. However, implementation of this plan was delayed until all councils had set up SABs.
Now the new government consultation document sets out a different approach to the one envisaged in Flood and Water Management Act; that is, to deliver effective sustainable drainage systems through changes to the current planning regime.
Strengthening the planning regime for sustainable drainage systems
The new consultation document contains proposals to strengthen planning policy to make clear that the expectation is that sustainable drainage systems will be provided in new developments of ten homes or more. This would give scope for decision-makers to give increased weight to the provision and maintenance of SuDs for the management of run-off, alongside other material considerations during the determination of a planning application.
The consultation states that planning applications that fail to meet a policy requirement to normally deliver SuDS first, over conventional drainage, could be rejected. The document then goes on to say that planning conditions could require the use of effective SuDs to drain a development's surface water run-off and also ensure the SuDs are maintained for the lifetime of the development. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for this to be delivered using a Section 106 agreement.
Options for sustainable drainage systems maintenance and the funding options which could support them
To ensure that the SuDs are maintained effectively the consultation says conditions should normally be attached to a planning permission for a development requiring that the sustainable drainage systems will be maintained to a minimum level of effectiveness. To be effective a maintenance option must:
a) Identify who will be responsible for the maintenance, and that funding for the maintenance should be fair for householders/occupiers, and
b) Set out a minimum standard to which the SuDs must be maintained.
Having a range of potential maintenance options available will allow flexibility for developers and ensure that at least one option is open to them in every case, to enable them to satisfy a planning condition requiring effective SuDs and sustainable maintenance. Such options include maintenance by service management companies, water and sewerage companies, local government or private individuals.
* Responses should be received by 24 October 2014 and further information is available here: