New approach to sustainable drainage set to reduce flood risk and clean up rivers, Defra has announced.

A range of organisations have welcomed the move to more sustainable drainage for new developments in England.

The recommendation to make sustainable drainage systems mandatory to new developments in England is the result of the Government’s review. Defra have said that this will reduce the risk of surface water flooding, pollution and help alleviate the pressures on traditional drainage and sewerage systems.

New developments can inadvertently add to surface and sewer flood risk by covering permeable surfaces like grassland and soil that would otherwise assist in dealing with heavy rainfall.

The new approach to drainage will ensure sustainable drainage systems are designed to reduce the impact of rainfall on new developments by using features such as soakaways, grassed areas, permeable surfaces and wetlands. This reduces the overall amount of water that ends up in the sewers and storm overflow discharges. Certain features such as tanks and water butts also allow for water reuse and reduce pressures on water resources.

Following  publication of the review, regulations and processes for the creation of sustainable drainage systems at new developments will now be devised, through the implementation of Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. Implementation of the new approach is expected during 2024.

Move broadly welcomed

Several organisations have welcomed the move by the UK Government. The National Infrastructure Commission recommended this course of action and Professor Jim Hall, National Infrastructure Commissioner, said: “Last month the Commission recommended Schedule 3 was implemented in England without delay, as the first of a number of recommendations for addressing the growing risks of surface water flooding. Making sustainable systems the default for new developments and introducing a more consistent approach to design will help address the problem at source. It makes both economic and environmental sense.”

WWT noted that “in a long fought for decision, the UK Government will implement key legislation requiring new developments in England to include mini wetlands such as rain gardens and ponds to help prevent flooding of people’s homes and businesses.”

In December 2022 CIWEM, alongside over 40 other expert bodies and academics, wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to urge him to finally implement the legislation. CIWEM said that ‘following years of making the case for a more robust approach to SuDS, we are pleased to see sense finally prevail.’

Next steps

Government will now give consideration to how Schedule 3 will be implemented, subject to final decisions on scope, threshold and process, while also being mindful of the cumulative impact of new regulatory burdens on the development sector.

This will include a public consultation later this year, which will collect views on the impact assessment, national standards and statutory instruments.

The news release from Defra can be read here and the policy paper here.

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