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Report: Councils not monitoring sustainable drainage

Words: Martin Read
Councils not monitoring sustainable drainage / iStock-637816266

The way in which methods of sustainable drainage are monitored and maintained needs to improve, according to a government report.

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) report, entitled A review of the application and effectiveness of planning policy for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), considers the value of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and the way in which they are being deployed following the strengthening of national planning policy three years ago to make SuDS a requirement for all new major developments.

SuDS can comprise a range of techniques to alter water flow velocity and remove pollutants, from source control (intercepting run-off water on roofs for other purposes); pre-treatment (removing pollutants prior to discharge to watercourses); retention systems (delaying water discharge through use of ponds and wetlands) and infiltration systems (to allow water to soak into the ground without harm).

Key to the report’s findings is that 70 per cent of local planning authorities “do not have a monitoring and / or a reporting regime in place to monitor SuDS deployment in their adopted local plans”. The figure rises further to 75 per cent for emerging local plans.

Furthermore, just a third - 33 per cent - of adopted plans specify arrangements being in place for the ongoing maintenance of a SuDS over the lifetime of the development, although this does not mean that maintenance arrangements were not considered at the application stage.

In its analysis of approved planning applications, the report states that 87 per cent did explicitly state that a SuDS solution would feature in the proposed development, whether as proposed by the applicant or aconditioned by the local planning authority.

For the remainder, the report continues, mitigating circumstances were described in the application such as the development being directly adjacent to a water body or on previously developed land where a pre-existing connection to a sewer was proposed. Where SuDS was not specifically mentioned in the application, “drainage of surface water to a water body was often described in such a way that could be interpreted as sustainable”.

The report says that government will update SuDS planning guidance, reflecting changes made to the NPPF, in the autumn.

The full report is available from here on the MHCLG website.

Image credit | iStock