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SuDs applications ‘inadequate’ or ‘mixed’

Words: Laura Edgar
Flooding / Shutterstock_176973317

The quality of planning submissions for Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDs) are either ‘inadequate’ or ‘mixed’, according to 96 per cent of local authorities.

As of 2017, 25 per cent of local authorities did not have any formal SuDs policies in place, or immediate plans to implement any.

This is according to a report by the Landscape Institute and the Construction Industry Council (CIC). The RTPI, as a member of the CIC’s Flood Mitigation and Resilience Panel, contributed to the research.

James Harris, policy and network manager at RTPI, said: “We know that climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather and flooding. Responding to this challenge, while simultaneously bringing forward new development, means dramatically increasing the use of SuDs within our towns and cities.

“These predominantly natural solutions will help us to manage surface water flooding, while providing a range of wider benefits for wildlife and communities.”

The report considered Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs), who are responsible for flood strategy, including SuDs, across the country, to see how policy is or isn’t leading to successful Suds schemes. It suggests that delivery is “currently a long way behind the ambition”.

Just 3 per cent of authorities reported receiving adequate information to appropriately assess a planning application for SuDs. Most local authorities are preparing themselves for more SuDs, but coverage is "uneven". Other barriers include inconsistent planning policy, resource constraints and uncertainty around who should adopt and manage them over the long term.

Sue Illman, CIC champion for flood mitigation and resilience, past president of the Landscape Institue and co-author of the report, said that the problems for the LLFAs in delivering good quality SuDS are clear.

"At a time when climate change and sustainability are such prevalent issues, the shortcomings and inconsistencies highlighted in this report are of real concern.

"But the review also shows how relatively small changes in government guidance could provide better outcomes for communities and the environment."

Illman explained that SuDs can do more than manage surface water: they can also manage the quality of water, improve biodiversity and help create healthy places -  if designed and implemented properly.

Recommendations set out in the report include:

  • The requirement of a better policy base, with two-tier authorities needing to coordinate their approach in order to make SuDs mandatory for all scales of development.
  • A better definition of the role of the LLFA, to confirm that it should encompass all aspects of SuDS and not just water quantity.
  • Clear submission requirements for major and minor schemes, with separate checklists on the Planning Portal for outline, detailed, and reserve matters applications.

Achieving Sustainable Drainage can be downloaded from Dropbox here.

Image credit | Shutterstock