Report highlights huge step change needed in SuDS delivery

A new report shows that the delivery of sustainable drainage in England is currently a long way behind the ambition.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) are an important way of managing surface water runoff in built developments.

Partly or wholly natural in design, SuDS were first introduced to the English planning system in 2010. National planning policy encourages SuDS in all major developments ‘unless there is clear evidence that this would be inappropriate’, while as of January 2019, SuDS are mandatory in Wales for all new developments over 100m2.

But a new report by the Landscape Institute and Construction Industry Council highlights the huge step change still needed in this area.

(Photo: Tim Crocker)

Ninety-six per cent of local authorities report that the quality of planning submissions for SuDS are either ‘inadequate’ or ‘mixed’. And as of 2017, 25% of local authorities had no formal SuDS policies in place, nor any immediate plans to implement any. This is putting communities under threat of surface water flooding as climate change continues to put pressure on our landscapes.

"The problems for LLFAs in delivering good quality SuDS are clear," said Sue Illman, CIC Champion for Flood Mitigation and Resilience, past President of the Landscape Institue and co-author of the report. "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."

The LI and CIC’s new report surveyed Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) - who are responsible for flood strategy, including SuDS - across the country. The research aimed to evaluate the current system, and how policy is (or isn’t) leading to successful SuDS schemes on the ground.

The research shows that delivery is currently a long way behind the ambition. Only 3% of authorities reported receiving adequate information to appropriately assess a planning application for SuDS. As for local authorities themselves, most are gearing up for more SuDS, but coverage is uneven.

"SuDS can do far more than just manage surface water," Sue continued. "When designed and implemented properly, SuDS schemes manage the quantity and quality of water, improve biodiversity, and help create attractive and healthy places.

"All of us - from policymakers to practitioners, planners to designers, public sector and private - need to work together to ensure we are doing the best to safeguard our local environments."

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