Scottish SuDS Guidance Sets High Standards

Written By: European Sales Director, Hydro International

Scotland has led the way in the design and implementation of SuDS. With the publication of new guidance by the SuDS Working Party in Scotland, the Scots are once again setting high standards for best practice in water and drainage infrastructure development.

The Water Assessment and Drainage Assessment Guide is a clear and helpful document for consulting engineers, developers, planning officers and other professionals that takes the reader through the steps for successful design, obtaining regulatory permissions, building and maintenance of drainage systems.

For more than a decade now, Scottish legislation has kept ahead of its English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts. In particular, Scotland is still the only area of the UK where implementing water quality measures for surface water pollution control is compulsory for new developments, reflecting the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive.

Because SuDS implementation has been encouraged through legislation, Scotland has valuable experience to contribute to knowledge and best practice. This learning opportunity for the whole of the UK – if not further abroad – was ably demonstrated when Engineering Nature’s Way conducted a survey of Scottish professionals in 2013. Called SuDS in Scotland – Experience and Opportunity, it provided some fascinating insights and was debated at a Round Table Event we hosted in Edinburgh, chaired by Dr Scott Arthur of Heriot-Watt University.

I hope that some of the topics we debated that day helped to crystallise thinking and identify the areas for improvement. Some of the Round Table delegates are members of the SuDS Working Party responsible for publishing the new Guidance, including Chairman Neil McLean. As Neil pointed out at the time, with Scotland in the vanguard of the SuDS experience, its story was always going to be one of successes and some failures.

In particular, the Survey and Round Table highlighted issues around adoption and maintenance of SuDS developments that left a disconnect at times between various regulatory bodies and the potential for SuDS schemes to be left ‘orphaned’ or having to be privately funded by homeowners and businesses.

Appropriate maintenance arrangements are fundamental to the success of SuDS implementation and best practice (as I pointed out in my last blog Can you Ever Fit and Forget Surface Water Drainage?).

In the new Scottish guidance, planning applications are now required to include consideration of long-term maintenance and operation drainage schemes. In particular, the Guidance states that in Scotland the preference is for long-term ownership to lie with a body that will exist in perpetuity, most likely through public ownership, so that maintenance arrangements can continue uninterrupted. Furthermore, the guidance points out that clear community understanding of the nature and purpose of SuDS in shared open space will help them to be well cared for.

These issues were areas of concern at the Round Table debate, as you can read in the report and see in videos still available here and it’s encouraging to see that so much progress has been made. The Scottish SuDS Working Party publication of the Water Assessment and Drainage Assessment Guide follows hard on the heels of the Welsh Government’s publication of non-statutory standards that are closer to the principles of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. At the end of last year CIRIA C753, The SuDS Manual, was also significantly updated and remains a universal reference for best practice.

I mentioned that Scotland is ahead of the game in using SuDS for water quality treatment and C753 will be an important reference in this regard for designers and consultants working in Scotland. In our survey, consulting engineers, designers and developers expressed frustration that they were limited in using proprietary systems, such as the Downstream Defender® hydrodynamic vortex separator, only as pre-treatment. This advice was based on an earlier version of the SuDS Manual; advice which has now been superseded. So, this is no longer a barrier to building appropriate stormwater treatment trains in Scotland.

Delivering great SuDS schemes across the UK – both new and retrofit – has been the goal for many of us for a very long time. Finally, with clearer guidance in place, we can begin to be optimistic about the future. With guidance authored by some of the best professionals in the industry, there is hope that we can move beyond the frustrations of law making (or lack of it) and start worrying about how to produce some exemplary schemes.

For me, future success in implementing effective surface water drainage based on sound SuDS principles is all about pragmatism. SuDS will be adopted and properly maintained, and our aspirations for multi-functional and multi-beneficial SuDS fulfilled, when we can choose from a wide toolbox of components to build appropriate management trains.

That includes the ability for components to demonstrate repeatable, predictable and measurable performance with clear maintenance schedules. Ensuring that owners and adopters are confident that SuDS schemes are going operate successfully throughout their life is a fundamental starting point in any design, and should never be considered an afterthought.

Download the Water Assessment and Drainage Assessment Guide

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