Success, Passion, Commitment and Frustration – SUDS in Scotland

Written By: European Sales Director, Hydro International

SUDS in Scotland Round Table

A PANEL of expert professionals involved in the design and delivery of SUDS in Scotland came together for a Round Table debate last week specially arranged by Engineering Nature’s Way and held in association with CIWEM and British Water.

They were responding to the results of the SuDS for Scotland – Experience and Opportunity Survey which was previewed to panellists at the event and launched on 11 November.  Read the news story and download the SUDS in Scotland report.

Under the excellent chairmanship of Dr Scott Arthur from Heriot-Watt University the panel explored what had driven Scotland’s success with SUDS – and what more still needs to be done.  We’d like to thank Dr Arthur and all our panellists for taking part.

As you might expect, there was plenty of lively debate amongst the 18-strong panel when they met  at Edinburgh’s Hilton Airport Hotel, alongside the RoadExpo Exhibition  on  7th November , but everyone agreed that Scotland had definitely made great progress in implementing SUDS.

Behind that success is a strong legislative framework starting with the WEWS Act (Water Environment and Water Services Act) ten years ago.  The legislation, driven itself by the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive has set a tone for a strong emphasis on Water Quality and has driven the introduction of SUDS on new developments across Scotland.

Scotland’s experiences provide powerful lessons for the rest of the UK, as England and Wales prepares for new National Standards for SUDS in April 2014.  Not only in what has worked well, but also in what remains to be done to ensure long-term acceptance of SUDS on both sides of the border.

There was passion, true commitment and sometimes real frustration displayed by the panellists, who were leading representatives of SEPA, the Scottish Government and Scottish Water as well as consulting engineers, housebuilders and local authorities.  Many of our panellists have been closely involved in working groups, consultations and policy development for SUDS in Scotland.

Amongst the greatest frustrations expressed was the fact that, although many hundreds of SUDS have been built in Scotland – very few have been adopted.  The reasons appear to often stem from an institutional disconnect between Scottish Water and local authorities.  Sometimes, it seems to be a failure to accept the quality of SUDS systems installed; sometimes it seems to come down to a lack of confidence in, or ability to maintain, the SUDS going forward.

It’s clear there is more work to do to in Scotland to ensure SUDS are not only designed well, but also provide reliable long-term performance to meet those original design objectives.  Of course, leaving SUDS unadopted increases the risk that they will not be maintained effectively.

Another clear frustration was the narrow SUDS toolbox available to Scottish designers and developers and a clear desire to be able to use more proprietary systems where appropriate, often alongside ‘natural’ SUDS features in a treatment train – or where SUDS might not otherwise be viable in developments.  This is especially true where proprietary systems could be shown to be proven, certified and tested.  There were, for example, cases outlined by the panel where Downstream Defender® vortex separators had been used on schemes, even though they were not ‘officially’ seen as part of the accepted SUDS treatment train.

There was a strong suggestion that having more independent data about the through-life costs and maintenance schedules of SUDS features would be valuable in resolving maintenance and adoption issues in the longer term.  More evidence of the performance of both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ SUDS in Scotland would be extremely valuable, I believe.  Scotland’s experiences have valuable lessons for practitioners in England and Wales.

On both sides of the border it’s important to place emphasis on ‘life after SUDS construction’ and see every SUDS as an asset that needs to perform effectively throughout its life with reliable, repeatable performance guaranteed through predicted and costed maintenance schedules that are built in from the start.

Watch out for a full write-up and a short film of the event which will be available on the website in the coming weeks.

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