29 May 2014
After countless delays, yet another postponement to the target start date for SuDS legislation in England and Wales will hardly raise an eyebrow of surprise.
Despite a winter of floods misery and high-profile media attention, measures to bring in compulsory National Standards for Sustainable Drainage Systems have once again been postponed by DEFRA. Key stakeholders who have been involved in detailed consultations over SuDS implementation were told in a letter that the Government will not be in a position to implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act from October 2014.
Instead, the letter says, an announcement will be made in the summer which will set out in detail the plans for implementation. In addition, the Government will still keep its promise to provide six months’ notice to enable Local Authority SuDS Approving Bodies to be ready to start work approving SuDS schemes.
“The Government remains committed to implementing SuDS at the earliest available opportunity, but not in a way that has any adverse impact on development,” the letter states. Like me, you might be wondering what this short half a sentence implies exactly… and how many volumes it actually speaks?
You might also calculate that, with parliament in recess until September 1 and a General Election on May 7 2015, the “window” for implementation is starting to narrow (given a six months’ lead-time) especially if there are any further delays. This could surely not be ruled out on past experience.
So, with a much-needed imperative to increase the UK’s housing stocks front-of-mind will the Government ever be able to reconcile fears of so-called ‘adverse impact on development’, despite its stated commitment?Surely the prospect of stalemate is not out of the question?
It’s my strongly-held belief the perceived threat of any so-called ‘adverse impact’ of natural SuDS features for housebuilders must not be allowed to become the elephant in the room that paralyses SuDS implementation. It has always been the case that well-engineered SuDS designs which combine manufactured systems with above-ground biodiversity through natural features can provide cost-effective solutions for developers.
Practical SuDS solutions using innovative proprietary systems can deliver repeatable performance with clear and predictable maintenance schedules. Taking a down-to-earth practical approach is surely the answer to finding a compromise with which developers can feel comfortable? Predictability is the key to delivering SuDS schemes that local authorities can have the confidence to adopt with clear maintenance schedules
After all, the demand for SuDS is not going to go away any time soon – either through other legislation, local planning or Environment Agency stipulations. Even the targets of the European Water Framework Directive should continue to pull through environmental water quality improvements – that is, of course, unless those eurosceptics have their way… ?