Lords Vote in Favour of SuDS Amendment to Housing Bill

photo showing homes with a vegetated pond in the foreground

The House of Lords has voted in favour of an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill that would force widespread implementation of Sustainable Drainage Systems in all new developments in England.

The amendment has received a huge show of support from professional water industry, construction and environmental groups. However, the amendment would need to survive the final ‘consideration of amendments’ phase, which must be agreed both by the Lords and the House of Commons. The move has already prompted the Government to commit to a full review of current SuDS planning regulations by April 2017.

A Housing Bill amendment that sought a return to arrangements outlined in Schedule 3 the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 was rejected by the Government during an earlier Lords debate a month ago: See Alex Stephenson’s blog “Schedule 3 – Gone But not quite forgotten yet?“.

However, on Monday 25 April, the majority of Lords voted in favour of a revised amendment, which won support by focusing on making changes to the Water Industry Act 1991 to end the developer’s automatic right to connect to the public sewer. It would also make SuDS the ‘default option’ to apply to all new development sites (rather than the current arrangements which apply only to major developments of ten properties or more.)

Baroness Parminter moved the amendment saying:

“The ministerial response in Committee was that we need to allow time to see presumption in planning working, given that it was introduced a year ago. However, having spoken with a number of stakeholders, they confirmed that the Government are not putting in place any comprehensive monitoring, such as of how often SuDS are included or not included in new developments or how often viability is cited by developers as a reason for not including them. Nor are they monitoring the quality of the SuDS being introduced.”

She added that industry feedback suggested there were “significant problems” with the delivery of SuDS and that the system was “not working”.

Lord Krebs gave details of a survey undertaken by the Adaptation Sub-Committee on Climate Change, of which he is Chairman. “We surveyed about 100 planning applications in flood-prone areas and found that only 15% of them had installed SuDS. Barratt Homes has subsequently reported that in 2014-15, a third of its developments contained no SuDS provision. At the moment the policy is simply not being taken up in the way it should be. Moreover, when SuDS are installed, it is not clear who is responsible for maintaining them.”

Baroness Andrews added: “The Government have designed a system through using the planning guidelines adopted instead of the legislation, which is almost bound to lead to low take-up and low quality, so increasing flood risks. There is collateral damage as well in terms of habitats and human life.

“This also gives the developers an upper hand. If they suggest that there are practical or economic barriers, few local authorities can answer back. There is not the same level of expertise to challenge this.”

Planning Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford, responded for the Government by saying: “I am keen to listen to the House and consider how we can respond to the proposals. I recognise that there is unease about the ability of the planning system to deliver sustainable drainage.”

She confirmed that in response to the amendment, the Government has committed to undertaking a full review on the strengthened planning policy on Sustainable Drainage Systems by April 2017. “I can also confirm that we will take action to make changes, including closely examining the need for any legislative measures, if evidence shows the strengthened policy is not working.”

Our report provides brief details of the debate. A full report can be read in The Hansard report for Monday April 25 under Amendment 119a.

The amendment was supported by:

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT)

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)

Water UK

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

The Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES)

The Landscape Institute

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)

The Environmental Policy Forum (EPF)

Buglife

Salmon & Trout Conservation UK

The Angling Trust

The Rivers Trust

The RSPB

The Wildlife Trusts

(Source Wildlife and Wetlands Trust.)

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3 Comments

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I support not allowing developers to connect surface water rainfall to the main sewers but disagree with allowing the S.U.D.S. to deal with surface water run off especially on the Flood Plain of South Lincolnhire, building these lagoons close to a residential development will result in encouraging a type of mosquito found on the Marsh in periods of warm weather and an attraction for young children . We have a first class drainage board which has dealt with this situation for years by a development levy, I appreciate this new idea is to relieve the developer of some cost however this could be over come by a charge on the seller of the land who can see his asset rise tenfold once planning permission is granted.

E says:

My concern is that an existing Community must be protected from a ‘one size fits all’ policy when due to topography and geology a SuDs system for a new development will almost certainly affect the existing housing, highways and general infrastructure of the Community/Town.

Steve Carter says:

On-going maintenance has been a problem since the introduction of SuDS techniques many years ago. We use a phrase, ‘everyone wants it but nobody wants it’. We are a responsible and financially sound organisation outside of the public domain which is capable of maintaining SuDS given our ‘in perpetuity’ funding model. I would urge the government in its forthcoming review to offer developers the option of using private maintenance companies as well as public bodies, as this will prevent the creation of a monopoly in favour of local authorities.

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