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House builders: delaying drainage demands right decision

14 January 2014

A planned postponement for stringent new drainage requirements on new developments to help prevent flooding has been welcome by housebuilders. The new rules, under Section 32 of the Flood and Water Management Act (2010), were to have been introduced in April. But responding to a parliamentary debate last week, water minster Dan Rogerson confirmed that the necessary arrangements would not be in place to meet the April deadline.

House builders said that Defra was right to postpone the adoption, but it should work towards an October 2014 introduction rather than delay indefinitely.

The new legislation will require house builders to meet new standards for managing water run off using sustainable drainage systems like ponds and reed beds. The key objectives are to manage the flow rate and volume of surface runoff to reduce the risk of flooding and water pollution. SUDS also reduce pressure on the sewerage network and can improve biodiversity.

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, future construction work which affects the way in which land drains will require consent from new approving Sustainable Drainage Authorities – called SABs – which are being set up by local authorities. However, new research is expected to confirm that of the 152 authorities due to set up approval bodies, 75% are nowhere near to introduce standards in April.

A deal has been struck to allow the SABs to charge homeowners for the maintenance of the new SUDS – one area that had been stalling implementation. But house builders say there is still much to be thrashed out and clarified.

“We’d like to see Defra use the extra time to crystallise the guidance and ensure there is sufficient capacity in the SUDS approval bodies for a sensible transition. The last thing we need when we’re applying for planning permission is a hold up in the approval of drainage,” said Steve Wielebski, chair of the HBF technical committee, and chair of the CIOB environmental panel.

One other major hurdle, say house builders, is legislation that will allow water run off to pass through third party owned land to a water course, otherwise house builders fear they could be held to ransom by third party land owners.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Reducing the impacts of flooding on houses and businesses is a key priority for us and we are committed to introducing sustainable drainage systems to help reduce the risk of floods from new developments.

“SUDS are usually cheaper to maintain than conventional drainage, and we will be consulting soon on how they will be maintained by Local Authorities.”

Meanwhile, house builders said they were furious by the way they were being portrayed by the BBC, which, in a story about SUDS delays, claimed that house builders had been lobbying for SUDS legislation to be dropped because of extra costs.

Said a spokesman: “It will cost extra money but we are on board – for once we’re not the bad guys.”

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