How do you address SUDS through planning?
Well it’s a very complicated situation, at the moment, unfortunately. I mean, we were going along a pathway, because, after the 2007 floods, we had the pit review, and that resulted in the introduction of the Floods and Water Management Act, which set up a system that was due to come into place, whereby there will be something called the suds approving body and it will be dealt with as an application to planning, alongside a planning application. That was all predicated upon further pieces of legislation. So the Act set up a system, but it needed further enabling legislation to actually put it in place. Now some of that has been put in place, and there was a final piece of legislation required, which was about what’s called schedule three, and that was all about who would, and how we would have land adopted that had had the suds systems designed, and built, and approved. And for house builders in particular, this was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to actually making this happen. There was a lot of negotiations, a lot of wrangling in the industry about how all this worked, and about the standards for suds. And what’s happened is the government has given in, and they’ve said, “We want development, and we’re not going to jeopardize that by having something in place that’s put an onus on house builders, because we want them to build houses,” so what they’ve done is they went out to a consultation through DCLG to say, “Let’s make it advisory, through the planning system, and let the planners determine this as part of a planning application, and not have a separate system for assessing drainage properly.”
The results of that consultation were that 71% of respondents thought it was a seriously bad idea. And, of course, being a wonderfully democratic consultation, they’ve completely ignored the result. So that is what they’re intending to do. They said they would be planning guidance. From what we know, really, that isn’t happening. They said they would build capacity in the planning authorities, and the lead local flood authorities. I think, from what we’re seeing, that’s looking fairly token gesture, so we’re all waiting to hear what’s going to happen on the fifth of April, when this new system comes in place. But what it’s going to mean is that we will get suds. We won’t get them universally, because they are not going to be a mandatory requirement, and frankly if you’ve got a piece of policy that says, “Use suds where it’s appropriate,” well, how on Earth do we define what’s appropriate? In actual fact, anybody that’s in the water community, their view is, “It’s appropriate everywhere,” so who knows where we are with planning? We will find out.
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