But industry raises concern about added cost to building work

The government is to work up regulations and processes to make sustainable drainage systems mandatory for all new housing developments in England, following a review.

Sustainable drainage systems, often known as SuDS, will be required to reduce the impact of rainfall on new developments, by using soakaways, grassed areas, permeable surfaces and wetlands.

The requirement is expected to be introduced in 2024 and comes after a government review into surface water management, released yesterday by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


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The government wants to reduce the risk of flooded homes with the new initiative

It will be created through Schedule 3 to the Flood and Management Act 2010, which established a process to ensure new development includes a sustainable drainage system but was never implemented.

Currently, the planning system already requires that developers include SuDS, but only in major developments, those of more than 10 homes, with developers allowed to argue they don’t have to where there is “clear evidence that this would be inappropriate”.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “Our traditional drainage systems are under increasing pressure from the effects of climate change, urbanisation and a growing population.

“The benefits of sustainable drainage systems are many – from mitigating flood risk by catching and storing surplus water and reducing storm overflow discharges, to enhancing local nature in the heart of our developments and helping with harvesting valuable rainwater.”

But Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the National Federation of Builders, said he was concerned about the extra costs this would mean for housebuilders that were “hitting small builders the most”.

“I don’t think the government has thought enough about the extra costs,” Wojtulewicz added. “It’s coming at a really bad time.”

He said the key to making it work was the government coming up with a streamlined process for the adoption and acceptance of the drainage design because “if you don’t get that fixed, you’ll get delays [in development]”. Environment secretary Therese Coffey said the government will consult on how to implement the mandatory use of sustainable drainage later this year.

Wojtulewicz said the government needed to invest in the current sewerage system and questioned how this new requirement would sit with nutrient neutrality rules. These, which stop councils allowing developments that are likely to add more phosphates and nitrates to waterways, are currently holding up tens of thousands of homes.

The government said yesterday SuDS would “alleviate the pressures on our traditional drainage and sewerage systems”.

Neil Jefferson, managing director at Home Builders Federation, warned: “Government needs to ensure that the range of other requirements, such as biodiversity, align such that total land take does not impact on site viability and so housing delivery.”

But he added: “The industry is committed to implementing SuDS on sites and delivering high quality drainage systems. We welcome the recognition of the need to plan how infrastructure maintenance is funded post completion of the site.”

The review was carried out following another independent review, commissioned by the government in October 2019, looking at the arrangements for determining responsibility for surface water and drainage assets.