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Engineers and architects lobby for SuDS clause in housing bill

25 Apr 16 Lobbyists representing civil engineers, environmental scientists, water companies and architects are pressing the House Lords to ensure new housing legislation protects homes from flooding.

Installation of a sustainable drainage system
Installation of a sustainable drainage system

Organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM), the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Water UK have joined forces to lobby parliament on the topic of flood prevention. 

They argue that the Housing & Planning Bill currently passing through the Lords will lead to new development that places additional pressure on drainage and flood defence infrastructure.

The group wants the Lords to amend the Housing & Planning Bill so that it restricts automatic right of developers to connect new houses directly to existing drainage systems – many of which are already over-loaded – and compel them to integrate low-cost sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to compensate for the additional flow that new developments create.

The Flood & Water Management Act 2010 legislated to this effect, but the law was never implemented. Instead, planning guidelines were produced to require SuDS, but industry lobbyists say this has not led to improved flood risk mitigation on new developments and has failed to promote the added benefits of sustainable drainage for water quality, biodiversity and amenity.

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An amendment on SuDS has been tabled by Baroness Parminter, which will be debated today, Monday 25th April. It is backed by Baroness Barbara Young (Labour) and Lord John Krebs (cross-bencher and chair of the adaptation sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change).

Former ICE president David Balmforth said: “Flooding is one of the major challenges facing society today, yet we continue to add to the problem by building new homes in a way that makes flooding more likely. This does not have to be the case as there is a proven and low cost solution using SuDs.  The Pitt Review and the Committee on Climate Change view them as a force for good; so should the law. We urge the Lords to send the Commons a bill that will help protect society from flooding.”

Richard Benwell, head of government affairs at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), said: “This bill is a test case for whether the government is serious about a joined up approach to flood defence and environmental protection. Wales, Scotland and especially Northern Ireland have already made progress on sustainable drainage, but England is lagging behind. Building new homes that are naturally resilient from the outset is much more affordable than dealing with the consequences later, and can do wonders for water quality and nature. The minister should listen to the cross-party alliance of Lords supporting sustainable drainage, in the long-term interests of communities and the environment.”

CIWEM chief executive Terry Fuller added: “It is absurd that in the current age we still allow developers to build homes and automatically connect to the sewer system without any consideration of the impact of doing so. This amendment would set us on the right path to encourage developers to consider flood risk from the outset.”

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