Sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) to become mandatory for new developments in England

urban planning development

Following a review of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a report announcing that it intends to make SUDS mandatory for new developments in England from 2024 through the implementation of Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (FWMA).

Due to the increased use in developments of impermeable surfaces (such as tarmac and concrete) and urbanisation, surface water flooding is exacerbated as there are less areas for the run off to soak away naturally. SUDS however collect surface water run-off and release it slowly, rather than discharging it all straight into the public sewer system or watercourse. The slow release of water reduces the risk of flooding through the use of soakaways, grassed areas, permeable surfaces and wetlands mimicking the way surface water run off would occur in the natural environment whilst also improving water quality by depositing impurities in the soil during the infiltration process and easing pressures on the traditional drainage and sewerage systems.

Through the implementation of Schedule 3 of the FWMA Defra intends:

  • That the implementation will guarantee that SUDS are designed, constructed, adopted, operated and maintained to national standards for the lifetime of the development.
  • That the SUDS Approving Body (SAB) will sit within the unitary authority or county council and the net additional cost of set up will be funded by central government.
  • That certain developments will not require approval, such as permitted development under 100 square metres, single buildings under 100 square metres and construction work carried out by an internal drainage board (under the Land Drainage Act 1991).

Schedule 3 of the FWMA also makes the right to connect surface water runoff to public sewers conditional upon the drainage system being approved before any construction work can commence.

For developments which are already at an advanced stage of planning when Schedule 3 is implemented transitional arrangements will apply to avoid additional work and costs; although specific details as to what constitutes an “advanced stage” are not yet known.

The next step is for the Government to consider how Schedule 3 will be implemented, subject to final decisions on scope, threshold and process. A public consultation is also due to take place to collect views on the impact assessment, national standards and statutory instruments.

The review makes it clear that the implementation of Schedule 3 to the FWMA will mean that the requirement to deliver SUDS will no longer simply form part of the planning process as a planning condition but will instead form part of national legislation as a distinct and standalone matter for consideration during the initial stages of any development proposals. Skilled professionals who can design, construct, assess and maintain SUDS will be essential and thought will need to be given to provide sufficient access to deliver and maintain SUDS.

The full report can be found here:

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