Posted: Tuesday 14th October 2014

The government has announced an alternative approach to implementing sustainable drainage system (SuDS) using the planning system - anticipated in Interpave’s recent discussion document – and taking effect in Spring 2015. Then, SuDS - and sustainable drainage techniques such as concrete block permeable paving - will become part of the local planning process, allowing greater involvement by architects, master-planners and landscape designers.

A ministerial statement issued on 12th September reaffirmed the Government’s determination to encourage SuDS for new developments and launched a consultation proposal that the minister claimed: “enables a rapid roll-out of sustainable drainage solutions at a local level and allows local planning authorities to best address site-specific local surface water run-off management concerns.” This follows on-going, long delays with implementation of the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act, now effectively by-passed.

Instead, amended planning guidance – based on the latest draft national SuDS standards - will bolster the existing National Planning Policy Framework encouragement for SuDS. Then, planning conditions, ‘Section 106 Agreements’ and other measures are proposed to ensure that SuDS will be maintained for the lifetime of the development and this should not increase costs. As the government proposal points out: “All the available evidence is that sustainable drainage systems are generally cheaper to build; and maintaining them will be cheaper (or need be no more expensive) than the same cost as is required to maintain conventional drainage at present.”

This welcome government measure to move SuDS onto the local planning agenda is already supported by the Code of practice for surface water management for development sites, BS 8582:2013. But this goes much further, linking water management and development planning from the start. It seeks to maximize opportunities for using space in a multi-functional way and for enabling SuDS features to form part of the character of the development: both key features of concrete block permeable paving, which can supply a gradual supply of clean water for recycling, irrigation, biodiversity and real amenity use within the landscape.

SuDS will offer imaginative designers opportunities, rather than just technical problems to be solved. Taking an holistic approach, architects, landscape designers and master-planners should embrace SuDS as one of the key design considerations from the very start of their projects, exploring innovative solutions that form an integral part of an overall scheme. Drainage engineering then becomes simply a part of the process - not the primary driver and an end in itself.

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