Developers will need to rethink their approach to drainage from October, says Guthrie McGruer
Most of the damage to the many thousands of properties affected by the 2007 floods arose from surface water run-off overloading conventional drainage systems. In 2010, the government introduced significant changes to promote the take-up of sustainable urban drainage systems, known as SUDS. From 1 October 2012, most developments over a certain size - likely to be 100 square metres - will need approval from a new SUDS approving body as well as requiring planning permission.
SUDS techniques include soakaways, permeable paving, green roofs and ponds. Part H of the Building Regulations already requires SUDS to be used in preference to piped systems. The maintenance cost of approved SUDs will be borne initially by the government.
Housing developers are among those who need to get to grips with the new regime. There will no longer be an automatic right to connect to the public sewer system. Instead, the SUDS approving body, which will be the county council or unitary authority, will only approve drainage schemes designed to comply with yet-to-be-approved national standards. The new approvals only apply to surface water not foul drainage systems.
The government is also considering phasing in the proposals so that within the first three years only housing developments of 10 or more homes would be affected, to allow the approving bodies to get up to speed.
These are significant changes that will introduce another hurdle for developers to overcome but the hope is that surface water flooding will no longer be as great a source of misery and loss of life.
Guthrie McGruer is head of the planning law team at Blake Lapthorn