16Jun 2017

A place for SuDS?

Paul Shaffer, CIRIA/susdrain


Of course there is! So we know that SuDS makes sense yet examples of good SuDS delivery, particularly in residential developments remain frustratingly patchy.


I like many others have responded to various consultations on plans to help mainstream the delivery of SuDS in England over recent years. My parting shot in my last response to a consultation was that if there wasn’t political leadership from the government by way of robust, comprehensive SuDS standards delivery of SuDS would come down to SuDS champions and we’d get no or low quality SuDS schemes. I’ll leave that with you to decide if that has happened?


The SuDS champions have to go out on a limb, engage and inspire colleagues and stakeholders to persuade them that SuDS is the right thing to do. They tirelessly use their passion and entrepreneurial sprit to get SuDS delivered. These champions tend to be SuDS practitioners and those from local authorities. Susdrain’s case studies have born testament to some SuDS successes of these champions particularly in the public realm, or land that local authorities own and manage.


AThe challenge as outlined in CIWEM’s A place for SuDS report is delivering SuDS in new build residential developments. Their ‘Big SuDS Survey’ reported that 70% of respondents suggested that planning policy does not sufficiently encourage SuDS and that only 8% of respondents considered the current non-statutory SuDS technical standards are driving high quality SuDS.


The report concluded that it is policy and institutional barriers that hinder SuDS delivery, NOT their practicalities or the costs. This also supports the assertion that early and effective engagement with the right design team delivers cost effective SuDS that should also deliver multiple benefits.


At a recent Susdrain meeting we discussed the CIWEM report in the context of the Government’ s SuDS review that will be published later in the year. Unsurprisingly Susdrain fully endorses A place for SuDS and its proposals, that include:


  1. Discharge of surface water to the sewer system should be conditional on the inclusion first of high-quality SuDS in new developments.
  2. A clear decision must be taken with regard to the adoption and allocation of maintenance responsibilities for SuDS. This should have a clear and established mechanism for raising funds to ensure the continued effective maintenance and eventual replacement of all SuDS they adopt.
  3. New standards are developed aimed at optimising opportunity to achieve amenity, biodiversity and water quality benefits as well as flood risk reduction. These should reflect the needs of the adopting authority so that they can set out an approval process and adopt with confidence.
  4. The Government should undertake a follow up review of the barriers to retrofitting SuDS in existing developments and make proposals on how retrofitting might be incentivised.


We proposed to work with CIWEM in encouraging the delivery of SuDS, particularly schemes that provide multiple benefits. We’re also keen to see how the proposals from Welsh Government are received as we hope this approach provides inspiration to others on the level of leadership that can be delivered by government.

  • Richard Benwell

    Thanks, Paul, great to have CIRIA’s authority behind these proposals. With time likely to be at a premium this Parliament, at WWT we’re emphasising that improving planning guidelines, strengthening the non-statutory standards, and even improving adoption uptake can be achieved without new legislation. The current DEFRA/DCLG review is a golden opportunity for Government to improve the SuDS regime.

  • Richard ashley

    Of course, your comments focus mainly in England, where, as recent events have demonstrated, much of our development, regulation and management of buildings and environments is hugely dysfunctional. You rightly draw attention to the WG proposals and let us hope that the vision there for implementation of Sch.3 of the FWMA comes to fruition. But, it is policy and how policy is regulated that is at the root of delivery as you state. Last week in Goteborg for the EU INTERREG BEGIN project meeting [] I was told that the UK was always seen across EU and elsewhere as being ahead of the game in regulating and being corruption free. Now UK is seen as essentially corrupt in an intrinsic way, rather than the overt corruption we see in some parts of the world; with the powerful (in this case, housebuilders & developers, landlords, Govt in the pocket of the wealthy media) being able to manipulate the so-called democratically elected government at will. Our failing municipalities – with centrist power and constrained budgets also do not match with the progressive (and now) world-leading municipalities we are seeing in Netherlands and other parts of Europe. Sadly, with the state of UK government and inevitability of Brexit, things are only likely to get worse, in England at least. Let’s hope Wales can get there in its own way.

  • Laura Grant

    Thanks for supporting the recommendations Paul and everyone at Susdrain, it’s great to have so many experts on board. I know we’ve been in limbo for almost ten years now but I really do think the tide is turning following and it’s time for more mainstream implementation of SuDS. We’ve had some really positive conversations with DCLG, Defra, EA and Ofwat about the recommendations so we look forward to some action in the near future!

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