SuDS adoption in England and Wales


Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act (FWMA), which is yet to be fully commenced, deals with SuDS. In particular, the Act calls for the establishment of a SuDS Approving Body (SAB) to be set up within lead local flood authorities (LLFAs).


The responsibilities of the SAB can be delegated to other organisations, such as the local planning authority, but the legal responsibility for drainage matters remains with the LLFA.


The Act requires SAB approval of all new drainage systems for new and redeveloped sites and highways to be obtained before construction can commence. It also requires that the proposed drainage system meets new National Standards for Sustainable Drainage. These National Standards are concerned with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of SuDS.


If the National Standards for SuDS are met, then the SAB will be required to adopt and maintain the approved SuDS that serve more than one property. SuDS serving just one property will remain the responsibility of the property owner. SuDS in highways will be adopted by the highways authority.


The Act also amends Section 106 of Water Industry Act (1991) to make the right to connect surface water to public sewers conditional on the SAB approving the drainage system as meeting the National Standards.


The SuDS provisions in Schedule 3 of the Act make no changes to the right to connect foul water to the public sewer system.


Water and sewerage companies, the Environment Agency, British Waterways, internal drainage boards and the Highways Authority are all statutory consultees to the SAB during the consultation process which should start once the SAB application is submitted. These organisations should be consulted with, where relevant, before any SuDS can be approved.


If possible these organisations should be consulted with at the pre-application stage of the planning process in order to facilitate the SuDS approval process. As the SAB responsibilities are placed with the same local government bodies as the Highway Authority responsibilities, there are clearly opportunities for greater coordination of these roles beyond simple statutory consultation of one by the other.


Especially for new developments within established developed areas SuDS may need to connect to surface water or combined sewers. The detail of the connection is a matter to be agreed between the SAB and the Sewerage Undertaker.


The SAB will be a statutory consultee to the planning process.


To find out further information about the specific roles and responsibilities relating to SuDS and SABs, then please visit Defra’s capacity building e-learning website.


To view the National Standards for Sustainable Drainage please visit Defra’s website.


National Standards for Sustainable Drainage

The English and Welsh Government is currently working closely with the Environment Agency, Local Authorities and House Builders to develop a set of National Standards for sustainable drainage. The standards will reflect the need to reduce flood risk from surface water, improve water quality, improve the environment, and also ensure that the SuDS systems are robust, safe, and affordable and that requirements are predictable.


The National Standards will probably set out the requirements for the design, construction operation and maintenance of SuDS in England and Wales. The standards will apply to domestic and commercial developments and redevelopments which require approval by the SAB. They will set out guiding principles that will help developers and local authorities. These principles include:


  • considering drainage at the earliest stages of site design

  • SuDS can be multifunctional spaces

  • SuDS should follow the management train

  • Rainwater should be managed as close to its source as possible

  • Connection to foul sewer is not permitted.


These National Standards and their accompanying guidance were consulted on in early 2012 and are now being finalised by Defra. Further details will be published here once the content has been fully agreed by Defra.


For further details on the National Standards please visit the Defra website.


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