England and Wales legislation & regulation

This page outlines legislation relating to SuDS for England and Wales including:



Flood and Water Management Act

The Flood and Water Management Act received Royal assent in April 2010. The Act provides a more comprehensive management of flood risk for people, homes and businesses, protects water supplies to the consumer and helps safeguard community groups from unaffordable rises in surface water drainage charges.


The key features of the Act include:


  • The Environment Agency will be the lead body to provide a strategic  overview of all flood and coastal erosion risk management and unitary and county councils will lead in managing the risk of all local floods

  • Introduce an improved risk based approach to reservoir safety

  • Encourage the uptake of sustainable drainage systems by removing the automatic right to connect to sewers and providing for unitary and county councils to adopt SuDS for new developments and redevelopments (commonly referred to as Schedule 3)

  • Widen the list of uses of water that water companies can control during periods of water shortage, and enable Government to add to and remove uses from the list

  • Enable water and sewerage companies to operate concessionary schemes for community groups on surface water drainage charges

  • Reduce ‘bad debt’ in the water industry by amending the Water Industry Act 1991 to provide a named customer and clarify who is responsible for paying the water bill

  • Make it easier for water and sewerage companies to develop and implement social tariffs where companies consider there is a good cause to do so, and in light of guidance that will be issued by the Secretary of State following a full public consultation


The Act introduces into law the concept of flood risk management rather than ‘flood defence’ and provides the framework for delivery of flood and costal erosion risk management through national and local risk strategies.  The Act requires Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFA’s) to maintain a register and record important flood risk management strategies and to investigate flooding to determine which authority has responsibility.


Schedule 3, proposed to establish a SuDS approving body (SAB) at the county and unitary level the Schedule establishes a SuDS approving body (SAB). However, this was not enacted and the National Planning Policy Framework was amended to require (where appropriate) the delivery of SuDS for major developments. It was the intention, that the SAB would have responsibility for the approval of proposed drainage systems in new developments and redevelopments (in accordance with National Standards for Sustainable Drainage).

Schedule 3 also would have amended Section 106 of water Industry Act 1991 to make the right to connect surface water to the public sewer conditional on the SAB approving the drainage of the site. Schedule 3 also required the SAB to adopt and maintain approved SuDS that serve more than one property.

Instead of passing Schedule 3, government made amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework to stipulate that decisions on planning applications relating to major developments (10 dwellings, or equivalent non-residential developments) should ensure that SuDS are put in place, unless demonstrated to be inappropriate. The Local Planning Authority in consultation with the Lead Local Flood Authority needs to approve drainage schemes (in line with non-statutory standards) and ensure they are appropriately maintained.


For further information please click here.


Flood Risk Regulations

The purpose of the Flood Risk Regulations is to transpose the European Floods Directive into domestic law and to implement its provisions.  The regulations are based on a four stage process of:


  • Undertaking a Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment (PFRA). 

  • Identifying flood risk areas.

  • Preparing flood hazard and risk maps.

  • Preparing flood risk management plans.


The duty is placed on the Environment Agency as the lead authority and Lead Local Flood Authorities are responsible at a local level for preparing flood risk assessments, flood risk maps and flood risk management plans. The first stage is the preparation of PFRA for submission to the Environment Agency in June 2011.  


Planning and development process

Planning policy provides guidance to local authorities on what can be built where.  National policy states what should be included in strategic and local policies.  Having SuDS policies at strategic level will assist in achieving multiple benefits at local level. The stronger the policy at strategic level the more likely the multiple benefits will be achieved. 


It is important to note that there is likely to be a change in National policy with the introduction of localism and a new National Planning Framework.  Therefore at this time we are uncertain how sustainable drainage will be included in the new planning framework.



The National Planning Policy Framework replaced the Policy Planning Statements in 2012 and sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. It sets out the Government’s requirements for the planning system only to the extent that it is relevant, proportionate and necessary to do so. It provides a framework within which local people and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive local and neighbourhood plans, which reflect the needs and priorities of their communities.


For further information please click here.



Wales has a different local government structure to England. Planning Policy Wales (PPW) sets out the land-use planning policies of the Welsh Assembly Government and is supplemented by a series of technical Advice notes (TAN). The Welsh Government has a duty under the Section 121 of the Government of Wales Act to promote sustainable development in the delivery of its functions. The following policy statements relate to sustainable drainage in Wales:


Policy Statement


Tan15: Development and flood risk

  • Encourages the use of sustainable drainage to manage surface water

  • Development should not create additional runoff when compared with the pre-development situation

Tan5: Nature conservation and planning

  • Encourages policies that enhance or preserve biodiversity.


Permitted Development Rights

In October 2008 Permitted Development Rights were introduced for householders wishing to pave over their front gardens. This enforces that if the surface to be covered is more than 5m2, planning permission will be needed for laying traditional, impermeable driveways that do not control rainwater running off onto roads. Planning permission is not needed if a new driveway uses permeable (or porous) surfacing, which allows water to drain through, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt, or if the rainwater is directed to a lawn or border to drain naturally.


For further information please click here.


Building Regulations

Part H of the Building Regulations covers the requirements for drainage and waste disposal and came into effect in 2002.  Sustainable drainage is the preferred option for dealing with rainwater from the roof of the buildings and paved areas around the building. If a soakaway or other infiltration device is not practical then rainwater should be discharged to a watercourse or, if that is not reasonably practicable, a sewer.


For further information please click here.


Legislation and related regulation in England and Wales

Legislation affecting drainage is complex. Sustainable drainage was not widely delivered in England and Wales when much of the legislation was passed, so are not dealt with explicitly.


Some of the relevant legislation and guidance is:



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