Government review to probe planning influence on SUDS take-up

Planning minister Gavin Barwell (pictured) yesterday provided an update on the government’s progress with a review of planning legislation and policy as they relate to sustainable drainage.

He reported the Department of Communities and Local Government had formally commenced work on the review –the primary purpose of which is to examine the extent to which planning has been successful in encouraging the take-up of sustainable drainage systems in new developments.

He said DCLG officials, together with those from DEFRA and the Environment Agency, are gathering evidence now with a view to substantially completing the process by spring 2017 “to ensure that the findings of the review are available to inform the Committee on Climate Change’s adaptation sub-committee’s progress report on the national adaptation programme, to be published in summer 2017”.

The government committed to this review in May, in response to a cross-party House of Lords amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill which sought to remove the automatic right to connect to a public sewer for surface water, as part of a bid to encourage the adoption of SUDS and ease flood risk. Section 171 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 now includes a requirement for the Secretary of State to carry out a review of planning legislation, government policy and local planning policies concerning sustainable drainage in relation to the development of land in England.

Barwell provided the update in response to a new clause tabled by shadow housing minister Roberta Blackman-Woods to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which sought similar outcomes on SUDS to the clause tabled earlier this year to the Housing and Planning Bill. Blackman-Woods described the new clause as “first, very much a probing one, so that we may put questions to the minister about the review, and secondly, to reiterate the importance of undertaking that review before the secretary of state exercises new powers that the government have said are made under the Bill in order to bring forward more development”.

She explained she had no visibility of the progress of the review, and that “lots of developments are going up—as we speak, I suspect—that might be liable to flooding but do not have SUDS in place. As we are planning to build about 1 million new homes between now and 2020, it is important that the Government get on with the review.”

Barwell noted “there has already been a significant policy shift in the right direction”. He detailed: “Even before the changes to planning in major developments that came into effect in April last year, the NPPF set out some strict tests, which all local planning authorities are expected to follow, to protect people and property from flooding. As part of that policy, priority should be given to SUDS in all developments—except very minor ones—in areas at risk of flooding. The policy has now been strengthened to make clear our expectation that SUDS will be provided in all major new developments, whether or not in a flood risk area, unless they can be demonstrated to be inappropriate.

“As well as strengthening policy expectations, we have extended national guidance to set out considerations and options for sustainable drainage systems, including in relation to their operation and maintenance. Lead local flood authorities have been made statutory consultees for planning applications for major developments, to ensure that local planning authorities have access to appropriate technical expertise and advice.”

Blackman-Woods withdraw the new clause having received the minister’s information on the progress of the review.