Review urges Defra to revisit national standards for sustainable drainage

An independent review of the arrangements for determining responsibility for surface water and drainage assets has advised Defra to reexamine the case for bringing into effect Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010, “or some equivalent mandatory arrangements”.

The schedule, which has not yet been brought into effect in England, provides for the environment minister to publish national standards for the implementation of sustainable drainage for managing rainwater. It provides that construction work which has drainage implications may not be begun unless a drainage system for the work has been agreed by the “approving body” – the county or unitary authority for the area – which, once the system is properly constructed, will become responsible for its maintenance.

Defra has taken an alternative approach to the delivery and maintenance of SUDS, through changes to the planning regime. Reviewer David Jenkins wrote: “I have drawn attention in this report to a widely and strongly held view among flood risk management practitioners and many of the organisations who have made submissions to me that the present approach is not working.”

The review, commissioned in October 2019, also called on Defra to “re-examine the working of Section 106 of the Water Industry Act of 1991, so as to ensure that the sewerage system is not subjected to unnecessary flood risk through the connection of surface water drainage”.

These were among a number of recommendations set out in a report, published by Defra last week. The department said it will consider the review’s findings in full but that the government is immediately accepting 12 of the recommendations.