More planning applications held up by sustainable drainage design in England than in Wales

Press release

Planning applications are twice as likely to be blocked or delayed due to sustainable drainage system (SuDS) design in England than in Wales, according to a new report published today by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Wavin.

Based on a representative survey, the report SuDS – perception and progress: A comparison of England and Wales has revealed that 60% of SuDS professionals in England have experienced planning applications being delayed or blocked because of refusal on the grounds of the SuDS design. This compares with only 30% of SuDS professionals in Wales experiencing the same issue.

Sustainable drainage systems aim to manage rainfall in a way similar to natural processes, making use of the landscape and natural vegetation to control surface water. They are used in both urban and rural areas to guard against surface water flooding.

England and Wales have different regulatory frameworks around SuDS, with Wales having introduced new legislation in January 2019 that makes SuDS a mandatory requirement for all new developments of more than one house or where the construction area is 100m2 or more.

According to the report, SuDS is more likely to be the preferred method of surface water management in Wales than in England. 52% of professionals in Wales consider SuDS to be the default option in all projects compared with only 39% of professionals in England holding the same view.

Nathan Baker, ICE Engineering Knowledge Director, said:

“SuDS are increasingly needed in both urban and rural developments to cope with flood risk due to climate change and changes in land use as a result of increasing population. As well as helping to protect homes and businesses from flooding, SuDS also provides benefits such as improving water quality, protecting biodiversity and increasing the amenity of developments.

“It appears that the new framework in Wales is enabling greater delivery of SuDS and potentially a smoother planning process. Delivering SuDS requires an appropriate regulatory framework and also effective collaboration between different stakeholders and professional groups. ICE is supporting SuDS professionals through appropriate knowledge and resources, helping them to tackle the challenges they face.”

Martin Lambley, Product Manager - Stormwater, Wavin, said:

“It is interesting to see the differences between approval of SuDS for England and Wales highlighted by this report. Wales is leading the way with SuDS with their new framework and we are watching with interest to see how the implementation goes. I hope that the findings from Wales will pave the way for further improvements to the framework and planning process in England in the near future. The benefits of SuDS are clear. They reduce the risk of flooding and can also improve water quality, biodiversity and offer benefits for local communities but without innovation, joined up thinking and a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose, they are unlikely to become mainstream. Through its Spotlight Initiative, Wavin aims to promote ‘out of the box’ thinking, innovation and collaboration around the issues of flooding and climate change. The flooding associated with extreme weather events is likely to become more frequent and more extreme. I think that we all need to start thinking more seriously about climate resilience in our built environment and prioritising SuDS as part of the solution.”

The report also shows that SuDS professionals rate the framework in Wales more positively than they do in England. 62% of survey respondents in Wales rated the framework good, very good, or excellent compared with only 40% of respondents in England rating their equivalent framework the same.
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