FloodingThe Construction Industry Council (CIC) welcomed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee inquiry into future flood prevention, and Sue Illman, Chair of its Flood Mitigation and Resilience Group, has submitted evidence to the Inquiry in support of a range of measures to improve resilience through the use of a comprehensive water management strategy.  This includes the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) as an effective method of managing the potential surface water flood risk arising from new development alongside retrofitting existing development, as a tool in delivering greater resilience in our towns and cities.

Last week an amendment to the current Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 was proposed in the name of Baroness Parminter, Lord Krebs, Lord Kennedy and Baroness Young of Old Scone in the Lords during its Committee Stage, which sought to address surface water management issues, but was rejected.

Flooding and occasional drought have repeatedly affected the UK and yet government has failed to put in place a long-term, comprehensive, integrated, water management programme.  The extent of the costs and the number of properties flooded or at risk have been copiously documented and the Adaptation Sub Committee to the Climate Change Committee continues to highlight the risks of flooding and the necessity for an adaptive approach.

CIC promoted the subject of water management to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, which undertook a Commission of Inquiry, the outcome of which was published in April 2015, entitled Living with Water.  This document included a suite of recommendations, none of which have been adopted by government to date, but many of which are again being actively reviewed in the light of the flooding over this last winter.

Commenting on the Inquiry, Sue Illman said: “Flooding continues to be an issue high on the political agenda, but it is currently focussed around catchment management rather than our towns and cities.  However, managing the surface water running off our offices, houses, roads and streets is equally important if we are to reduce urban flooding and contribute towards alleviating downstream problems.  The legislation to help solve that problem was Section 32 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, the remaining part still to be enacted.”

Commenting on last week’s debate to the Housing and Planning Bill Amendment, Illman said: “The current non-statutory guidance does not secure the resilience we need, whereas enacting some of the key aspects of Section 32, (the government having just rejected enacting the entire Section), such as removing the automatic right to connect to a sewer and to implement statutory National Standards (for quality, quantity, amenity and biodiversity), alongside requiring SuDS for all development, could vastly improve not only the resilience of our urban environment but also its amenity value by requiring the uptake of SuDS.”

Various committees and individuals in government have been critical of the stance that government has taken regarding SuDS, including Lord Krebs, Chair of the Adaptation Sub Committee. Government’s response to his comments via the Secretary of State explained that “The Government will keep the effectiveness of this approach under review, and consider making detailed adjustments where necessary”.

“In the light of both recent and ongoing flooding” Illman suggests “detailed adjustments are now required, particularly as it appears that the uptake of SuDS is not being monitored at all”.