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Sustainable drainage – it’s the law

20 May 2010

Before the General Election, Parliament passed into law the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 that covers sustainable drainage. It includes far-reaching requirements on future construction work, and paves the way for permeable paving to become the norm for hard surfaces.

Governmental planning policy guidance throughout the UK already requires use of SUDS(Sustainable Drainage Systems) such as concrete block permeable paving on all developments wherever possible - supported by Building Regulations, the Manual for Streets and Code for Sustainable Homes. The new Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which received Royal Assent on 8 April, goes much further. It applies to any construction work that creates a building or other structure, including “anything that covers land (such as a patio or other surface)”, that will affect the ability of land to absorb rainwater. In other words: all new buildings, roads and other paving, whatever the size, type or scale of the project.
It may well apply to work that does not need planning permission, or indeed Building Regulations compliance, and, because the act is unconnected with planning law, current ‘permitted development’ rules do not provide exemption either. When the Act takes effect, applicable construction works cannot start until drainage systems have been approved in line with national standards for SUDS. The existing right to connect surface water drainage systems to public sewers will be restricted to those approved under the new SUDS regime.  All approved drainage systems will be adopted, except those on single properties and public highways (adopted by Highways Authorities).
It is expected that the national standards, which must be met to gain approval, will be published by the government next year and will cover the design, construction, maintenance and operation of SUDS. In the case of concrete block permeable paving, detailed guidance has already been developed by Interpave on all these issues - based on long-term, extensive international experience - which should form the basis of national standards.
To coincide with the draft legislation, a new edition of Interpave’s definitive Understanding Permeable Paving guidance is now available from the Interpave information resource: Interpave is the Precast Concrete Paving and Kerb Association and a product association of the British Precast Concrete Federation Ltd.

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