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Should England make Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) mandatory on new developments like Wales?

As of the 7th January 2019, all new developments over 100m2 in Wales must include Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) to prevent problems caused by excessive runoff and impermeable surfaces. SuDS can help to reduce flood risk and also have many other additional benefits which could be of interest to members of the public. With this in mind, when will SuDS become mandatory for developments in England?

Currently in England, SuDS are not mandatory for planning applications and on new developments. In England, the revised National Planning Policy Framework states that major developments should incorporate SuDS unless it would be inappropriate to do so. Environment secretary Michael Gove wrote in a letter to a Commons Committee that existing planning guidance is “encouraging the uptake of SuDS” and is currently working to update guidance regarding “construction and maintenance arrangements.”

SuDS provide a variety of benefits, as well as reducing flood risk. They aim to manage rainfall close to the source and mimic natural processes to control the volume of surface water. Benefits of SuDS include:

  • Flood risk management.
  • Reduced pressure on main supplies.
  • They can be useful in both flood and drought conditions.
  • Improved water quality.
  • Increased biodiversity and ecology.
  • Increased well-being of residents.
  • Enhanced opportunities for education and amenity.

Click here to download our “Multiple Benefits of SuDS” resource for more information.


In Wales, the new legislation which is a part of Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act (2010) requires a shift from below-ground, piped drainage infrastructure and single-point storage towards open and green forms of water conveyance, treatment, storage and disposal.  From the 7th January 2019, any new schemes must manage water on or as close to the surface and source of runoff as possible. Pollution must also be managed at source so that it does not require engineered downstream drainage infrastructure to treat it. Generally, the local authority will become the SuDS Approval Body (SAB) and make decisions on planning applications, although there are transitional arrangements in place for existing planning applications or where the valid application has already been registered, where by approval from a SAB will not be required if an application for the approval of the reserved matters is made before 7th January 2020.

In Wales, from the 7th January 2019 onwards:

  • Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) will be required for managing surface water on all new developments with plans to build more than one house or where the construction area is 100m2 or more.
  • Drainage systems for all new developments must be designed and built in accordance with statutory SuDS standards.
  • Local authorities will become the SuDS Approving Body (SAB) for planning applications.
  • Before construction on a development can begin, the SuDS schemes must be approved by the local authority acting in its SAB role. Compliant SuDS that are built and function in accordance with the approved proposals, as well as any SAB conditions of approval, will be adopted by the SAB.

If SuDS were to become mandatory in England, developers would have to work closely with infrastructure engineers, developers, architects, planners and SABS in order to include and incorporate effective SuDS to the planned development. This is important for minimising the potential loss of land in a development and maintaining the projects commercial viability. The use of porous surfaces, swales and SuDS used to drain roads and roofs will reduce the loss of available land and will not affect the commercial viability of projects.

There are many different types of SuDS that can be applied to existing households and new developments.  More information on them can be found in our booklet, which can be downloaded here.

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