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Uncertainty over maintenance holds back SuDS adoption

The lack of a clear framework for the maintenance and performance of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) is seen as the key barrier to their effective delivery and adoption, a national survey has found.

The research, conducted by Engineering Nature’s Way, the knowledge-sharing initiative for SuDS, also revealed that most (79%) of respondents working with SuDS day-to-day believed the UK Government is not fully committed to long-term delivery, and 72% believed it had not committed sufficient funds for satisfactory flood resilience.

SuDS: The State of the Nation 2016 sought the views of professionals working with SuDS at the ‘grass roots’. As the Government prepares for a review next year of the effectiveness of delivering SuDS through the planning system in England, the survey generated more than 360 detailed responses from consulting engineers, local authority professionals and developers across the UK.

The majority of respondents (69%) believed that uncertainty around the maintenance and through-life performance of SuDS components is presenting barriers to adoption.  Most (73%) also believe more standard technical guidance is needed on the long-term maintenance of SuDS components.

“The survey provided an unprecedented level of personal insights from professionals working ‘at the coal face’ with SuDS, with over 1000 additional comments offered,” said Phil Collins, European Sales Director of Hydro International.

“Strong concerns were expressed about the lack of a clear national framework for maintenance and adoption, together with uncertainty over which authorities or organisations should be liable for SuDS components over their lifecycle.  Comments suggested a lack of confidence amongst some authorities about taking over ownership of SuDS from developers.

“There were also worries about the lack of arrangements in place for inspection of SuDS post-construction and for monitoring their ongoing performance, as well as for enforcement if SuDS features are not maintained as designed.  Some people felt that a clearer national policy is needed to place a duty on public authorities, including water companies, to adopt SuDS.”

While over half (56%) of respondents believed that it is too easy for developers to avoid implementing SuDS, the vast majority (73%) agreed that designing from a full SuDS toolbox would facilitate a sustainable approach.  Most also agreed that proprietary SuDS components are essential to the SuDS toolbox (77%), and can facilitate Green Infrastructure (70%) as well as help to ensure the long-term maintenance of SuDS features (63%).

Most (68%) agreed that affordability should not be a valid reason for developers to gain exemption from SuDS and 60% agreed that making SuDS compulsory would not compromise the viability of developments.

Collins continued: “We are grateful to everyone who completed the survey.  In particular, it was pleasing that so many people took time to provide detailed insights in their additional comments to the survey questions. 

“The comments have provided a deep professional insight into the frustrations felt by many professionals working with SuDS, either as design engineers, or in local authorities.  I would commend anyone to read the survey report to get a picture of the issues experienced by people from day to day.”

Important new regulations and technical guidance have been published during the past 12 months for England, Scotland and Wales. The survey, which was conducted between March and May 2016, also investigated whether or not industry professionals believe current policy and practice is now sufficient to enable them to deliver effective flood risk and surface water management schemes. 

Most respondents (61%) welcomed the new standards and guidance now in place for designing SuDS schemes and considered them to make widespread uptake more likely. However, there were some concerns over the complexity of some industry guidance, as well as the consistency of application and interpretation of standards across the country.

The Engineering Nature’s Way initiative provides a forum for best practice information and opinions on SuDS policy and practice in the UK, co-ordinated by Hydro International. More details can be found at www.engineeringnaturesway.co.uk.

Author: James Brockett,
Topic: Flooding & Urban Drainage
Tags: Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS)

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