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Rush to Construct New Homes Increase Flood Risk

Current plans to build one million new homes by 2020 poses a major flood risk unless the UK Government stops its seven-year freeze on new developments being legally required to implement sustainable drainage systems.

Systems such as green roofs, ponds, and permeable paving reduce the risk of floods by slowing the ingress of water into drains.

The risk of flooding is expected to go up as climate change creates heavier rainstorms. At present, however, new developments can connect to existing drains, adding to the danger of potential flooding.

In 2010 a law was passed that required new developments to use sustainable drainage systems but the government halted the rules to save money for developers and hurry up new home production. A recently published report found that the freeze has simply increased overall flood risk without saving money.

Terry Fuller of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, which contributed to the report, said that the primary obstacles to wider sustainable drainage system implementation were neither technical nor financial, so he saw no reason why the UK government should not lift the freeze.


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Martin Spray of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said that sustainable drainage systems can also provide valuable wildlife habitats. He said that the freeze is a loss for both wildlife and communities.

Other organisations involved in the report include the RSPB and WWF, the Association of Drainage Authorities, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Paul Cobbing of the National Flood Forum said that action was required to ensure that flood-resilient communities were being created for both today and the future.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said that strong safeguards were put in place to halt improper development in flood-prone areas, and it was evident that sustainable drainage systems were necessary for reducing the risk of surface water flooding.

Current planning rules encourage the implementation of sustainable drainage systems, but a survey of over 500 industry experts for the report found that only 8% of respondents believe that existing standards are propelling effective sustainable drainage systems in England.

The Committee on Climate Change, the official advisers for the government, also found that out of all 2015 planning applications in flood-prone areas, only one in seven mentioned sustainable drainage.

The new report also found that many sustainable drainage systems presently installed were of substandard quality. Government research also showed that they were less expensive to build and maintain than traditional drainage systems.

Last year the Government rejected proposals to increase sustainable drainage system use via the Housing and Planning Act. Lord John Krebs, then at the Committee on Climate Change, commented that in the not-too-distant future, people would look back and comment, “What were they thinking?”


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