Call to tackle sewage and floods with 12-year-old law

Experts have urged ministers to use a 12-year-old law to ensure that homebuilders in England provide more green spaces to curb the risk of flooding and sewage pollution.

Successive ministers have resisted the move, fearing it would hinder meeting targets for homes and end a builder’s right to connect to existing sewers.

Adam Vaughan 

Forty planning, engineering and environment groups have written to the prime minister, urging him to implement schedule three of the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act.

This would mean companies building and maintaining “sustainable drainage systems” (SuDs), such as ponds, planters and permeable paving, so drains were not swamped during heavy rain. “Implementation is essential to address growing surface water flood risk [and] tackling the sewage pollution problem,” the signatories, including the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Town and Country Planning Association and Water UK, the trade body, said. The government has been reviewing the issue, and a decision was initially due in October.

The Times understands the advisory group on the review is in favour of implementing schedule three.

“Backward thinking and policies mean 1.5 million homes have been built in a way that doesn’t manage water well. Climate change-driven extreme weather advances and sewers are full to overflowing,” Terry Fuller, chief executive of The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, which organised the letter, said.

The groups behind the letter say that while some developers perceive SuDs as “difficult and expensive”, that was not true and they could even be cheaper than conventional drainage.

The National Federation of Builders said: “There is a likelihood that schedule three becomes the 12th tax on industry in the last two years.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “The government is reviewing the case for implementing schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. This would introduce standards for most new drainage systems and would make it compulsory that systems gain regulatory approval before any construction work commences.”