Expert demands speedier action on flood legislation

Understanding SuDs ‘toolbox’ vital to better future

Alex Stephenson - director of Hydro Internationals stormwater division and chairman of the British Water SuDs Focus Group

ONE of the country’s leading drainage specialists has called on the UK Government to show renewed urgency in implementing sustainable drainage systems that tackle surface water flooding.
Alex Stephenson, director of Hydro International’s stormwater division and chairman of the British Water SuDs Focus Group, says a more realistic and pragmatic understanding of the techniques available could help the progress of new legislation designed to alleviate flood threats to homes and businesses.
Stephenson endorsed calls from MPs on the Environment Food and Rural Affairs committee to explain what is holding up the implementation of the Flood and Water Management Act which is currently working its way through parliament.
He said: “As the EFRA committee report on the Draft Water Bill has highlighted, the atrocious weather of 2012 has only served to underline the urgency in tackling surface water flooding to protect homes and businesses. Yet the measures needed were first laid out in the Pitt Review more than five years ago.”
Stephenson blames “misperceptions” for stalling wider SuDS implementation and said an “idealistic view’ of SuDS as a purely natural, above-ground feature is creating fears among developers and contractors that they are impractical and expensive.
He added: “It seems the house builders’ lobby have had a key role in holding up progress of the Flood and Water Management Act.
“To stop the deadlock, a wider understanding is needed that proprietary, or hard-engineered drainage systems save land and costs while complementing, enhancing, or occasionally replacing purely natural solutions.
“Developers must be reassured that they don’t need to give up much-needed development land to meet the guiding SuDs principles of holding back surface water as close as possible to the point it falls, and mimicking natural drainage paths.
“Meeting sustainable objectives is fundamental to future drainage infrastructure, but sometimes well-engineered technology can even do better than nature itself in a way that is repeatable, measurable and maintainable. Tackling misperceptions about the range of solutions available in the SuDs toolbox is a vital element in securing the changes needed.”

Image – Stephenson: developers don’t need to give up land to meet SuDs principles.