SuDS – A New Direction

The recent National SuDS Conference highlighted a new direction for sustainable drainage techniques such as concrete block permeable paving. SuDS are now seen as a local, design-led issue and integral part of the planning process, not just engineering measures driven by long-delayed legislation. This move opens the door for greater involvement by architects, master-planners and landscape designers.

At a time when government continues to delay both publication of long-promised National Standards and implementation of SuDS requirements enshrined in the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act, local authorities are increasingly taking the initiative. The most recently published draft of the National Standards for SuDS allows for more stringent, local requirements set through planning. But, in any event, local planning authorities are free to adopt policies and local requirements, through ‘supplementary planning documents’, for SuDS – now.

The National Planning Policy Framework already encourages the use of SuDS. But the Code of practice for surface water management for development sites, BS 8582:2013, goes much further, linking water management and development planning from the start. It seeks to maximize opportunities for using space in a multi-functional way and for enabling SuDS features to form part of the character of the development: both key features of concrete block permeable paving. And it looks for: “evidence that permeable surfaces and surface based conveyance and storage systems are to be used wherever practical.”

All the SuDS guidance is clear that water runoff should be managed at its source and on or near the surface – something that permeable paving is well-suited to as a source control feature. It can supply a gradual supply of clean water for recycling, irrigation, biodiversity and real amenity use within the landscape. SuDS offer imaginative designers opportunities, rather than just technical problems to be solved. Taking an holistic approach, architects, landscape designers and master-planners are embracing SuDS as one of the key design considerations from the very start of their projects, exploring innovative solutions that form an integral part of an overall scheme. Drainage engineering then becomes simply a part of the process  – not the primary driver and an end in itself.

The Code of practice provides invaluable guidance for planners in developing local guidance and making the most of SuDS. In addition, Interpave launched a new discussion document – SuDS and Permeable Paving Today – at the Conference. Intended for all those involved with the development process – including designers and developers, and local authority planning, drainage, building control and highways officers – it explores the latest thinking on SuDS and initiatives to deliver them now, with or without the Flood and Water Management Act. It also re-examines the role of concrete block permeable paving as a key SuDS technique. The document is freely available via: www.paving.org.uk/commercial, where news of latest developments, further guidance documents and various case studies can also be found.