You may have seen on the BBC Today programme this morning, or subsequently read on the BBC website, a report that gave the impression that house builders had been lobbying the government to delay the implementation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) standards purely on the basis of minimising costs for developers and irrespective of the impact this may have on the environment. Needless to say the broadcaster in question misrepresented the position of house builders and in the current context of flooding in much of the country this is clearly inflammatory and emotive. Even worse, this came after we spent considerable time and effort briefing the broadcaster on the issues and on our constructive involvement in the process to date. HBF has therefore issued a statement refuting allegations that the industry’s lobbying had delayed the implementation of systems designed to prevent flooding. A copy of the text can be found below. As a result, BBC has acknowledged the need to amend its online story.
Actually, our concerns in this area have been with regards to the long-term adoption of the system after installation. We do not dispute the need for SuDS. House builders have been installing such systems for many years. The legislation will allow for the creation, by county and unitary authorities, of 152 SuDS Approving Bodies (SABs). However, in recent months it has become increasingly evident that many authorities, in what is clearly a tight financial environment for local government, will not be able to have SABs in place before April 2014.
Failure by councils to have this infrastructure in place by the date of final implementation could have been extremely damaging to the progress of delivering new homes. Under the new rules, without approval from a local authority SAB, developers will be prevented from starting on site. Local authorities should therefore be given the necessary time to establish these bodies.
Rushing ahead with flawed new rules in spite of good sense or in order to meet political timescales would have been potentially disastrous. We are pleased that the government has now recognised this and during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday evening the minister acknowledged that implementation will take longer than earlier envisaged. There are other issues that also need resolving before full implementation such as the process for constructing SuDS across third party land.
As with other important industry issues, HBF will continue to vigorously represent the views of our members in discussions with politicians and field media enquiries on this matter.
HBF statement on today’s media stories
“Any suggestion that house builders concerns over costs are delaying drainage system installation is a total misrepresentation and strongly refuted by HBF.
“House builders have been installing SuDs for almost a decade and providing the drainage systems to mitigate flood risk as required by Government and specified by Local Authorities and the environment agencies. Whilst above ground solutions could be more costly than below ground ones, house builders install the systems specified and agreed by Local Authorities.
“House builders’ primary current concern on this issue relates to the process for taking responsibility for long term maintenance – adoption – of a drainage system. The hugely concerning area for SuDs is that from April, maintenance responsibility for them transfers to ‘SuDS Approval Bodies’ (SABs) that should have been established by Local Authorities. Currently very few of these SABs are actually ready or in a position to serve their purpose and without approval house builders will be prevented from starting work on new housing sites and providing much needed new housing. House builders – and Local Authorities- have thus suggested a delay in implementing the new long term maintenance (adoption) arrangements to give councils time to fully assume their responsibilities and ensure that a lack of local authority resource does not prevent work on new house building sites getting underway. In the meantime house builders will continue to install the specified systems and push Government and Local Authorities to establish the adoption process required by legislation as quickly as possible.
“After all the work we have done with Government, HBF is disappointed about the delay to setting up the processes for the adoption of SuDS. Above all else house builders are seeking certainty over the systems they will be required to install and the processes for having them approved by the 152 local authority adopting bodies. We will continue to work with councils’ representatives and the government to bring the new processes into place as soon as possible.
“Very few new homes are built on flood plains. Those that are have to meet extremely stringent mitigation requirements. Ultimately Local Authorities are responsible for where housing development takes place in their areas – and for agreeing the drainage systems required.”
David O'leary Deputy Director of External Affairs
Home Builders Federation
London, SE1 9PL
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