House of Lords urged to mitigate flood risk in Housing Bill

Leading civil engineers, environmental scientists, water experts, water companies and architects are lobbying the House of Lords to ensure the incoming housing law protects new and existing homes from flooding.

The Housing and Planning Bill debate is currently passing through the Lords.

The group, comprising a number of organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the CIWEM, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and Water UK, said that new development will place additional pressure on critical drainage and flood defence infrastructure.

It is appealing to the Lords to amend the Bill so that it restricts developers’ automatic right to directly connect new houses to existing drainage systems and compel them to integrate low-cost measures such as sustainable drainage systems (SuDS), which compensate for the additional flow that new developments create.

The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 legislated to this effect, but the law was never implemented. Instead, planning guidelines were produced to require SuDS, but the group said the measure has been toothless in promoting greater flood risk mitigation on new developments, and has failed to promote the added benefits of sustainable drainage for water quality, biodiversity and amenity.

The group said an amendment tabled by Baroness Kate Parminter last month will be instrumental in mitigating flood risk.

Use of sustainable drainage could save millions of pounds for communities and businesses by reducing the £1.3-£2.2 billion of flood damage each year in England. Natural features can also add to the value of new developments by making them attractive, safer places to live.

Former ICE president and flooding expert Professor David Balmforth said: “Flooding is one of the major challenges facing society today, yet we continue to add to the problem by building new homes in a way that makes flooding more likely. This does not have to be the case as there is a proven and low cost solution using SuDs.

The Pitt Review and the Committee on Climate Change view them as a force for good; so should the law. We urge the Lords to send the Commons a Bill that will help protect society from flooding.”

CIWEM chief executive Terry Fuller said: “It is absurd that in the current age we still allow developers to build homes and automatically connect to the sewer system without any consideration of the impact of doing so. This amendment would set us on the right path to encourage developers to consider flood risk from the outset.”

Last week, the water sector urged MPs to support a “vital” new clause added to the Housing and Planning Bill by the House of Lords, which would ensure flood prevention measures are put in place at new housing developments.

A version of this news story first appeared on wwtonline

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