Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:56 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:56 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, this amendment would ensure that 1 million new homes are built with sustainable drainage systems, or SuDS, helping to protect homeowners against flooding and delivering wider environmental benefits. The ministerial response in Committee was that we need to allow time to see presumption in planning working, given that it was introduced a year ago. However, having spoken with a number of stakeholders, they confirmed that the Government are not putting in place any comprehensive monitoring, such as of how often SuDS are included or not included in new developments or how often viability is cited by developers as a reason for not including them. Nor are they monitoring the quality of the SuDS being introduced, with developers’ proposals tending to be engineering based, like a tank in the ground, which rarely deliver the amenity, water quality or biodiversity benefits of soakaways such as swales and ponds.

The evidence we have is that the system is not working, and I look forward to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who I am sure will have more to say on this matter. Paul Cobbing, the chief executive of the National Flood Forum, has confirmed since Committee that there are significant problems with the delivery of SuDS. The National Flood Forum works with a great many local authorities and communities around the country, and he says that these views are being echoed fairly consistently.

The Minister said in Committee said that the introduction of our amendment could delay housing developments because of the complication of the consenting regime being separate from that for planning applications. We have reflected on that, and this amendment takes the core of the proposal put forward in Committee—that of ending the automatic right to connect to conventional drainage—while avoiding the extra bureaucratic steps. Our amendment means that connection will be the last resort when all other sustainable drainage options have been excluded. Crucially, it will apply to all sites, unlike the existing provisions, which exclude small sites, of which there are around 100,000 approved applications a year and which impact significantly on the flood risk to others.

We believe it is important not to lose sight of future homeowners and the need to protect them from the misery of flooding. I welcome the launch this month of Flood Re, the government-backed scheme to provide affordable insurance to those at the highest risk of flooding, but homes built after 2009 are excluded. Implementing quality SuDS schemes in all new homes would be a low-cost measure—the Government accept that they are low-cost—towards flood protection. Support for delivering flood-resilient homes has come from the Institute of Civil Engineers, the Chartered Institution of Environmental and Water Management, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, every water company and many others. I shall quote from just one of the bodies that has written in support of the amendment, the National Flood Forum: “Your proposed amendment is the single thing that would make the greatest immediate difference”. I beg to move.