Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Crossbench 6:00 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for introducing this amendment so eloquently. We discussed it at some length in Committee and therefore at this point I will be brief. As the noble Baroness has said, the Government’s position is that the changes introduced in April 2015 need time to bed down so that their impact can be assessed further. The noble Baroness has already referred to exactly how this assessment will take place, but it is important to note that while we wait for the review, many more new homes are being built, and some of them will be at risk of flooding if we do not have proper and sustainable urban drainage to deal with surface water flooding.

As I said in Committee, as long as developers have an automatic right to connect to existing sewerage pipes, there is no real incentive or need for them to implement SuDS. I referred then to the survey undertaken by the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, of which I am the chairman and thus declare an interest. We surveyed about 100 planning applications in flood-prone areas and found that only 15% of them had installed SuDS. Barratt Homes has subsequently reported that in 2014-15, a third of its developments contained no SuDS provision. At the moment the policy is simply not being taken up in the way it should be. Moreover, when SuDS are installed, it is not clear who is responsible for maintaining them. The amendment seeks to ensure that SuDS are the default option in new developments. It achieves this by removing the automatic right to connect to existing sewerage systems, which would become the absolute exception once all other options have been explored.

As has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, this amendment has the support of many industry, professional and environmental bodies, including most importantly Water UK, which represents the industry that has to deal with drainage problems when they occur. I should like to quote the Construction Industry Council which has said that,

“the Ministerial Statement that now guides planning was not rooted in all the research and development that had been undertaken by Defra over the last 10 to12 years”.

This has left,

“voids in policy as aspects of Schedule 3 are now unresolved”.

It is worth pointing out that, in this regard, England is lagging behind the devolved Administrations. Northern Ireland has ended the automatic right to connect; Scotland has a general requirement for SuDS in new development; and Wales has much more extensive SuDS standards than those in England. We have heard the debates in Committee. We know that Parliament has already legislated for the requirement for SuDS in Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, but the Government have chosen not to implement it. We know that Sir Michael Pitt, in his review after the 2007 floods recommended that SuDS should be incorporated in all new developments, so now is the time for the Government to respond to this amendment by saying, “Yes, we agree”. This is a very simple and straightforward way of ensuring that SuDS are implemented and that new developments—the very large number of new homes that will be built—are properly protected from the risks of surface-water flooding.