IMPROVING SURFACE WATER DRAINAGE A CONSULTATION BY DEFRA RESPONSE FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH INSURERS

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1 IMPROVING SURFACE WATER DRAINAGE A CONSULTATION BY DEFRA RESPONSE FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH INSURERS The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is the trade association for Britain s insurance industry. Our 400 member companies provide over 94% of insurance business in the UK. We represent insurance companies to Government, regulatory and other institutions and are an influential voice on public policy and financial services issues. Summary We fully support the need for the risk of flooding from surface water to be assessed and for Surface Water Management Plans to be prepared as part of an integrated flood management programme. However for this to be successfully implemented we propose that: The Environment Agency should have an advisory and regulatory role, and participate in the plans themselves. In terms of advisory role, the EA should be responsible for preparing a national high-level surface water flood risk map that Local Authorities could use as their base for developing their more detailed local analysis. The Environment Agency s national map should incorporate details of the impact of underground water infrastructure on surface water flooding. To facilitate this, a Floods Bill should establish this new role for the EA and require the water industry to provide the EA with the necessary information to complete such a map. The Environment Agency should also provide a basic tool-kit for Local Authorities to help LAs to complete the map and prepare a management plan. In terms of regulatory role, the Environment Agency should ensure that all LAs complete surface water management plans and provide public feedback on them, including identifying areas for improvement. In terms participating in the plans, the Environment Agency should contribute to the development of, and deliver actions under, the Surface Water Management Plans, as the body responsible for flood risk management of rivers and the coast. They will have to be responsible for cooperating with local authorities in carrying out this work; Local Authorities should be responsible and accountable for producing the Surface Water Management Plans, building on the EA s national surface water flood risk map and using the EA s toolkit to identify how to reduce the risk as necessary. To facilitate this, a Floods Bill should establish this new requirement and provide Local Authorities with the necessary powers to secure full cooperation from all other parties, including the water industry. It will be necessary to ensure that Local

2 Authorities are adequately resourced with the necessary skilled staff to carry this out; there needs to be a new specific budget for producing and implementing the Surface Water Management Plans, containing new money over and above the money allocated in CSR07 for river and coastal flooding. The new budget should have one total headline figure and then be allocated as necessary to the Environment Agency, Local Authorities and any other relevant bodies. To ensure greater use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems we feel that their use for drainage of surface water from all new developments should be made mandatory unless this is impractical, within Planning Statement PPS 25. We feel that responsibility for adoption and maintenance of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems should be allocated to Local Authorities. To further ensure greater use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems we feel that the automatic right to connect surface water drainage to conventional public piped systems should be removed. Use of sustainable urban drainage system alternatives should first be evaluated to see if they can provide a complete solution or at least attenuate flows before any connection to a conventional system can be considered. Detailed response to questions Part 2: Surface Water Management Plans Q.1 Are Surface Water Management Plans the right solution to coordinate surface water drainage? How do they fit with current responsibilities? How else might a strategic approach to surface water flood risk management be achieved? Yes, they should provide a suitable solution as long as the roles and responsibilities for their production are clearly defined and the authorities responsible are adequately resourced with the necessary skilled staff. They don t fit with current responsibilities because at present no one body has any clear responsibility for either assessing or resolving surface water flooding problems. It is intended that the plans themselves will clarify the responsibilities of each stakeholder but responsibilities will need to be clarified for all interested parties to put them together in the first place. Q.2 Could the principles set out in Surface Water Management Plans be delivered through a voluntary arrangement? Or should producing such plans be a requirement in critical drainage areas? The Government should not rely on a voluntary arrangement to deliver such a crucial initiative. The Government should introduce a Floods Bill that establishes a requirement for the production of Surface Water Management Plans, allocates this responsibility to a specific body or type of body (e.g. Local Authorities), and gives that body/type of body the legislative authorities to require all other stakeholders to cooperate with them. Otherwise, there is a

3 risk that the range of stakeholders all have different vested interests and fail to cooperate or agree such plans. Clearly there is a more pressing need for them in critical drainage areas but we feel that they should be produced for all areas to ensure that a sustainable approach to drainage is always used. This is necessary even in areas of no significant flood risk, to ensure that increased run-off does not cause flooding problems or over-charging of sewer systems further downstream. Q.3 If the principles of Surface Water Management Plans were a voluntary code of practice, how could we ensure that drainage stakeholders engage in the process? We do not support a voluntary code of practice, except as an interim measure before a Floods Bill can be implemented. Any interim measure should last for no more than 24 months. Q.4 If production of Surface Water Management Plans was required in critical drainage areas, what would be the best way to ensure this took place? We feel that it is necessary to give one authority overall responsibility for production of the plans and all other interested parties a responsibility to cooperate in their production. It is important that the authority with overall responsibility has the power needed to secure full cooperation from all other parties. Q.5 Do you think that local authorities are the appropriate body to take the lead on producing a Surface Water Management Plan? Yes, although they will have to develop the necessary expertise to do this and they will need to be adequately resourced with the right technical skills. We also propose that the Environment Agency should be responsible for preparing a national high-level surface water flood risk map that Local Authorities could use as their base for developing their more detailed local analysis. The Environment Agency s national map should incorporate details of the impact of underground water infrastructure on surface water flooding. To facilitate this, a Floods Bill should require the water industry to provide the Environment Agency with the necessary information to complete such a map. Q.6 Do local authorities have the appropriate levers to bring about effective participation in preparing Surface Water Management Plans by stakeholders? What more might be required to give local authorities a central role in coordinating surface water drainage? Not at present. We feel that it will be necessary to clarify the roles that all other interested parties need to have in their preparation and to make them responsible for cooperating in their production. As above, we propose that the Environment Agency should be responsible for preparing a high-level surface water flood risk map and that the water industry should be required to provide the Environment Agency with whatever information it requests to complete such a map.

4 Q.7 In two-tier authorities what should be the respective roles of district councils and county councils in developing and implementing Surface Water Management Plans? We agree with the suggestion that the district council should have responsibility for preparing the detail plan as the local,planning authority with county councils cooperating in their production because of their responsibilities for highway drainage. Q.8 What role do you see water companies playing in the Surface Water Management Plan process? What would need to change in order for them to play their part in producing and implementing a Surface Water Management Plan? They must have a responsibility for producing and sharing a model of their drainage system and data on the risk of overcharging from their systems that can inform consideration of surface flooding issues. They must also have responsibility for implementing enhancements to their drainage systems that are agreed necessary to resolve surface flooding problems. We propose that a Floods Bill should be used to make amendments to the Water Industry Act to secure the cooperation of the water industry. Q.9 Do you agree that the Environment Agency would be well placed to play an advisory and/or regulatory role in producing and implementing Surface Water Management Plans? Are existing powers and duties sufficient to achieve this role? Are there other organisations that could provide the quality assurance role? We agree that the Environment Agency should play both an advisory and regulatory role. In terms of advisory role, they should be responsible for preparing a national high-level surface water flood risk map that Local Authorities could use as their base for developing their more detailed local analysis. The Environment Agency s national map should incorporate details of the impact of underground water infrastructure on surface water flooding. To facilitate this, a Floods Bill should require the water industry to provide the Environment Agency with the necessary information to complete such a map. The Environment Agency should also provide a basic tool-kit for Local Authorities to help LAs to complete the map and prepare a management plan. In terms of regulatory role, the Environment Agency should ensure that all LAs complete surface water management plans and provide public feedback on them, including identifying areas for improvement. Furthermore, the Environment Agency must also contribute to the development of, and deliver actions under, the Surface Water Management Plans, as the body responsible for flood risk management of rivers and the coast. They will have to be responsible for cooperating with local authorities in carrying out this work and it will be necessary to ensure that this does not conflict with their proposed advisory/regulatory role. Q.10 Should Internal Drainage Boards assume active leadership in producing Surface Water Management Plans in areas where they have

5 an interest? What would be the main opportunities and barriers to such an approach? We certainly feel that they have an important role to play in areas where they currently exist and they also have expertise that could help with Surface Water Management Plans. However their focus is currently on drainage of rural areas and it could be confusing if they were also given responsibility for Surface Water Management Plans, which have an urban focus. However we see no problem if Local Authorities chooses to discharge responsibility for Surface Water Management Plans through the services of an internal drainage board in their area. Q.11 Do you have any specific comments on the role that other operating authorities could play in Surface Water Management Plans? Where are synergies with existing responsibilities? What about the barriers? They should be responsible for cooperating fully with local authorities in preparation of surface water management plans and, where relevant, in implementing solutions, which are part of them. This extends to the need for all authorities and others, as owners of critical infrastructure or in response to a flood event, to work together in completing an effective resilience plan. Q.12 Do you think that the costs and benefits outlined in the Impact Assessment (Annex B) are reasonable estimates? Do you have further information to help refine the estimates? We have no views on this other than to note the following points: The costs relate only to those local authorities with critical drainage areas. We have said that Surface Water Management Plans should be prepared in all areas, however these should amount to little more than a best practice guidance on urban drainage, in areas without specific problems, therefore it shouldn t impact significantly on cost. The costs do not allow for any assessment of flood risk due to surface water. However this is required anyway and will facilitate preparation of better Surface Water Management Plans. The costs are not intended to resolve existing surface water drainage problems that are highlighted by production of the plans. Q.13 To what extent can spatial planning resolve surface water flooding problems? Can it adequately address existing problems as well as emerging issues from new development? The main way in which spatial planning can address surface water flooding problems is by stopping developments being located in areas where drainage systems that reduce the risk of damage to property from surface water flooding to acceptable levels cannot be provided. It is difficult to see how spatial planning can have any significant impact on existing problems. Q.14 What else might a Surface Water Management Plan include? What technical barriers still need to be overcome?

6 Further options for managing existing problems may need to be considered e.g. disconnecting storm water connections to sewer systems and retro-fitting sustainable drainage solutions for existing properties; opening up culverts in urban areas and routing water through green corridors that can be allowed to flood during extreme weather events. Assessing flood risk from surface water accurately, taking into account the details of the below ground drainage system, the topography above ground and extreme rainfall events is a science that must be developed further. Q.15 Should Surface Water Management Plans be the mechanism for delivering the Flood Risk Management Plans required by the EC Floods Directive (for surface water)? Yes Q.16 How best should the costs of producing Surface Water Management Plans be distributed among the key stakeholders? Are there alternative funding options that could be pursued? No opinion. Q.17 How should implementation of the Surface Water Management Plan be monitored? Should there be some degree of scrutiny in the process? ABI considers it important that one authority is given overall responsibility for ensuring flood risk from all sources is assessed, mapped and available to inform and measure the success of the government s strategy to manage flood risk; to inform the public about the risks that they face and encourage local responsibility and action; and to enable insurers to provide and underwrite flood insurance. We feel that the Environment Agency should be given this responsibility. It is equally important for the government to set targets for reduction in flood risk in line with the agreed plans and overall funding levels and to monitor delivery against these targets. The review of delivery in line with the Surface Water Management Plans should be part of this process. Q.18 How might we ensure that such drainage partnerships are sustained? It will be necessary to cover this in allocating roles and responsibilities to all relevant authorities. They must all have a duty to adhere fully to the agreed Surface Water Management Plan developed and to cooperate in reviewing it with the lead authority on a regular basis. Part 3: Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) Q.19 Do you have any comments on the costs and benefits identified in the partial Impact Assessment? No Q.20 Do you agree that the property owner should have responsibility for property level SUDS features? If you have answered no, please

7 provide reasons and indicate who you think should bear such responsibility. Yes. Q.21 Do you have any comments on mechanisms by which propertylevel SUDS features can be efficiently regulated so that they remain effective? Permitted Development Rights should be changed so that paving over of gardens (not just front gardens as currently proposed) should only be allowed without planning permission if porous surfaces are used, at least in critical drainage areas. Where sustainable drainage systems involve use of water butts for individual properties, legislation will need to be introduced to ensure that they are not disconnected and are properly maintained. However we recognise that this will be difficult to enforce and suggest that it may be more successful if the benefits of water butts are promoted more widely. Q.22 Do you agree that the options in Annex A should be discarded in favour of the three options set out? If you have answered no, please list in order of preference those options within Annex A that you feel should continue to be evaluated and, if possible, provide reasons. Yes. Q.23 Do you consider that local authorities are the most appropriate party to take responsibility for adoption and management of SUDS? Please give your reasons. Yes. This aligns closely with their existing responsibilities for land drainage for ordinary watercourses, surface drainage from roads and public spaces, operation of highway drains and management of green spaces. They are also closely connected with local communities and this is a further service that local people would naturally look to the local authority to provide. Q.24 If this option were to be implemented, which tier of local authority do you feel is the most appropriate one to take on the responsibility for the adoption and management of SUDS in two-tier areas, i.e. districts or counties? District authorities would appear to be the most appropriate but this need not preclude counties and districts working closely together in partnership arrangements as at present. Q.25 Would placing this responsibility on local authorities add to or detract from local authorities overall effectiveness in place-shaping and ensuring high quality service delivery in its area? We feel that it would add to it. Q.26 To what extent do local authorities have in place the skills and capacity that are needed for this work, and over what period of time would it be realistic to gain these skills and capacity?

8 As reported, some already have the skills and others will have to develop them. We have no views on the time this will take. Q.27 Do you consider that sewerage undertakers are the most appropriate party to take responsibility for adoption and management of SUDS? Please give your reasons. No. Their existing responsibilities do not cover management of areas of land or of surface water drainage. Q.28 To what extent do sewerage undertakers have in place the skills and capacity that are needed for this work, and over what period of time would it be realistic for them to gain these skills and capacity? Generally they do not have responsibilities for these tasks at present, therefore they unlikely to have the necessary skills or capacity. Q.29 Do you consider that new specialist drainage undertakings or companies are the most appropriate party to take on responsibility for the adoption and management of SUDS? No Q.30 If such an approach were to be followed, please identify how you feel such an organisation might best be established and how it might be structured by selecting one of the models in paragraph 3.52 and providing further details or by stating other and providing supporting details. No opinions. Q.31 Do you think it would be necessary to specify which configuration should apply or could this be determined area by area? If so, by whom? No opinions. Q.32 Do you consider that it would be a satisfactory outcome if there were to be different organisations with the responsibility for the adoption and management of SUDS in different areas? No, although there may be situations where this could be considered locally to make best use of existing expertise. Q.33 Do you consider that it would be effective and workable for there to be locally agreed solutions (with an identified default organisation) for the organisation most appropriate to take on responsibility for the adoption and management of SUDS? No, although there may be situations where this could be considered locally to make best use of existing expertise. Q.34 What are your comments and views on the above good practice principles and their role in ensuring that SUDS can be implemented in redevelopment schemes and can contribute effectively to making existing sewerage systems more sustainable?

9 We agree that it is necessary to establish good practice principles and support those listed. Q.35 Are there any other principles you feel might usefully be applied? No. Q.36 Do you feel that the principles should be provided as good practice guidance or should they have stronger status? If you feel the latter please indicate how you feel this might ideally be achieved. We feel that use of sustainable drainage systems should be made mandatory, unless impractical, within PPS 25 for all new developments and that best practice guidelines on sustainable drainage systems should be included within the accompanying guidelines Q.37 How important is it that the responsibilities for the adoption and management of SUDS should rest with the same organisation to which the responsibility for Surface Water Management Plans is allocated and why? We do not consider that this is important. Q.38 To what extent do you consider that each of the options proposed and SUDS techniques in general could impede new development or the amount of development that could be accommodated within a given area? The options proposed will necessitate a thorough consideration of drainage issues for all new developments. The benefits of this in terms of reduced flood risk significantly outweigh the additional work involved. We do not consider that there will be any significant reduction in the amount of development that can be accommodated within an area because generally the drainage features can be located within amenity or landscaped areas. Q.39 Are there any forms of development that might need to have some flexibility over whether all elements of SUDS (both source control and public SUDS) are employed in the surface water infrastructure? If so, what criteria could be used to judge such situations and how should the adverse environmental impacts of new developments without SUDS be mitigated? It may be impractical to use SUDS in all areas, for example Small infill developments within urban areas In lower stretches of the floodplain itself, where at times of heavy rain, the water table level is virtually on the surface. Such areas will present significant challenges and although innovative solutions involving underground storage may be possible they are likely to be expensive. Ideally such developments should be avoided. Q.40 What legislative issues would need to be resolved to facilitate the wider uptake of SUDS?

10 We feel that clearly defined roles and responsibilities should be established for all authorities covering all sources of flooding, including surface water flooding and maintenance of sustainable drainage systems. Use of sustainable drainage systems should be made mandatory unless impractical within PPS 25 for all new developments. See also Part 4 below. Part 4: Drainage of surface water to the public sewerage system review of Section 106 of the Water Industry Act 1991 Q.41 Do you agree that the ability automatically to connect surface water drainage from premises under section 106 of the Water Industry Act 1991 should be amended? If you do not, please give your reasons. Yes Q.42 How realistic do you consider this option to be? Please give reasons for your answer and any alternative option you think should be considered. We recognise that this is desirable and what we should ultimately be aiming for but don t think it is realistic as a first step. Q.43 Do you consider that having a conditional ability to connect is more appropriate than option 1? Please give your reasons for your answer. Yes, it allows exceptional cases to be considered within existing urban areas where there is no obvious alternative and no adverse consequence. Q.44 Do you agree with the circumstances set out in paragraph 4.19 where connection should not be allowed? Please give your reasons for your answer(s) and, if you wish, suggest other circumstances you also think should apply. Yes all would potentially result in overcharging of the system, flooding and/or pollution, Q.45 Should connecting surface water drainage from premises to existing public surface water sewers also be controlled? Please give your reasons for your answer. Yes a more sustainable drainage solution should be considered before this is allowed. Q.46 The partial Impact Assessment at Annex C suggests that the options can be put in a hierarchy of effectiveness. Do you agree with the order? Please give your reasons for your answer. Option 4 is clearly the most effective option because it ensures that a more sustainable drainage solution is considered for all new developments before surface water can be connected to any piped drainage system. The order of

11 the other options is less obvious and depends on how they would be implemented because they all allow automatic connections in some circumstances without the need to consider a more sustainable option. Q.47 Which option or options do you think should be taken forward? Please give your reasons for your answer. We feel that Option 4 should be taken forward to ensure that more sustainable options are considered in all situations. Also where the sewerage infrastructure needs to be upgraded to accommodate new developments we feel that the cost of upgrading the system, beyond the benefit to the sewerage contractor of the future increased income from the upgraded system, should be borne by the developer. Any necessary upgrade should be designed to take account of future requirements, allowing for climate change. Q.48 We invite respondents to provide any wider evidence they consider relevant of the costs and benefits of amending the current ability automatically to connect surface water drainage from premises and comment on the assumptions in Annex C. In doing so respondents are invited to weigh costs against environmental and societal benefits such as reductions in diffuse pollution and in flood damage. No comments. Q.49 Could the Government s aims be met other than by legislative change, such as through guidance to the water and sewerage companies and Ofwat on the circumstances in which connection might be considered prejudicial to the operation of the public sewerage system? Please give reasons for your answer. Perhaps to a limited degree, but we feel that this is far less likely to achieve the necessary uptake in sustainable drainage solutions. Q.50 Could the Government s aims set out at paragraph 4.15 be achieved by means of financial incentives alone? Please give your reasons for your answer. Perhaps to a limited degree, but we feel that this is far less likely to achieve the necessary uptake in sustainable drainage solutions. Association of British Insurers April 2008

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