To consider a report on the SuDS Strategy
The Committee considered a report on the SuDS Strategy, Agenda pages 21 to 24, which provided a long term vision for the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) within the Borough with a focus on managing flood risk and improving the water environment.
Councillor Ross, Executive Member for Environment, outlined the expected impact of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which would have given Wokingham Borough Council responsibility for SuDs on new developments. The Government however did not take this element forward instead proposing better use of the planning system and requiring the need to engage with developers.
Francesca Hobson provided an update on the current pressures on flooding and risk management in the Borough and the benefits that would accrue from the adoption of SuDS through the planning process.
Francesca went through the five sections in the SuDS Strategy. She explained that the local plan update suggests that there was a need for 800-900 new houses per annum to be built in the Wokingham Borough catchment and that for this reason any approach to water management needed to be sustainable and appropriate. She explained that the SuDS strategy looked at flood risk, water quality and biodiversity, which had to be an integral part of any strategy. Francesca further stated that the River Loddon was currently failing under the EU Water Framework Directive because of high levels of phosphates found in the water and advised that SuDS offered a guide to the best methods of control for planners and designers taking into account land conditions such as the issue of infiltration where drainage was prevented by underlying clay.
Francesca advised that consultation on the Strategy had started on 28 July and was due to end on 16 September and a number of positive comments had been received. The intention was that the Strategy would be updated and would be a live document which would enable it to be changed more easily and quickly. Due to this process and the fact that it would be included in the Core Strategy, under section CC10, it would have weight in planning terms. It was noted that Wokingham Borough Council was one of the first councils nationally to have such a strategy and the first in Berkshire.
Members raised the following points and questions:
· Taking into account concerns about future expense in relation to maintenance and repairs, Members asked what work was being undertaken with developers to address this? Francesca confirmed that either the Council would adopt the SuDS or developers would be required to put in a process to address this which would involve management companies dealing with the maintenance. In addition the Council would calculate the commuted sums paid by developers to allow the Council to maintain the SuDS in future years. The developer would be required to submit maintenance plans as part of the planning process and the maintenance companies should provide the Council with inspection details on a regular basis. Francesca provided an example of the work being undertaken in Swallowfield where there was a swale and attenuation pond which would be the responsibility of the management company.
· Members queried what would happen if a management company ran out of money or went out of business. Francesca confirmed that the responsibility would fall back on the Council because of the overall responsibility of the Council as a Lead Local Flood Authority to manage surface water under the Flood and Water Management Act. The Council would need to ensure they had the funds available for this eventuality;
· In response to a question about whether there was a system to check existing SuDs and if assets could be designated Francesca responded that the Council has an asset register of features that could pose a flood risk if not maintained properly. The Council currently focussed on assets that they owned, but would then move on to privately owned assets. The Council was required to have a list of assets that could be a threat if not properly maintained. It also had the power to designate a flood risk feature to prevent changes being made without the approval of the Council. Funding was not needed to register assets but was required to carry out inspections;
· Members enquired how the WBC Strategy interfaced with other authorities and an example was cited of the 1000+ houses which were planned to be built near the boundary of Wokingham Without ward? Francesca stated that quarterly meetings were held with the neighbouring local authorities and they did work closely together. Councillor Ross added that there was a Loddon Catchment Partnership which considered, amongst other things, pollution in the River Loddon;
· It was acknowledged that phosphates in water from farming were a problem therefore Members queried what relationships were being built with farmers to address this issue? The meeting was advised that the Council was working with other organisations including the NFU and other farming organisations on how best to tackle this problem. A project currently being looked at in Winnersh to try and reduce phosphates from the M4 and farming was cited.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted