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A win for people and nature: SuDS will become compulsory after over 10 years of hard work

Tom Ash, Policy & Advocacy Officer at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, discusses the benefits we'll see in regards to flood prevention, habitat creation, water quality and more that will come from the requirement for all new developments to have sustainable drainage systems (SuDS)

January 2023

The Government announced on 10th January that they will implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which requires all new developments to have sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).

This should mean new developments in England will include biodiverse mini wetlands such as rain gardens and ponds to help prevent flooding of people’s homes and businesses.

These urban wetlands, and other green infrastructure resulting from the requirement such as green roofs and tree pits, will capture and slow rain water, preventing flooding and creating pockets of biodiversity in towns and cities. Not only will this decision provide £3bn in reduced flood damages, but it will provide a natural resource for people’s mental wellbeing by putting blue and green space in urban areas directly where people live and work.

SuDS can often remove the need for traditional drainage, removing pressure on an overflowing sewer system, and come at no additional cost, while providing multiple further benefits, including improvements in water quality through natural filtration by plants and habitat for wildlife.

The decision follows over 10 years of campaigning by WWT and others in the sector for the implementation of the requirement for SuDS following the passing of the original law in 2010. New SuDS will help create urban wetlands for wellbeing, which WWT called for in Creating Urban Wetlands for Wellbeing: A Route Map earlier this year. The blue space found in urban wetlands has been found to be particularly effective at reducing stress compared to green space so this new creation of urban wetlands will help tackle the poor mental wellbeing many people face.[1]

Making the most of this new requirement will need efforts from across the sector to ensure implementation delivers benefits for wildlife and people. This means pushing for strong standards for high quality SuDS that ensure they provide benefits for wellbeing and biodiversity, and opportunities for communities to connect with nature, alongside managing water. In particular, natural, above-ground SuDS will need to be the default standard, rather than below ground SuDS, such as storage tanks, which provide no benefits beyond water retention during high rainfall. Furthermore, the SuDS Approval Bodies which will sign off on SuDS for new developments and will sit within Lead Local Flood Authorities will need to be properly resourced to analyse SuDS plans and ensure the maintenance of SuDS’ multiple benefits.

Nevertheless, the decision is a clear positive in the fight against the climate, nature and wellbeing crises and will contribute to seeing 100,000 hectares of wetlands created and restored across the country as part of a Blue Recovery.

Tom Ash is Policy and Advocacy Officer at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Follow: @WWTworldwide

The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.


  1. White, M.P.; Elliott, L.R.; Gascon, M.; Roberts, B.; Fleming, L.E. Blue space, health and well-being: A narrative overview and synthesis of potential benefits. Environ. Res. 2020, 191, 110169.

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