Examination of Witnesses (Questions 370
WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2007
Chairman: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
For the record may we welcome from Severn Trent Water Mr Tony
Wray, their Chief Executive, Mr Andy Smith, their Water Services
Director, Mr Martin Kane, their Customer Relations Director;
from Severn Trent Water Mr Richard Aylard, External Affairs
and Sustainability Director and Mr Bob Collington, who is their
Director of Wastewater Services. Gentlemen, you are very welcome.
May I thank you in advance for the written evidence that you were
able to send to the Committee. We will start with Paddy's question
Q370 Paddy Tipping:
I think you all heard the previous discussion. Clearly SUDS can
play a role but there do seem to be issues around who installs
them, the planning system that puts them in and, most particularly,
around maintenance and long term responsibility. I am not entirely
clear what the law is; perhaps you would explain it to us.
Mr Wray: If I can start, SUDS
absolutely have an important to playone of manyand
we are certainly of the view that there needs to be far clearer
accountability in the first instance for developers, agencies,
whomever. To address your point from earlier on, what happens
when developers go away, I think there is a case to be made for
once a scheme is put in place for it being put into the hands
of an authority that can maintain it in the long term. For that
I am sure we are going to need legislative changes and of course
there will be the issues of funding for that. But absolutely,
a primary responsibility for anybody constructing, building, having
an impact upon the environment, having a duty to ensure that they
provide a sustainable method of attenuation of surface water flooding.
Q371 Paddy Tipping:
What would be the legislative change that we need?
Mr Aylard: At the moment the local
authorities can insist that developers create SUDS when they build
a new development; in practice they very often do not. We played
a leading role on the national SUDS working group and we have
issued guidance to developers for the ways in which they could
create SUDS that would make it easier for us to take them on afterwards.
However, there are issues with maintenance particularly because
as well as collecting water they also collect silt and that silt
has to be taken away. It that silt has got highway run off in
it then it has to have a waste management licence so life gets
relatively complicated as things go on. I think that the most
important thing would be to get local authorities to insist that
developers install SUDS when they build developments.
Q372 Paddy Tipping:
Yorkshire Water suggested to us that the organisation that should
take long term responsibility would be the local authority. I
do not agree. I think this is your neck of the woods and it really
ought to be the water and sewerage companies.
Mr Wray: If I may comment, we
certainly have the competencies to do that; we do understand the
management of flows and certainly the waste treatment, the treatment
of silt, sludge et cetera. However, that does come at a cost.
We have finite resources and our customers bear the cost of the
additional activities that we have to take on, so whilst we may
have the competencies to do that, we must have the full appreciation
of what the impact upon our customers would be on bills and how
we would go about that in an organised manner and in an affordable
Q373 Paddy Tipping:
Is this something that the SUDS working group has looked at?
Mr Collington: I think the key
issue is ownership once the facilities are built. At the moment
there is no clarity about ownership anywhere in the country except
in Scotland. In Scotland they have already solved this problem.
They have split responsibility for SUDS depending on whether those
drainage schemes are above ground or below ground. If they are
above ground in Scotland the local authorities take them on because
it is more akin to the management of parks and ponds; if it is
below ground the sewerage undertakers take responsibility for
them. That could be one way of working throughout the rest of
Mr Aylard: If I could add two
practical problems with SUDS, one is that to be effective they
require quite a lot of land and in urban areas we very often do
not have that land. Secondly, to be most effective you need a
permeable substrate so that they drain away. Again, if you are
in London you have clay so SUDS in a lot of areas are not going
to be as helpful as they might.
Q374 Paddy Tipping:
How do we get clarity on the way forward? What needs to be done?
Mr Collington: I think we need
definitive legislation from government.
Just describe for my benefit what one of these things looks like.
Mr Aylard: They can take various
shapes but they are generally a pond of some sortsometimes
a longish pond that is called a swalebut they collect the
run off and it sits there and gradually percolates through back
down as ground water.
It has got to be a designed system because most people do not
want water draining out of ponds.
Mr Aylard: Yes, it has to be a
designed system to work properly and there are various ways of
That, effectively, addresses the issue about run off and the nature
of it. I had a picture in my mind of lots of green open spaces
and nature taking its course, but this is a rather more constructed
Mr Aylard: That is right. Of course
the real benefit is that you are not, unlike other forms of drainage,
just pushing the problem rapidly onto somebody else; you are dealing
with it where it is and where you can do that that must be good.
It is something which, if I have understood it correctly, you
cannot really retro-fit in an urban environment.
Mr Aylard: Not easily, particularly
if you are on a brown field site where you have perhaps got deep
foundations from previous buildings or basements; you can cause
more problems than you solve.
So we should not get too carried away. SUDS might be good for
new build but it is not going to solve the problem with the existing
Mr Wray: Absolutely. I mentioned
that SUDS are part of the solution; there are many other aspects
that have to be brought to play and in particular dealing with
the existing infrastructure that we have and the progressive development
and enlargement of that infrastructure to deal with the greater
flows that we are having to contend with, including the potential
separation of surface water from foul water. That is a huge, huge,
civil undertaking for the UK and one that we do need to take very
seriously and make a start on.