In a long fought for decision, the UK Government will implement key legislation requiring new developments in England to include mini wetlands such as rain gardens and ponds to help prevent flooding of people’s homes and businesses1.
Known formally as SuDS (sustainable drainage systems), these urban wetlands will capture and slow rain water, preventing flooding and creating pockets of wetland 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 work2.
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 and habitat for wildlife3.
The decision follows over 10 years of campaigning by WWT and others for the implementation of the requirement for SuDS following the passing of the original law in 2010. New SuDS will form a key component of 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 face4.
WWT will continue to work with the Government to ensure implementation delivers the maximum possible benefits for wildlife and people. This includes by 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.
The decision is a clear positive in the fight against the climate, nature and wellbeing crises and will contribute to WWT’s aim to see 100,000 hectares of wetlands created and restored across the country as part of a Blue Recovery.
1The legislation being implemented is Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which requires all new developments to have sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) which have been approved by the local authority. SuDS types include urban wetlands, alongside other solutions such as storage tanks. Standards for SuDS are likely to prioritise use of biodiverse wetland solutions over grey infrastructure, such as storage tanks.
4White, 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.