Are SuDS Finally Becoming Mainstream? with Sue Illman

Building Insights Episode 6 26 May 2022

James Parker, managing editor of Housebuilder & Developer, speaks to Sue Illman of Illman Young, a well-established practice of landscape architects, about how sustainable urban drainage systems can help futureproof developments against rising incidences of flooding.

Although there have been some major recent shocks to the UK, from Covid to now increasing international security worries, the issue of floods has not gone away. While increased flooding events might be an intermittent problem, they are on the whole, becoming more severe, and more damaging for livelihoods and businesses.

The climate is changing, the UK is 7% wetter than it was 40 years ago, and at the same time, there’s a target to build 300,000 homes a year. They have to go somewhere, and unfortunately in many cases, that means building on flood plains. Building homes, roads and car parking often contributes to the problem, affecting how surface water behaves and overloading drainage systems. 

There are established ways to help developments mitigate the effects on local drainage of the floods that will inevitably hit them. One of the most well-regarded approaches is a collection of solutions known as SuDS (or Sustainable Urban Drainage). However, should you use it, and how difficult is it to install? 

Housebuilder and Developer magazine recently surveyed readers on their knowledge of SuDS, and their attitude to it, in the light of the fact that Government guidance advises developers to adopt the approach. We wanted to discuss the results of this Industry Viewfinder white paper with an expert in the field.

We decided to speak to landscape architect Sue Illman, a passionate SuDS advocate, to give her reactions to our report, give you some practical approaches, and comment on the developer’s role in futureproofing schemes against climate change. A former president of the Landscape Institute, we managed to catch her in a week in which she had been discussing with Defra, and the Department for Levelling up, Communities and Housing, just what the regulatory framework should look like, to drive SuDS forward. One of the many insights she revealed in an excellent conversation was that regulation had been somewhat fudged in the past, but the centre is finally putting SuDS at the top of the agenda.



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