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Government calls for drainage rethink

Environment minister Phil Woolas has called for a review of rules that require new developments to be automatically connected to the sewer for surface and roof drainage, on the grounds they do not incentivise builders to use sustainable drainage.

Phil Woolas said: "It's clear that we can't concrete over grass and soil without any consequence. Surfaces which allow water to penetrate, like village greens and permeable paving, can reduce the rapid run-off from heavy rainfall, ease pressure on the drainage system, and limit the impacts of any overflows.

"The local pond, the water butt and the front garden all have a crucial role in tackling surface water drainage, and I think the value of these is currently underestimated in the bigger picture. It is folly to drain rainwater through expensive treatment works and into our rivers when it should be going into our gardens, fields and ultimately the water table.

"I want to see a safe water butt in every garden by 2010 and permeable patios and paving.

"Currently, a developer can automatically connect any surface water run-off to the public sewerage system. Where is the incentive to try and minimise that run-off? We have to question whether this is right. One of the issues we are also considering is whether we should ensure that where front gardens are paved over it is done with permeable materials.

"This is the kind of thinking that is informing the development of our Water Strategy, which we will publish in the New Year. The Strategy is founded on the simple principle that every action which impacts on one part of the water environment has the potential to impact elsewhere. Only by recognising that we do not act in isolation, or without consequences, can we meet the challenges of increased development and climate change in a sustainable way."

The Water Strategy will set out a coherent policy framework to underpin Defra's commitments for water management. It will outline Government's evolving priorities, and climate change proof water policy.