Last edited 06 Feb 2021

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The Institution of Civil Engineers Institute / association Website

How regulation can enable new business models for large-scale developments

Water flow pixabay.jpg
Many see regulation as the unnecessary ‘red tape’ that stifles efficiency and innovation. However, Severn Trent Connect, a new business in the water sector, is leveraging the flexibility in its Ofwat licence to reduce operational costs and improve the sustainability of large developments. Image: Ronald Plett, Pixabay


[edit] Introduction

Traditionally, water companies have shied away from sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), such as retention ponds and underground storage structures, due to their perception of the maintenance requirements and the broad-range of asset types; not to mention a nervousness around drowning risks from open water bodies. The same companies have also disincentivised developers and planners from collecting and sending surface water into the sewerage networks.

Typically, this has the effect of leaving developers facing higher connection costs for combined surface and foul sewer systems or leaving them to sort out the ongoing maintenance and ownership of onsite surface water management systems.

For those taking the latter route – building onsite SuDS - this means developers are left with little alternative but to retain ownership (and responsibility) of the assets, while (usually) contracting out the maintenance to a third-party management company.

The dichotomy: environmental regulators are opposed to surface waters being collected and treated with sewage effluent, but water companies resist adopting site-level surface water drainage systems.

[edit] SuDS = public drainage assets

One of the recurring conversation topics with planners, developers and the Consumer Council for Water (the water sector’s watchdog) has been over the ownership and responsibilities around SuDS, with all groups holding the view these assets should be treated in the same way as any other public drainage asset. And Severn Trent Connect agrees.

SuDS assets, designed and built to recognised industry standards, should form an integral part of any integrated drainage system, and therefore should be treated no differently to a standard sewer pipe or other drainage asset (from an adoption perspective).

The benefits in doing so are three-fold:

[edit] Regulation for SuDS

Severn Trent Connect is pro SuDS. Providing they are correctly sized, designed and built to industry standards (Sewers for Adoption and CIRIA SuDS Manual), Severn Trent Connect will adopt SuDS assets along with the traditional sewerage infrastructure.

Regulation should serve to promote sustainability, affordability and great customer service. New business models, such as those operating under Ofwat’s New Appointee and Variations framework, are helping to push the boundaries of what is possible with existing legislation – imagine the possibilities if these spaces were actively incentivised.

[edit] About this article

This article was written by uk William Mackveley, General Manager, Severn Trent Connect. It previously appeared on the website of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in October 2019 and can be accessed HERE.

More articles by ICE on Designing Buildings Wiki can be accessed HERE.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

--The Institution of Civil Engineers

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