The Flood and Water Management Act 2010, has significant implications for the management of water resources and infrastructure. One of the key objectives is to encourage the uptake of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) by removing the automatic right to connect to sewers and providing for local authorities to adopt SuDS on new developments.

In anticipation of this legislation, Cambridge City Council took the decision to adopt SuDS features within public open space. A Design and Adoption Guide for SuDS was commissioned to support the resolution and to inform the design of SuDS and minimise the risk and liability to the City Council.

The Guide was the first of its kind in the country. It is written in an accessible and non-technical manner, so as to be suitable for a variety of users including developers, landscape architects, engineers, and planners. Importantly, the Guide is landscape-led and specific to Cambridge. As such, it distinguishes itself from the National SuDS guidance that was due to follow. It has been promoted as good practice by CIRIA.

Cambridge lies at the edge of the Fenlands, with its open, flat and low-lying landscape dissected by numerous dykes and drainage ditches. It has a distinct townscape where water is woven into the fabric of the city by way of the River Cam, its tributaries, and its water meadows. The city is experiencing significant levels of growth and the Guide will help shape the new communities, integrate multi-functional green infrastructure within developments, and make Cambridge a more enjoyable place to live. Cambridge City Council considers that by using the landscape to manage rainfall and harness water in a creative way, SuDS will strengthen local distinctiveness and add value to the local environment.

The Guide demonstrates that using SuDS to manage surface water does not require significant additional space as compared to a more traditional drainage system, and that creating landscapes that are easy to maintain does not mean compromising on aesthetic, amenity or biodiversity values.

An important objective of the Guide is to clearly identify the benefits that different types of SuDS (e.g. ponds and wetlands; retention and infiltration basins; swales and filter strips; filter drains) can bring and provide a simple means by which their different roles and functions can be understood. A series of graphic symbols is used to denote specific benefits and commentary made on Cambridge-specific design and maintenance requirements.

The ‘Adoption’ chapter outlines design and construction requirements that need to be considered and/or put in place if the SuDS feature is to be adopted by the local authority. Appendices provide worked examples of the potential costs of maintaining SuDS.

During the development of the Guide, regular meetings were held to test its emerging scope and format. Site visits explored the character of the Cambridge landscape, and in particular the major growth sites to ensure SuDS solutions within Cambridge are bespoke and distinct from other parts of the country. Consultation workshops were held to seek the views of a range of stakeholders on issues associated with including SuDS in new developments and their subsequent adoption by Cambridge City Council.

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