Managing urban flood resilience through the English planning system: insights from the ‘SuDS-face'

Potter, Karen and Vilcan, Tudorel (2020). Managing urban flood resilience through the English planning system: insights from the ‘SuDS-face'. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 378(2168), article no. 20190206.



In academic and professional circles, ‘resilience thinking’ has emerged as the dominant paradigm in flood risk management, which emphasizes the need to plan and design cities that can absorb water and replicate natural processes more closely. In this paper, we explore how planners in England are expected to respond to the resilience agenda against the realities in practice, zoning in on the delivery of sustainable (urban) drainage systems (SuDS). Our exploration highlights that, while SuDS are being implemented, they are largely characterized by a ‘bog standard’ design. We found that there are three main institutional factors that are constraining the implementation of SuDS: the lack of legislative backing, the power afforded to private commercial interests in the neoliberalized planning process, compounded by the severe lack of resources in local authorities. What is missing at the moment is SuDS process and design that is flexible, integrated, collaborative and innovative. There are clear implications that, without the necessary institutional support, resilience thinking will remain largely aspirational, and professionals will struggle to gain traction and translate the larger flood resilience policy agenda into England's future climate-resilient places.

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