Sewers for adoption 7th Edition has now been released and as expected will have fundamental and far reaching implications on the way developments will be designed and construction works programmed. The new regulations are a consequence of increased pressure from the Government for change, as home owners are being subjected to the hidden costs of maintaining private drainage system serving their homes. As a result, Sewers For Adoption 7th Edition in conjunction with the impending release of the Flood and Water Management Act places increased emphasis on developers to offer drainage systems for adoption with the Water Authority. As such Section 42 of the Flood and Water Management Act will enforce mandatory adoption of all sewers serving two or more properties or where drainage laterals (serving a single dwelling) fall outside the curtilage of a property.

In each circumstance a Section 104 agreement will need to be entered into with the relevant Water Authority for the adoption of those sewers. To enforce this requirement, Section 106 connection consents which give the developer the legal right to connect into the public sewerage system, will not be issued by the Water Authority until a Section 104 sewer adoption agreement is in place. What Implications Does This Have To Developments Starting After Section 42 Has Been Enforced? The expected release date for Section 42 in England will be 1st April 2013. All new developments commenced after this date will need to have a Section 104 agreement covering all the on-site drainage systems noted above. Of more significance is that the Water Authorities are stipulating that the Section 104 legal agreement will need to be in place prior to works commencing on site. Therefore if the intension is to commence construction works shortly after planning has been secured, the Section 104 technical agreement process needs to be run concurrently with the planning process to provide sufficient time for the agreements to be technically vetted and legally signed. The Water Authorities recognise that there is now increased emphasis on them technically vetting applications efficiently and will be introducing different levels of Section 104 agreement to cover the various sizes of schemes, with smaller sites being legally signed off by developer services without the need to use external solicitors. What Implications Does This Have To Developments Already Designed Or Being Constructed When Section 42 Is Enforced? For developments currently designed or being constructed at the point of Section 42 being enforced will require the existing Section 104 agreement to be amended to encompass all the relevant drainage lengths or a new Section 104 agreement entered into if one doesn’t exist. Providing the private sections of drainage meet the requirements of Building Control the transfer of these lengths into a Section 104 adoption agreement should not be problematic.

There will however be lengths of sewers which have been constructed after the ‘Transfer of Private Sewers Act’ on the 1st October 2011 and the implementation of Section 42 and these sewers will be adopted retrospectively via a second ‘Transfer of Private Sewers Act’ at a currently unspecified future date. Other Significant Changes Previously under Sewers for Adoption 6th Edition, completed drainage systems were inspected and then placed onto a 12 month ‘maintenance period’. Once completed remedial works were identified, rectified by the developer and then the systems formally adopted by the Water Authority. The new 7th edition removes the ‘maintenance period’ and replaces it with a 12 month ‘defects period’ in which the Water Authority takes ownership of the system after the completion inspection. Any remedial works identified after the conclusion of the defects period will then be undertaken by the Water Authority and the costs transferred to the developer. To ensure the Water Authority has the necessary funds to complete these works it is likely that 100% of the bond will be retained until the end of the defects period. To limit the effect of this it is recommended that where possible development phases are agreed with the Water Authority or separate agreements entered into to ensure bonds are released after each phase of works. Another important consideration is landscaping.

As there will be a requirement to offer more sections of sewer for adoption, proposed landscaping schemes will need to ensure that trees will not be placed where their mature canopies will fall over a proposed sewer run. This requires increased coordination between the engineer and landscape architect pre-planning to ensure drainage runs do not have to be diverted around planning agreed planting schemes. Coordination With The Flood Water Management Act (FWMA). Once this act has been implemented the emphasis on adoption of surface water drainage will fall onto the SAB panel within the Local Authority and not on the Water Authority. However until such time as the FWMA has been implemented, the same requirements will be expected by the Water Authorities. After the release of the FWMA, the Water Authorities will only consider the adoption of foul water systems.

The Way Forward These fundamental changes will only be enforceable once Section 42 has been implemented and current guidance is that the earliest we can expect this will be 1st April 2013. The Welsh Government and Welsh Water have already implemented Section 42 on the 1st October this year and this has already caused delays to developments where the Section 104 agreements were not already in place. Although Defra has yet to implement Section 42 in England, the overriding advice from the Water Authorities and WRc is for developers and consultants to start to embrace the changes now to avoid possible delays and complications in the future. Despite Sewers for Adoption 7th Edition stipulating the requirement to adopt more lengths of sewer, there are also requirements as to where these runs can be placed in order to meet the standards for adoption. As such, wherever possible the advice of the drainage engineer should be sought prior to planning to ensure the development layout is sympathetic to these new requirements and the issues surrounding proposed landscaping addressed.

The transition process between the current and future guidelines and the ability of the water authorities to react to these changes is at best uncertain, however consultation with Infrastruct CS Ltd over the effect these changes will have on current or planned schemes could mitigate the issues and potentially eliminate delays to developments. If you require any further advice please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone on 01865 861672 or email at