Sustainable drainage in planning

If you are preparing a planning application, the information and advice below can help you.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) aim to manage rain water runoff in a natural way by replicating natural processes.

Examples of SuDS provisions include:

  • green roofs
  • permeable pavement and underground storage
  • ponds
  • shallow ditches or swales
  • soakaways
  • wetlands.

The provision of sustainable drainage within new development became a material consideration in planning decisions from 15 April 2015. As Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for the county, we have become a statutory consultee in the planning process to oversee the provision of SuDS.This means that we must be consulted by each of the county's 12 local planning authorities whenever they receive an application for major development (PDF, 93.1 KB) within their district.

For advice or information email

Our statutory role

We are required to provide technical advice and guidance on the surface water drainage strategies, designs and maintenance arrangements put forward by developers for any new major development.

Our consultation responses will be based on guidance from existing planning policies, National Planning Practice Guidance, and the recently published national 'non-statutory technical standards for the design, maintenance, and operation of SUDS'.

As statutory consultees, we will seek to assist the delivery of requirements of the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This framework promotes sustainable development and makes specific recommendations for the incorporation of SuDS into new development.

The Drainage and Planning policy statement sets out how we, as Lead Local Flood Authority and statutory consultee, will review drainage strategies and surface water management provisions associated with applications for major development.

For all new major development it should be demonstrated that:

  • an appropriate SuDS system will be incorporated (unless it is clearly demonstrated and agreed that they would inappropriate)
  • the minimum standards of operation proposed by the applicant are appropriate
  • there are clear arrangements in place for the ongoing maintenance of any SuDS scheme over the lifetime of the associated development (through the use of planning conditions or planning obligations where appropriate).

Find out about how we approve and adopt drainage systems on roads and new developments.

Read our sustainable drainage chapter of the 'Making it Happen - Kent Design Guide (PDF, 2.8 MB)' (chapter 2) to learn how we review and approve drainage systems associated with new developments.

Read more about sustainable drainage systems and best practice within the built environment.

Read the associated NPPF guidance related to surface water management

We will also be consulted on applications for minor development in areas where there are known drainage problems.

This role fits with our existing role of Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for the county, in which we develop a strategy to manage local flooding from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses.

Revised Climate Change guidance

As of 19 February 2016, the Environment Agency published new guidance on how to use climate change allowances in flood risk assessments.

These allowances for peak rainfall can impact drainage design and should be considered within any drainage strategy to be accompanied with a planning application.

As LLFA, we will require the design accommodates the 1 in 100 year storm (a particularly heavy storm that would on average occur once in 100 years) with a 20% allowance for climate change, and any additional analysis should outline the flooding implications for a greater climate change allowance of 40%.

Any climate change analysis must show if the impact of the additional 40% is significant enough to have the potential to cause a flood risk to or from the proposed development. The design of any associated drainage system may need to be modified to accommodate the additional increase, but it may also need additional measures to prevent an increased flood risk (for example, increased freeboard on attenuation features may be required or further consideration of exceedance flow routes might be necessary.)

The Environment Agency statutory role

The Environment Agency remains statutory consultees for all development at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea, defined as flood zones 2 and 3. They should be consulted as early in the development planning process as possible.

Their formal consent will also be required for any works that might affect a main river or flood defence.

Read the Environment Agency's guide to your rights and responsibilities of riverside ownership.

Read the full guidance for master planning sustainable drainage into developments (PDF, 4.5 MB), or choose which section you would like to read:

Our surface water management plans should also be referred to during the formulation of a drainage strategy for a site.

Land Drainage Consents

Any feature on site that is not an Environment Agency designated ‘main river’ that is capable of conveying flow would be classified as an ‘ordinary watercourse’ (such as ditches, dykes and streams). Any works within the channel of any such feature would require Kent County Council’s formal written consent.

If any part of a development or its associated drainage system involves works to an existing ordinary watercourse, please see our guidance on land drainage consent.

We charge for our pre-application advice on surface water drainage management for most major developments. Please see our free standing advice guidance on incorporating sustainable drainage into minor and low risk development .

Advice for county planning and highways matters are also chargeable.

Our advice can:

  • indicate whether a drainage proposal would be unacceptable, saving you the cost of applying formally
  • reduce the time your advisers spend on developing a drainage strategy
  • ensure your drainage submission is complete so it doesn't get rejected in the early stages
  • let you know how guidance and policies will be applied to your development
  • identify whether you need specialist input.

Advice on forms

Call 03000 41 41 41 or email for free, informal advice on the forms you need.

Chargeable advice

To apply for chargeable planning advice please complete our flooding and drainage pre-application advice form.


All fees include VAT:

  • written advice for a general site enquiry or flood risk assessment enquiry - £240
  • meeting at county hall - £360
  • meeting on site - £480
  • further written advice after meetings - £180
  • any additional correspondence (price upon application as it depends upon complexity of request)

Download our full drainage planning fees.

Not all planning applications require detailed information. Some forms of development would be considered to be relatively ‘low risk’ provided it can comply with our following standing advice:

  • agricultural buildings and equestrian facilities
  • caravans and holiday parks

For further information about standing advice, please email