Alternative sewage disposal and planning

In areas without mains drainage there are several systems in use:

  • Septic tanks are still widely used, but soakaways can cause problems
  • Biodiscs - which require a power supply and are costly to run
  • Cess pits are a last resort

We are keen to encourage alternative solutions where possible.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS)

  • Sustainable drainage systems can be any size and of variable function, according to need, and are effective in managing otherwise problematic effluent.
  • Where suitable sites are available, in principle we can support proposals for sustainable drainage systems for businesses and homes.
  • In rural areas where combined surface and foul sewerage exists, future sustainable drainage arrangements along similar lines could use densely planted swales and 'rain-gardens', to conserve water resources, combat flood risk and help address climate change.

What works well?

Permissions have been granted for a natural biological process entailing carefully engineered and sealed pools, earth-banks and swales interspersed by dense plantings of willow and other aquatic plants. Sewage and dirty water is effectively 'digested' by soils and roots, as it tracks slowly through the ponds; the final pond is clear water to bathing quality. Almost any waste water can be successfully treated in this way.

Does it smell?

No.  If there is any risk, the first (dirty) pond can use a straw or living reed mat.

What about final discharge and other contents?

The best systems are over-engineered to account for the equation between input and loss through natural evapotranspiration (via plants and sunlight), so that no final discharge is necessary.

Subject to specific site conditions, it is possible that no other consents besides planning permission would be necessary.

Planning requirements

You will require planning permission for a SuDS. The planning system supports such alternative proposals on appropriate sites, particularly in rural areas where drainage is difficult.

SuDS systems in Herefordshire

You can see examples of these systems in operation at:

  • Hereford Livestock Market near Stretton Sugwas which includes a SuDS which treats all the wash-down water from the yards, to a re-usable quality
  • Westons Cider, Much Marcle
  • Other Herefordshire locations including a dairy creamery, various cattle farms, single households, a complex of holiday cottages and a scout camp
  • These and similar systems can also be used to effectively address farm run-off problems. This can help prevent the diffuse pollution currently affecting many watercourses in this county.

Minerals and waste contact details

For more information or advice contact Rebecca Jenman - Principal planning officer, minerals and waste

Telephone: 01432 261961

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