Councils spending unnecessarily on independent surveyors

Wednesday 16 October 2013

An engineer from the University of Salford has developed a toolkit that can be used by people to conduct rapid and cost-effective drainage system site assessments in advance of the installation of drainage systems, which, in most cases, renders the use of specialist consultants employed by councils unnecessary.

Professor Miklas Scholz from the School of Computing, Science & Engineering originally devised his toolkit to assess the maintenance of dams, but the simple measures of aesthetics, biodiversity, land costs, safety and other factors can equally be applied to drainage issues.

In practice, a person armed with a simple assessment form goes to the site where drainage systems are needed.  They then score the site on a range of factors characterising its future use after the retrofitting of a sustainable drainage system.  The scores are then entered into a transparent decision-support model, which produces a traffic light score.  Green scores can proceed to planning authorities while amber and red may need further investigations.

In a study of over 100 sites in Greater Manchester, Professor Scholz and his team found that the overwhelming majority of the sites they scored and independently checked came out with green scores.

Currently, councils employ specialist consultants to assess the drainage requirements for building sites costing thousands of pounds for each report.  Under Professor Scholz’s system, most of these visits could be eliminated and conducted easily with a 20 minute site visit and a further hour of desk study.  Only areas with very specific challenges would need a detailed assessment by a consultant.

Cost savings in this area are even more desirable with the forthcoming implementation of the Flood Water Management Act (2010) which compels councils to assess risks in their areas and implement measures such as permeable paving, tree planting and creating drainage areas.

Professor Scholz said: “My toolkit can be simply and quickly used by a non-specialist such as a planning officer to produce a reliable recommendation rapidly and cost-effective.  Only in a few instances in the cases we studied were specialist consultants needed.”

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