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How to reduce your surface water drainage charge

As the owner of a business, you are responsible for paying for the collection and treatment of rainwater that falls onto your premises and public highways and enters our sewers. Now, water companies have been advised by the water regulator Ofwat to charge customers for drainage according to the surface area of their property, as opposed to the rateable value.

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As the owner of a business, you are responsible for paying for the collection and treatment of rainwater that falls onto your premises and public highways and enters our sewers. Now, water companies have been advised by the water regulator Ofwat to charge customers for drainage according to the surface area of their property, as opposed to the rateable value. This means that the larger the site, the more surface water is likely to drain from it and the higher the cost could be to you, the business owner. At the moment only 4 out of the 10 water companies in the UK have switched to charging by site area. These are United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Northumbrian Water and Severn Trent. If you feel your bill is excessive, you should ask your company to reassess it. First, ask your company to check whether your property is in the correct charging band. Charges vary according to the band. If your property is in a higher band by mistake, your charge could be higher than it should be. If your charges are based upon your site area calculation, there are a number of options for you to consider when trying to reduce your charges: Are you entitled to a phased increase? If your business has recently been changed over to the new charging system and has seen a significant increase in surface water drainage charges, then you may be entitled to a phased increase. To find our if you are eligible, contact your water company and ask to speak to someone in the surface water drainage department. Check that you site area map is correct The chargeable area of your premises is usually worked out from Ordnance Survey maps. However, there may be instances when your site has been altered since the maps were produced, which would affect your charges. Ask your supplier which map they are using and check that your site area is correct. Reduce the size of non-permeable areas As your charge for surface water drainage is based on the size of your premises, including buildings, car parks and other non-permeable areas then reducing the size of these areas may lead to a reduction in your charges. However, for this to be effective the new site area would have to put your premises into a lower charging band. If you are in the process of constructing a car park, consider using a permeable surface (such as gravel or porous asphalt) to allow the rainwater to drain away naturally rather than into our sewer system. If it is difficult to reduce the size of your non-permable areas, you can investigate other options to prevent rainwater draining into sewers: If you are located close to a river or stream, you could divert your rainwater into this instead of the drains. However, you will need to contact the Environment Agency or British Waterways for permission to do this. Install a soakaway - a man-made hole in the ground filled with gravel - which will collect rainwater and allow it to drain away naturally. It costs about £650 to install a small (1 m3) soakaway and you may need to get planning permission from your local authority beforehand. Replace surfaces that do not allow rainwater to soak through, such as asphalt, with ones that do, such as gravel. Although this may be expensive in the short term, you should recover the cost over time through lower surface water drainage charges. You can find out more about sustainable drainage on the Environment Agency website. Check for natural drainage The company may not have taken account of natural drainage on your property, such as grassed or cultivated areas. These are not part of the as these drain away rain water so it doesn't go into sewers. If your surface water drainage charge is not based on your site area, it is likely that you will need to show that no surface water is draining from your property to the public sewer to obtain a reduction in your charge. More information For more information on how to review your surface water charge, you should contact your water company in the first instance. If you are dissatisfied with their response, you should contact the Consumer Council for Water on 0845 039 2837 (this will redirect you to your local committee) or email them on enquiries@ccwater.org.uk. You can find more information about surface water drainage and site area-based charging at www.ofwat.gov.uk.

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