Homeseptic’s guidance on the rules, regulations and planning laws for Septic Soakaways, Drainage Fields and Rainwater Soakaways. 

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Soakaway Rules, Regulations and Planning Laws

Soakaway regulation, rules and the legal environment can seem really complicated. We have tried in this article to answer some of the common questions our customers have around the regulation. We have also tried to provide enough information on the detail to help any experienced self-builders undertake their project.  If you do not find what you are looking for please give us a call. Even if we do not know the answer straight away someone will get back to you.

Do I need planning permission for a soakaway?

The permission needed depends on the type of soakaway you are intending to build. For a septic soakaway, drain field or Sewerage treatment plant soakaway you will need planning permission.

For a Rainwater Soakaway, you should consult your local planning agency. The rules that govern Rainwater soakaways depend on the water capture area in m2. For those serving an area of 25m2 or less than Part H of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010 apply.

The Building Regulations dictate an order of priority for the rainwater runoff from buildings these are:

  • an adequate soakaway or another adequate filtration system, or if not reasonably practicable,
  • a watercourse, or where not reasonably practicable,
  • an appropriate sewer

 The key elements of the Part H rules are that the soakaway must by 5 meters from a building or road. The soakaway must be 2.5 meters from the boundary. The soakaway must not be in an area of unstable ground or where the lowest point of the soakaway meets the water table at any point of the year. The soakaway must not be near any other soakaway or drainage field, as this would compromise the absorption of the ground.

What are the regulations/ planning rules concerning Septic Soakaway or drainage field installation?

The most important rule concerning drainage fields is the new 2020 legislation that comes into force soon. Please see our guide.

The detailed rules can be found here and explain all the permits and rules you will need to adhere to in relation to a septic tank drainage field. For the general binding rules please see here.

The sewage must:

  • be domestic in nature – contact the Environment Agency if you’re not sure
  • not cause pollution – find out how to check for pollution

Rules on checking for Pollution: Septic Tank

You must check the area where you release sewage once a month for signs of pollution.

If you release sewage into the ground, check for:

  • sewage smells
  • signs that your sewage isn’t draining properly (eg pools of water in the area where you release sewage)

If you release sewage into the water, check for:

  • sewage smells
  • overflowing sludge
  • signs of white scum or foam on the water around the area where you release sewage

Contact the Environment Agency incident line if you see signs of pollution 0800 80 70 60. You should document your monthly checks.

In addition, You will need to apply for a permit if any of the following are relevant to your discharge.

  • to a well, borehole or other deep structure
  • more than 2 cubic meters (2,000 litres) per day
  • in a groundwater source protection zone (SPZ1)

If you intend to release to surface water you will need to use a sewerage treatment plant.

Building and regulations for Cesspit soakaways.

A Cesspit is a sealed unit that does not discharge anything. Therefore it does not need a soakaway. If you were to try and create a DIY drainage field you would almost certainly be breaking the law. Please see our Cesspit guide

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