December 2015 was the wettest on record for parts of the UK with up to 341.14mm of rain falling in just 24 hours (BBC, 2016). Multi-million pound defences failed leaving much of our beloved countryside, cities, towns and villages under water with no respite from the torrential floods. The way in which we have managed our land, paving and building over countryside, removing hedgerows and decreasing areas of woodland has caused our land to become less absorbent.
With climate change predicted to result in more and more extreme weather events the risk of flooding will only increase which brings technological advances for attenuating rainfall to the forefront of all new development designs. There are many great examples of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) commonly used for managing water within lowland cities and towns. These include reservoirs, swales, canals, detention basins and ponds. More recent innovative ideas include incorporating green roofs, rain gardens, living walls and permeable pavement whilst engineering underground storage tanks and using tree pit irrigation (GreenBlue Urban, 2015) to help absorb excess water flow bought about by heavy rainfall.
In light of past flooding events the Flood and Water Management Act was updated in 2010 to include the compulsory installation of SuDS within nearly all new developments (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/). Above all the positive effects SuDS can have on alleviating flood water, they also provide wildlife benefits when designed to imitate a natural native wetland habitat. Protected species such as bats, water voles, great crested newts and birds such as the bittern Botaurus sellaris, can all benefit from native planting offering foraging opportunities, breeding habitats, nectar sources and areas of refuge (Graham et al. 2015).
Early planning considerations during the master planning stage with consultants such as JFA Environmental Planning, can create landscape designs that produce a low-cost Sustainable Drainage System with a flair for ecological enhancement. Furthermore creating wetland grasslands, reed beds and planting native trees and shrubs will maximise biodiversity within the area complying with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in regards to enhancing the natural environment. Developers will be able to raise the benefits for the wider community and not their water levels or risk of flooding.
Graham, A. Day, J. Bray, B. and Mackenzie, S (2015) Sustainable Drainage Systems. Maximising the potential for people and wildlife: A guide for local authorities and developers, pages. 5-37.
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