Raingardens for schools in North Lanarkshire

This months blog is written by Emilie Wadsworth from CSGNT and Neil McLean from Stantec, two of the partners working on the School Raingardens project in North Lanarkshire we showcased over a yer ago. The project has had to be paused due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but is ready and raring to start up once again when able.

Over the last few years, Britain has seen some very heavy rainfall and intense storms, resulting in devastating floods. We all learnt about the water cycle at school, and how rain sinks into the ground, travelling slowly through the soil to rivers and eventually the sea. What we perhaps didn’t learn about is how this changes in our towns and cities where the ground is impermeable. The rain can’t sink into soil over the hard surfaces such as road, roof and footpaths, so it flows quickly into drains where it is moved, again very quickly, out into the rivers. This means that a lot of water is being pushed into the river system all at one go, making flooding worse. Dredging rivers isn’t the answer, as this just moves the problem instead of solving it. What we need to do, is slow the flow. Hold the water back, slowly releasing it, like a natural system would do. This is where Raingardens come in. 

Raingardens are areas of plants specifically designed to receive rainfall and runoff and slow down water. They can help solve small areas of flooding, such as in a garden or car park. When lots of them are used, they can reduce the severity and impact of flooding on a larger area. They are also nice to look at, are good for biodiversity and can help reduce pollution.

North Lanarkshire Council have started an innovative project looking at primary schools in their area that either already suffer from flooding problems or are likely to in the near future. So far, five primary schools have had raingarden features designed around the playground, which will hopefully be installed before the end of the summer (coronavirus restrictions allowing). The project was run in partnership with CSGNT, Cumbernauld Living Landscapes and water engineers at Stantec. The partners ran education sessions with pupils in the school, teaching them about raingardens and then working with them to identify problem areas in the grounds and finally come up with ideas on what the raingardens should be. The schools will play an important role in looking after the raingardens and will be provided with information and resources to do that, and to use the raingardens for outdoor learning in the future. 

Meadowbank Green Roof Options Appraisal

Ivan Clark, Placemaking Team Manager at SNH, has provided June's blog. Here, he tells us about a partnership project exploring the contribution that green roofs can make to successful, climate-resilient places. He found that by applying the right kind of roof to the right building in the right place, green roofs can be a cost-effective way of helping cities adapt to the impacts of climate change, supporting the health and well-being of Scotland’s communities and providing habitats for wildlife…

In a recent response to a Scottish Government request for advice on a ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19, the UK Climate Change Committee suggested, among other things, “supporting the green roof and sustainable drainage industries to help to bolster Scotland’s adaptation services sector.” This is to be welcomed, because although green roofs are commonplace in London and in much of Europe, there is very little use of Green Roof Infrastructure in Scotland, particularly in housing developments. A previous SNH Commissioned Report, Maximising the Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Social Housing, suggested that this was due to a lack of awareness of the benefits of green roofs, the need for a persuasive ‘business case’ and the assumption by some developers that the cost of green roofs could threaten development viability.

The Project
To address these perceptions, Scottish Natural Heritage has been working with City of Edinburgh Council and others to explore the viability of integrating green roofs into an existing development proposal. The Meadowbank Development Green Roof Options appraisal was the result of a partnership between the Scottish Government, Architecture and Design Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and City of Edinburgh Council.

The partners commissioned a highly-skilled and multi-disciplinary design team (comprising Architects, Landscape Architects, Structural Engineers, Quantity Surveyors and a leading UK Green Roof expert) to carry out a viability study based on an existing public interest led housing and mixed-use development proposal at Meadowbank, close to the centre of Edinburgh. The team took a collaborative place-based approach to exploring the solutions most appropriate to the specific challenges and opportunities at the site.

Having agreed the types of roof solutions that would provide the most benefits, the costs were calculated and the proposals refined. In terms of the ‘business case’, the report considered the role of the blue-green roofs in attenuating the flow of surface water and the implications of this for the use of land and the need for other grey infrastructure. It also looked at the likely energy savings from the green roofs over the long term.

Key Findings
Green roofs at the Meadowbank site would help create an exemplar nature-rich development in the centre of Scotland’s capital city: Meadowbank is within a short flight of other pollinator habitat at Holyrood Park and the Scottish Parliament.

Green roofs would support the health and well-being of residents and provide benefits to the wider community that would use the site: Some of the green roofs could add value to potential community facilities such as nurseries and GP surgeries.

Green-blue roofs reduce the need for other grey infrastructure: Introducing green roofs across the site could result in a 38% reduction in the rate of surface water run-off. Along with other SUDs features, this could allow the removal of the need for below ground treatments (tanks and pipework) and reduce potential interference with contaminated land.

Green-blue roofs allow for more efficient use of land in constrained urban sites. Based on an average density of housing across the whole site of 110 dwellings/ ha, the space required for a ‘traditional’ SUDs pond, large enough to provide similar levels of attenuation provided by the blue-green roofs, would equate to around 40 dwellings per hectare.

Initial capital costs of green roofs are modest compared to overall capital costs of the development: The use of green roofs compared to traditional roofs represented an estimated uplift in overall construction costs for the whole development of less than 0.25%. If the additional capital costs of the roofs were split between all the dwellings at the site, the costs would equate to around £350 per dwelling. Based on their increased longevity and contribution to energy efficiency (insulating in winter and cooling in summer) the ‘payback’ period was estimated to be between 6 and 20 years.

The full report can be accessed here:

Note: The options appraisal is based on a development proposal currently (as of May 2020) subject to a separate live planning application. The current application does not require roof types to be specified but in light of this report, City of Edinburgh Council will consider how green roofs could be incorporated at the next stage.

Living with Water and Wildlife

May's blog comes from Ivan Clark at Scottish Natural Heritage, talking about an innovative water management project which they have supported through development and now into the implementation phase.

Southside Housing Association, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage the local community and Glasgow City Council, is transforming a currently underused open space in Glasgow to help manage surface water and create new opportunities for people and wildlife.

The space around the two high rise blocks at Queensland Court and Gardens, Cardonald, suffers from excess surface water making the outdoor space limited and often unusable. In addition, the area has poor parking facilities and limited play opportunities for young families. This is set to change, with an investment award of £537,215 from the ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund. This will transform the green space, improve play facilities and parking as well as helping to manage extreme rainfall events that are likely to become more common as a consequence of climate change. Queensland Court and Gardens is also benefitting from being a pilot site for the ‘10,000 Raingardens for Scotland’ project.

Since the award was made last August, a design team, comprising SWECO, RaeburnFarquharBowen and Glasgow City Council Flood Management Team have been working with the community to design improvements including a surface water attenuation basin to reduce flooding risk, new accessible paths (including stepping stones over the basin) and a natural adventure play area.

In addition, Southside Housing Association will be submitting the project for a ‘Building with Nature Award’. This will assess the project in terms of its contribution to ‘the three Ws,’ Wildlife, Water and Well-being. The design team is also contributing to a SNH/ SFHA project exploring the costs and benefits of such interventions. In particular the team will be quantifying the long term maintenance cost of the new ‘green infrastructure compared to maintaining the current ‘mown-lawn’ approach to landscaping.

Kinross Raingardens Challenge

Mays blog comes from Brian D'Arcy, SGIF member on behalf of Kinross-shire Civic Trust, and bring us some exciting news on the Kinross Raingardens Challenge, part of the 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland campaign which Brian was a founding member of. The article is reproduced from the Kinross Community Council Newsletter:

Kinross Raingardens Challenge

Yes, after some months of hard work and dialogue, we can confirm Kinross-shire is to host a Raingardens Challenge!  Led by the Kinross-shire Civic Trust, the aim is to have 20 raingardens in 2020. 

We are following the simple meaning of the term ‘raingarden’ adopted by the Scottish Green Infrastructure Forum (

                                        A vegetated feature designed to accept rainfall runoff

In earlier issues of the Newsletter, we’ve written about the potential of using greenspace in our town and villages to create pleasing landscape features which can accept rainfall draining off roads, roofs and other impervious areas.   The objective is to add flower beds - sometimes wildflower features, in other instances more like traditional garden planting with a wetland element - to our built environment to soften the harshness of a landscape often almost devoid of plants.  The innovative aspect is the use of the landscape features to accept rainfall runoff, contributing to managing flood risks.  If carefully designed, these raingardens help manage the greater rainfall intensity associated with climate change, as well as enhancing the appearance of the area.

To manage the potentially scouring impact of rainfall draining off a road for example, a complete cover by plants is desirable (see the roadside grass-and-wildflowers swale taking runoff from the link road in West Kinross for example).  In smaller units, stones and gravel can be used to mitigate the impact of surges in runoff into the feature.

Swale in late summer, Kinross

We have some grass swales (e.g. West Kinross), but they can be improved in a few details.  There are however other types of features we don’t yet have in Perth and Kinross, but which are widely used in some other parts of the world (e.g. USA, Australia – and now in Cardiff in Wales).

Cardiff raingarden – why not in Kinross too?

The Kinross-shire Raingardens Challenge is about encouraging Perth and Kinross Council, local businesses, and individuals to consider installing raingardens or making modifications to their drainage systems to create improved rainwater management by creating raingarden features.  We hope to have awards for participating businesses and households and be able to celebrate success at events in 2021, including rewarding efforts to manage existing features and restore failed ones.

How you can get involved

  • If you have a regularly flooded car park your premises, contact us before going for conventional reinstatement and see if there can be a raingarden solution
  • If a road gully is regularly failing near you raise it with the Council (and Councillors); ask if they would consider a raingarden solution (no gully, remove a section of kerb and allow direct surface flow into the feature); Perth & Kinross Council contacts in the Newsletter.
  • We hope to be able to offer advice and some help as the project gathers support.
  • In the interim, please don’t fail to let SEPA and Scottish Water know if you see or are aware of problems with local flooding and sewage overflows from the drainage system or treatment works in Kinross, Milnathort and Kinnesswood. SEPA pollution hotline is 0800 80 70 60 and Floodline is 0345 988 1188; see For Scottish Water: or To report a flooding incident which appears to be contaminated with sewage: Call the Customer Helpline on 0800 0778 778

Finally for this article, we wish to thank Hannah and the Kinross Newsletter team, SEPA, Scottish Water, Perth and Kinross Council, and Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, for their support.

Chair and Secretary of Kinross-shire Civic Trust after meeting with Scottish Water

Shining a light on the latest flood risk management research in Scotland

April's blog come from Rachel Helliwell, Manager at the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), and summarises 5 "spark" talks and discussion held at the recent Flood Risk Management Conference in Glasgow.

Thought provoking and action-orientated ‘Spark’ talks took place during a short session at the Scotland Flood Risk Management Conference (30-31st January 2020) at the Technology & Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. The punchy 5-minute talks addressed state of the art research on managing flood risk in the context of the climate emergency followed by lively discussion. 

Summary of talks

Working with nature can provide multiple benefits for human wellbeing, climate adaptation and flood mitigation. (Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
In the context of a climate emergency (IPCC reports), Biodiversity emergency (IPBES reports), health and mental health crisis, and NHS under pressure, Dr Rebecca Wade from Abertay University explained how we need to join-up our efforts to address vital issues for people, place and economy.
• Nature-based engineering and green infrastructure can provide cost-effective multiple benefits for human wellbeing as well as for climate adaptation (including flooding), but the solutions must be place-specific to succeed.
• Public health and landscape approaches are beginning to address these combined issues. By focussing on community needs and place we can deliver better solutions for the environment and for people. Integrated city-specific & landscape-level planning, nature-based solutions can contribute to sustainable and equitable cities and make a significant contribution to the overall climate change adaptation and mitigation effort.
• In Dundee, the Green Health Partnership, part of Our Natural Health Service in Scotland, has been working to engage people more often with nature for the good of their health. They are achieving this by connecting the National Health Service, Local Authority, voluntary services, community link workers and local businesses. A joined-up approach to tackle health, inequality, climate, flooding and many other issues.

Note: Nature-based options include combining grey and green infrastructure (such as wetland and watershed restoration and green roofs), enhancing green spaces through restoration and expansion, promoting urban gardens, maintaining and designing for ecological connectivity and promoting accessibility for all (with benefits for human health).

  Dry conditions  Flood conditions

                                                               Dry conditions                                                            Flood conditions

2. Managing catchments to reduce flood risk (Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Dr Mark Wilkinson of the James Hutton Institute described the paradigm shift from working solely with structural defences to considering a wider range of measures, such as multiple catchment-based measures (e.g. *Natural Flood Management, NFM) to reduce flood runoff.

The presentation focused on one measure in particular; temporary storage areas. These areas are usually located at the edge of fields or on floodplains and are designed to store flood runoff. For most of the year these measures are dry (see images above). Mark highlighed the effectiveness of these interventions by presenting findings from the Belford catchment study in Northumberland. Here ~40 NFM measures, including temporary storage areas have been stategically placed across the catchment to help mitigate flooding (see Nicholson et al., 2020). Mark then highlighted future challenges for NFM, these included points such as assessing the effectiveness at larger scales and for extreme events (see Wilkinson et al., 2019). However, the presentation closed highlighting these measures can offer a range of wider ecosystem services (e.g. sediment capture, new ecological habitats) and therefore should be viewed as positive for their other benefits.

Nicholson, A.R., O'Donnell, G.M., Wilkinson, M.E. and Quinn, P.F., 2020. The potential of runoff attenuation features as a Natural Flood Management approach. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 13, p.e12565.
Wilkinson, M.E., Addy, S., Quinn, P.F. and Stutter, M., 2019. Natural flood management: small-scale progress and larger-scale challenges. Scottish Geographical Journal, 135(1-2), pp.23-32

3. Integrated Water Management and Sponge Cities (Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Peter Robinson, Head of Engineering with Scottish Canals produced a 5-minute video here. His message was clear, that the future of water management needs to be holistic and joined up to address the climate emergency. Thinking of flooding as one problem and drought as another, rural problems separate to urban problems is not going to be good enough. Peter also highlighted the need to engage the public at every stage in the design, feasibility, and development process if Scotland is going to meet policy challenges.

The concept of a sponge approach, whether in a city or any aspect of water management is an engaging and joined up approach, which is gaining traction around the world.

4. Impact of blue/green and grey infrastructure interventions on natural capital in urban development (Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Many towns and cities in Scotland face the combined pressure of tackling increasing flood risk, managing economic growth and cutting carbon emissions. To address this challenge, Prof Scott Arthur (Heriot Watt University) described a vision for the development of high quality and higher density communities on brownfield sites. Whilst several challenges were recognised, solutions were not considered insurmountable.
Heriot Watt and Cambridge Universities have assessed how different combinations of blue/green infrastructure options making up ‘adaptation pathways’ can enhance or impact natural capital and associated ecosystem service profiles over time.

Three adaptation pathways were assessed in a South London borough, a place with similar pressures to Edinburgh, to address future flooding and evolution of natural capital over time. Preliminary findings show that blue/green adaptation pathways such as Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) retention ponds and bioretention cells (i.e. landscaped depressions that capture and infiltrate stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces) enhance natural capital and increase potential for delivery of ecosystem services such as aesthetic values, air quality regulation and local climate regulation.
The key message was that it is possible to manage flood risk and improve natural capital in urban areas without impacting on development potential.

5. Dynamic Coast (Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Dr Alistair Rennie (Scottish Natural Heritage, SNH) showcased work from the Dynamic Coast project commissioned by CREW and SNH. The research shows that Scotland’s coast is on the front line with climate change. The maps and reports at show the evidence of past and recent change and project these forward to consider which of the £18bn of coastal assets are at risk of erosion. There has been a 40% increase in the extent of erosion, a 30% fall in shores accreting seawards and a doubling of the average erosion rate to 1m/yr on our soft erodible shores since the 1970s. If recent erosion rates continue, £340m of assets will be threatened in the next 30 years. 80% of our coastal assets are protected by natural defences (sand dunes and marshes), and erosion on these shores is expected to quicken with future sea level rise. The latest research is expected to be published in summer 2020, but it is already clear that adaptation planning is now necessary across Scotland’s erodible shores.

Discussion Points

What incentives are there to embed best practices in planning or FRM? and What incentives are there from a policy perspective?

Significant green space has been lost to development because of cost-savings and operational constraints (i.e. planners and developers looking to meet minimum standards). Whilst economic incentives exist to promote best practice, the time is right for the economic model to shift to wider incentives such as wellbeing and environmental (i.e. how to incentivise land managers to install measures to reduce soil erosion).  We need a different approach to incentivising best practice and must consider who benefits?

What are the barriers to practitioners gaining access to scientific NFM research?

Academic papers are very technical, often impenetrable and difficult to access by practitioners. The problem stems from the fact that academics are judged on their ability to publish in peer reviewed journals rather than on writing blogs, popular articles, guidance notes etc. Note, not all papers are scientific robust, making it a challenge for practitioners to draw meaningful conclusions.

It was suggested that academics should improve how they communicate with non-technical audiences to enhance readership, understanding, uptake and impact of their work. It’s time for academics to investigate new methods to communicate research outcomes (demonstrations, workshops, guidance) and consider training the next generation of scientists to be more connected with their audience to allow effective communication.

The Centres of Expertise such as CREW and CXC specialise in science:policy:stakeholder communication.