Designing public spaces for extreme rainfall: green and blue infrastructure in Copenhagen

Designing public spaces for rainfall management through SUDS systems is a familiar concept in Scotland.  Innovative retrofit schemes aimed at dealing with extreme weather events locally and at a city wide level are also beginning to emerge, for example in Glasgow. I was therefore interested to explore the work the City of Copenhagen are implementing as part of their “Cloudburst Management Plan

The Copenhagen strategy takes a long term, site by site, approach to adapting the city’s existing public realm to cope with climate change. I was keen to see whether the projects implemented to date lived up to their objectives of also improving the quality of place and engaging local communities in the design process.

Inspired by the talk at the 2016 CSGN Forum from project designer René Sommer Lindsay, one of the sites I visited was Tåsinge Plads in the densely populated Osterbro district of the city. Working closely with the community, René and his team have transformed an extensive area of car parking and mown grass into a diverse and characterful open space. Surface water from surrounding roofs and streets is gathered in a series of linked swales, underground storage tanks and detention basins.

The project, now two years on from completion, is bearing up well. It has already been tested by extreme downpours, and the series of designed planted and paved spaces has proved popular with local people. It clearly demonstrates how high capacity stormwater infrastructure can be integrated within public spaces in a manner which also creates an attractive and liveable place for people.

Similar and emerging work in Scotland has real potential to realise these objectives.


Frazer McNaughton- Landscape and Placemaking Adviser, Scottish Natural Heritage


A series of three linked detention basins allows for a large volume of surface water from surrounding roofs and streets to be controlled before either percolating into the ground water or slowly entering the sewer system.

The detention basins utilise a densely planted mix of native and non-native species. The planting in the basins helps achieve good levels of ground water percolation and provides seasonal diversity.

Robust and simple detailing allows the existing tarmac street to drain directly into vegetated swales and below ground water storage tanks

Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2017

Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning

The ceremony for this years’ Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning, one of the Government’s most prestigious awards was held on Wednesday 8th November 2017 at The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. The SAQP awards celebrate achievements in planning, from the detail of processing to the bigger picture of creating places.

The four judges, including Simon Rennie Chief Executive of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, carefully considered all the applications. Having shortlisted 22 projects in the four categories of Partnership, Place, Plans and Process, they recognised 16 projects with awards for 2017.

Of green infrastructure interest, Falkirk Council’s Open Space Strategy won an award as the Judges felt the project was great to get the community interested in the value of their local greenspace areas, and the guidance was easy to read and understand.


The Overall Award went to Orkney Islands Council for its Team Stromness project. The judges considered this was an exemplary Urban Design Framework delivering on the ground. The Council’s passion to see Stromness modernise whilst maintaining its historical elegance was to be congratulated.

As well as being recognised with an Award in the Place category, Cairngorms National Park Authority received the People’s Choice in Planning Award for its Snow Roads Scenic Routes Initiative, which was developed to enhance visitors’ experience of the Scottish landscape by creating three newly designed viewpoints.

• A document containing all the winners can be found here
• More information and videos of all 16 winners can be seen here.  

All photos © Scottish Government.


Rooftop garden to help new school’s pupils blossom!

An exciting new secondary school in Grangemouth has been built with a biodiverse roof garden that can be used by pupils and teachers for outdoor learning. This green roof is over 300m2 in size and will provide many benefits for wildlife and for people in the school and the surrounding area.

Carrongrange High School has been purpose built for the almost 170 pupils that have a range of support requirements. An important feature of the roof garden is that it has been designed so that pupils and teachers will be able to easily access different natural features.

The roof has a wide paved footpath that allows access for pupils in wheelchairs, and unique, hand-carved benches that allow pupils to sit at either end of the garden. There are a range of plants including the garden plants like Chives, Thrift and Heathers, and also a wildflower mat with a wide range of native species that are already providing important food for bumblebees!

This is the second green roof to be installed in Grangemouth, both through the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative ‘Glorious Green Roof’ project, which has been managed by Buglife, and is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the EU LIFE programme. The first green roof was installed at a building owned by CalaChem in May 2016.

Not only will both green roofs act as stepping stones for wildlife, allowing the movement and mixing of individuals and species across Grangemouth, they will also improve cooling of the buildings in the summer and insulation in the winter, and increase the lifespan of the roof thus saving energy.


Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities

Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities: GREEN SURGE conference in Malmö, Sweden, 20-21st September 2017

Late September saw the gathering in Malmö, Sweden, of some 300 researchers, decision-makers, planners, and practitioners from 35 nationalities for the concluding two-day conference of the GREEN SURGE project on urban green infrastructure.  As a collaborative project between 24 partners in 11 countries (funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, FP7) GREEN SURGE has produced a wealth of useful evidence, tools, approaches and case studies for nature-based solutions to link green spaces, biodiversity, people and the green economy.

Stormwater runoff rain garden in the Augustenborg district of Malmö (Scot Mathieson)

A varied and inventive conference programme combined plenary presentations and focused workshops introducing the outputs of the project with technical visits to a range of sites around Malmö, widely cited as one of the world’s most sustainable, liveable cities. The visits showcased many examples of the city’s investment in sustainable urban regeneration. Examples included integrated green infrastructure, world-leading green roof research and extensive areas of liveable, walkable, resilient communities which were developed in areas of former industrial dereliction following the collapse of Malmö’s shipbuilding industry in the 1980s/90s.

A sizeable contingent of Scottish green infrastructure advocates, many from SGIF-supporting bodies (e.g. SEPA, SNH, ELGT, Forest Research, GCVGNP, Glasgow City Council) , travelled to the conference and, since our return, we have been considering how best to pool our various experiences and photos from the conference visits.

The extensive range of products from the GREEN SURGE project can be accessed here.  


Scot Mathieson

Principal Conservation Policy Officer, SEPA

Europe’s best Green Active Travel routes highlighted in new case studies

Copenhagen Green Cycle Route
Copenhagen Green Cycle Route

Five new green active travel case studies are available to download from the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) website.

The case studies, which cover routes in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Belfast, Edinburgh and across the UK, offer a flavour of how active travel and green infrastructure can be integrated within different worldwide contexts.

Green active travel routes represent the deliberate choice to combine natural planting, greenery or water systems together with paths for people on foot or on bike.

These routes can be created by either adding new travel routes to existing infrastructure or by adding new green infrastructure to existing travel routes – or by integrating both from the start.

The addition of green infrastructure to active travel routes provides multiple benefits. These include flood mitigation, climate change adaption, increased biodiversity, connectivity and a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

The case studies - available on the CSGN website - include examples of both newly integrated green active travel routes and those that have been the result of long-term masterplans.

The studies provide both inspiration and key learnings for others aspiring to implement their own green active travel routes.

The first of these case studies details the Copenhagen Green Cycle Routes programme. The ‘Grönne Cykelruter’, as it is known locally, work towards Copenhagen’s aim of becoming the world’s best cycling city and stems from almost a century of large-scale urban planning.

The city’s active travel network consists of over 58km of individual cycle routes which connect green parks, lakes, the harbour and university. The green routes have focused on the integration of quieter, greener, natural habitats with traffic-free active travel routes.

The next case study, the Connswater Community Greenway, provides an example of how community engagement and partnership working can create a community asset and leave a legacy for future generations.

Opened in April 2017, the greenway has become a living landmark for east Belfast, joining Belfast Lough to the Castlereagh Hills with a 9km wildlife corridor.

The greenway aims to create a vibrant and accessible space for community events, including key public spaces such as the C.S. Lewis Square, while improving the biodiversity of the city and reducing flooding for at risk residents.

The case study of the Little France Park development in Edinburgh demonstrates how to integrate active travel and green infrastructure from the outset as part of a master-planned project.

By providing connections for communities, commuters and hospital patients, Little France Park has formed an important part of the wider regional green network.

Another master-planned project, the Hamburg Grünes Netz, provides the inspiration for a further case study, available on the CSGN website.

The Hamburg Grünes Netz – or Green Network – is a city-wide urban masterplan based around green active travel, which aims to eliminate the need for cars in Hamburg over the next 20 years. Utilising a large-scale phased approach, the Hamburg Green Network aims to provide safe, pleasant, car-free routes that are accessible for all city residents.

Looking beyond the citywide scale of the other case studies, the Greener Greenways project aims to improve the biodiversity of 38 traffic-free walking and cycling routes in Scotland, England and Wales.

The initiative – managed by Sustrans - was designed to increase biodiversity by integrating green infrastructure with existing active travel corridors. The project also aims to improve the routes for the people who use them, with volunteers providing much of the groundwork.

The full suite of Green Active Travel Routes case studies is available to download here