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.

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.


20 Raingardens for Kinross in 2020

February's blog comes from SGIF member and raingarden expert, Dr Brian D'Arcy. Here, he introduces a fantastic new community-based raingarden initiative to install 20 raingardens in and around Kinross in 2020:

What is a raingarden?

“An area of vegetation designed to accept rainfall runoff”

  • These can be large scale ‘community raingardens’ – features draining a road or several properties.
  • Or can be small scale (e.g. house plot)

Runoff is the rain draining from the roof, yard, driveway of a property, or from roads, fields, forests etc elsewhere.  The rainwater draining from roads and other surfaces mobilises pollutants, as well as creating a flood risk.  The raingardens use the natural self-purification properties of plants, sunlight and soils, to breakdown pollutants such as traces of oil in runoff. The features also have far more storage for rainstorm flood waters than conventional gullies and pipes.

There are several examples in Kinross-shire, as below, but a lot of scope for more:


Wildflower swale (no road gully or drainage pipes on either side of the road) and a wetland, West Kinross


Raingarden soakaway and raised bed raingarden Kinnesswood, and feature at commercial unit, West Kinross

The Kinross-shire Civic Trust raingardens challenge

The Civic Trust has advocated better, more attractive and effectively drained houses and other developments in and around Kinross for many years.  Place-making has become an in-vogue term in town planning, but the scope for raingardens is often overlooked. By setting the modest challenge to have 20 raingardens in 2020, the Trust is working with a range of local organisations to bring volunteer enthusiasm, backed by professional expertise and experience, to actively promote raingardens.

The Trust is encouraging properties across Kinross-shire to consider creating raingardens on their premises.  Community benefits can include reduced risks of local flooding of properties and roads; the green space is the safest place for water from intense rainstorms to linger whilst harmlessly draining away. Other benefits can be habitat creation and habitat linkage.  Especially in the older parts of town, taking the roof or driveway drainage out of the sewer system will help reduce sewer overflows during intensive rainstorms (an increasing problem with climate change in Britain). The Trust is also working to create a Raingardens Trail in West Kinross, promoting the existing features in dialogue with owner-occupiers (Perth and Kinross Council and local commercial sites).

What are other places doing?

Road traffic calming build-outs, and landscaping features in pedestrianised streets, are increasingly being created by local councils as multi-purpose features which add greenery and interest to the district.  We would like to see this in Kinross-shire too.


Cardiff (left, 1-2) – why not Kinross-shire?                                                            Melbourne

Green places are now recognised as important for a sense of well-being.  Perth and Kinross could achieve similar successes.

How are we trying to encourage raingardens?

With support from local community groups, Scottish Water, Perth and Kinross Council, and SEPA, the Civic Trust hopes to facilitate the creation of 20 or more raingardens in Kinross-shire in 2020.  The aim is to exemplify the opportunities with actual examples of good practice and publish that in new community publications, in magazines and blogs.  The progress will be tracked and reported regularly in the Kinross Newsletter, through the Scottish Green Infrastructure Forum and their 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland campaign and on .

We welcome opportunities to work with developers trying to maximise benefits from the requirements to drain their properties, and also interested individuals.

If you are interested, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Living Roofs for People and Nature

Living roofs are common place in London and in some other English cities, but what are the benefits? What do they cost to install and maintain? Can they be integrated into Scottish housing projects in a way that doesn’t compromise the financial viability of the development?

These are some of the questions that the Meadowbank Green Roof Viability project is seeking to answer. Funding from Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Government, (working with SFHA and Architecture and Design Scotland), has enabled City of Edinburgh Council to extend an existing Masterplanning commission for a new residential development near Meadowbank stadium. One of Edinburgh’s most high-profile regeneration sites, the scheme is likely to include around 600 dwellings, including a minimum of 35% affordable homes for social and mid-market rent. In addition the council expects the new neighbourhood to be highly energy efficient to support their aim of achieving net zero carbon by 2030.

The design team , comprising Collective Architecture, RaeburnFarquharBowen and Dusty Gedge (the Green Infrastructure Consultancy), are exploring the contribution that green roofs could make to a sustainable neighbourhood including:

  • Managing rainwater - green/ blue roofs can slow the run-off of surface water from the site, helping the neighbourhood to cope with extreme rainfall events likely to become more common as a result of climate change
  • Efficient use of space – less space may be needed at ground level for urban drainage schemes, potentially freeing up land for more housing
  • Reducing energy costs - green roofs can help cool buildings down in the summer and insulate them in the Winter
  • Providing greenspace– some of the roofs are likely to be accessible, so residents can enjoy contact with nature close to where they live, with benefits to their health and wellbeing
  • Providing important ‘stepping stone’ habitats for rare butterflies and other insects – new habitats can help some of the rare species on Arthur’s Seat colonise other parts of the city


We want to find out what these ‘nature based solutions’ cost in a real world setting, so the project will also employ quantity surveyors to estimate the short and ‘whole-life’ costs of different types of green roofs, from those that require ‘intensive’ management and allow public access, to those that require very little maintenance, but still provide a range of benefits.

Our ambition is that following completion, the green roofs and the range of other nature based solutions the design team are integrating into this site, will provide the best practice example of innovative green infrastructure in Scotland - all within a 15 walk of the Scottish Parliament!

Find out more about this project at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Development and Procurement conference in Edinburgh in March.

Green Infrastructure Development of the Year award

The Scottish Home Awards is Scotland’s first and foremost awards programme for new build housing in Scotland. Every year since 2005, it promotes the high-quality work of Scottish housebuilders via a wide ranging programme which is operated free from commercial influence and judged by a highly experienced and independent judging panel.

The objectives of the Scottish Home Awards are to provide an all-inclusive programme which :-

  • Improves the perception of housebuilding within the general public by profiling high quality construction and customer service.
  • Rewards high performing teams with industry wide recognition and an opportunity to celebrate at our annual awards dinner.
  • Recognises excellence in design, construction and team working

Scottish Natural Heritage are delighted to be announcing their sponsorship of a “Green Infrastructure Development of the Year Award” as part of the 2020 Scottish Homes Awards. This is a brand new award that will recognise the efforts of a private developer or housing association to deliver multi-functional green and blue infrastructure as part of a nature rich, high quality housing development.

Applicants are encouraged to demonstrate how the green and blue infrastructure elements of their development delivers functions such as surface water management and climate resilience, habitats for wildlife, outdoor play and learning and opportunities to connect people and nature.

For more information, and to apply click here.