SRA End of Year Report 2017-18: Urban Water Management (W3)

Rain garden project

A small demonstration project (half-funded by Somerset Rivers Authority, half by Wessex Water), delivered for the SRA and Wessex Water by Somerset County Council. The contractor was Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT).

The aim was to show the environmental and run-off reduction benefits of ‘rain garden’ techniques. So as to seek wider public benefits than would arise from funding work at privately- owned properties, SCC and WRT chose to collaborate with Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) and focus on council-owned sheltered housing at Kilkenny and Middleway in Taunton. Carried forward from the SRA’s Enhanced Programme for 2016-17.

Achieved: Contract awarded to WRT, after tendering, in April 2017. Meetings held with residents in August to discuss their role in developing the project. SuDS designers, and WRT contacts who had previously worked on similar projects, were then consulted about further ideas and conceptual designs. At Kilkenny Court, the project team also worked with the intergenerational dementia-awareness project Reminiscence Learning, who have previously developed ‘dementia gardens’. Ideas put into action in autumn 2017, with residents enthusiastically involved. As a follow-up to the success of this activity, it is hoped to do more with these communities as part of the closely- associated Sponge project (see next entry).

Sponge EU

The SRA is contributing to the Somerset element of an international EU project known as Sponge to raise awareness of what can be done in urban areas to reduce run-off and hence flooding whilst also enhancing the environment. The project is led locally by Somerset County Council (SCC) and Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT). SCC is currently developing demonstration projects to retrofit SuDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) into retail parking areas. WRT is supplementing this endeavour with work on residential SuDS in and around Taunton.

Being achieved: SCC has been collaborating closely with WRT. For example, the Trust’s Ecosystems Services opportunity mapping for Taunton, used to identify potential residential areas to target, is also helping to shape SCC’s ambitions for SuDS in parking areas.

WRT has been promoting Sponge in suitable areas and, as a result, has begun working with community groups. Small-scale SuDS retrofits are now being planned in schools, parks and council housing. Many sites have been suggested by community groups / landowners, in response to community engagement activities.

In 2018-19, WRT is particularly keen to work with schools on getting pupils to create SuDS in school grounds. A Community Raingardens project will follow on from a pilot scheme funded by the SRA and Wessex Water (see previous entry) and work at Longrun Meadow (where it is planned to introduce meanders and a reed bed into a section of drainage channel). The aim is to get more volunteers building and maintaining rain gardens in public spaces.

SCC is developing ideas for larger retrofits in car parks owned by Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC). A consultant has been commissioned to establish in more detail what is feasible. One reason SCC is working with TDBC on Sponge is that it fits in with the council’s major Garden Town initiative, designed to create more green spaces with native trees and hedgerows, ponds, and natural landscaping.

In July 2017, a training workshop was held in Taunton for all of the UK’s partners in Sponge (SCC, WRT, Essex County Council and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council), and several participants from the Netherlands.

Sponge has been promoted in Somerset through a workshop for local stakeholders, presentations at meetings and attendance at events. Both SCC and WRT intend to run more public engagement activities over the summer to raise general awareness of SuDS that can be implemented on private land and to enthuse land owners. Local festivals will be attended and some events will be put on independently. The project team is also looking at opportunities to take Sponge to other towns in Somerset.

Sponge will continue until 2020. It is not affected by Brexit.

Planning requirements

A project to get and share the best, most up-to-date knowledge about how the planning system can be used in Somerset to secure better drainage. Methods include reviewing national and local policies and guidance, and interviewing many local practitioners involved with different aspects of the planning process. The aim is to make sure that developers know – and do – what  is required. Work is being led for the SRA by Somerset County Council. It began as part of the SRA’s Enhanced Programme for 2016-17.

Being achieved: Knowledge gained about Planning requirements has been informing other SRA-funded projects such as the SuDS Review. Research so far is also the basis for a new scheme in the SRA’s 2018-19 Enhanced Programme: the production of a Somerset-specific planning guidance document to supplement the West of England Sustainable Drainage Guide for Developers. This guidance will be adopted by Somerset’s local planning authorities.

SuDS Review

A study into whether selected Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems across Somerset were a) adequately designed, b) constructed as designed, c) have any deficiencies, d) are being adequately maintained. This initiative is attracting widespread interest from national professional bodies for three main reasons. Firstly, because it is unique. Secondly, because the way SuDS work in practice affects the lives of people dwelling nearby and further afield. Thirdly, because well-designed SuDs can deliver many other benefits aside from drainage, such as greener, more attractive places. Carried forward from the SRA’s Enhanced Programme 2016-17.

Being achieved: This project is being managed for the SRA by Somerset County Council (SCC), using consultants JBA. It was thought, to begin with, that 12 sites might be enough.

After seven were examined, and initial findings summarised, the SRA Board agreed in July 2017 to allocate extra funding, so that a much fuller picture could be obtained of SuDS performance in Somerset.

In August, JBA prepared a revised brief and programme and an expanded list was developed with input from SCC, Wessex Water, some Local Planning Authorities, district council drainage engineers, the Environment Agency and Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium.

Innovative recording templates have been developed by JBA with SCC and Wessex Water. Wessex Water have also contributed significantly to actual inspections, by sharing staff time and expertise, particularly knowledge of places where they own and maintain assets. Ongoing involvement from other partners has also helped to refine this project. Two dozen inspections are now complete: a report is being circulated to partners for comment in spring 2018, with publication scheduled later in 2018.

SuDS Inspection

Many Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) built by developers remain in private ownership instead of being taken on (‘adopted’) by a Flood Risk Management Authority (FRMA) such as a local council. Historically, FRMAs have taken the view that if they are not going to be looking after particular SuDS in the future, then it is not imperative to go and inspect them when they are being built. All the more so because no authority is funded to inspect SuDs that are going to stay in private hands for future maintenance, and there are many other demands on FRMAs’ limited resources. And yet, these unadopted SuDS will affect people’s lives for years to come, not just residents in the new homes these systems were built to serve, but road-users and people living further afield as well. Therefore, as an extra service for local people, Somerset Rivers Authority pays for checks on SuDS that are not going to be adopted. The SRA can do this because of the unique way it has been set up and is funded.

Carried forward from the SRA’s Enhanced Programme for 2016-17.

Being achieved: The inspection team (Somerset County Council’s Highway Development Supervision Team) has begun to identify possible sites for inspection and to prepare templates for inspection and reporting. Mendip District Council planners and engineers have begun telling applicants for certain sites which include SuDS thay they should let the inspection team know when the building of their SuDs is coming up. Developments with significant SuDS will be inspected during 2018- 19 as schemes get built.

Encouraging urban and village run-off reduction

A Somerset-wide campaign – drawing on all of the above strands in Workstream 3 – to raise awareness of urban water management issues, and to provide and promote advice to householders and businesses who may wish to improve drainage locally and decrease run-off, by putting in place things such as permeable paving, green roofs, water butts, extra trees, rain garden features such as suitably-planted sunken areas, etc. Being achieved: Research being done, strategy being prepared by the SRA.

Wirral Park

Wirral Park balance pond and pumping station was built in 1989 to help protect Glastonbury against flooding. In 2015- 16, the SRA funded the replacement of life- expired one-way flap valves and gate valves, and the removal of two skips full of silt and debris from the inlet channel. This was Phase 1 of a scheme designed and delivered by Mendip District Council to ensure that Wirral Park would continue to protect more than 200 homes and four hectares of industrial estate. Not yet achieved: Phase 2 will upgrade Wirral Park’s dated electrical control system to meet current regulations and allow remote monitoring should the need arise. The pumping station was inspected in October 2017 and a detailed report was produced on the exact requirement to upgrade it. Action due end of May/June 2018.

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