The Increasing Need for Integrated and Strategic Blue/Green Infrastructure30 July 2020
Given the recent years of winter flooding, high summer temperatures, decline in biodiversity and declaration of the climate emergency by local authorities, the need for an integrated and strategic approach to the natural world has never been more important.
South-Yorkshire based environmental consultants Enzygo provides environmental support to clients across the UK for their built development needs. Their Associate Director of Landscape, Graham Bailey who previously worked in the public sector and at two AJ100 Architects practices, outlines some of the key issues and benefits of whole project design services.
What are the Key Areas that we operate in?
We have worked on many projects providing Landscape Architecture and Landscape Planning Servcies ranging from Infrastructure (waste management facilities, standby energy, nergy from waste, and the A1 Disforth to Barton road widening), Commercial (office blocks and logistic sheds), Leisure (holiday parks, play and recreation, sports) and residential (strategic land, master planning and technical design). To high tech projects turning waste into synthetic transport fuels, and currently some priority projects needed to treat the huge quantities of clinical waste that are resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the last 18 months we have seen a significant increase in the number of residential schemes being refused permission or requiring significant amendments due to not addressing Building For life 12 (BfL12) standards (https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/Building%20for%20Life%2012_0.pdf), Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and SUDs in sufficient detail. Many Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s)are now using BfL12 as well as local policy to assess schemes. Many of the BfL12 stabdards ( Connectivity, Facilities, Character, Context, Connectivity, Placemaking, Amenity) are covered by Landscape Architecture and integrate with requirements to deliver BNG and SUDs
One of the key issues is that we are often approached to resolve issues after sites have been purchased or planning applications have been submitted:
- sites purchased based on an outline approval and developed with a set number of units to prove the viability; and
- more traditional design of street arrangements, amenity and drainage infrastructure;
- piped systems leading to a bomb crater depression (attenuationfeature) at the rear of the site;
- limited scope for placemaking and biodiversity net gain.
This makes it much harder to help deliver on BfL 12 standards, BNG and SUD’s integration, as these elements may not have been fully considered strategically at the initial site assessment and concept stage. I feel this leads to a development which misses the oppertunity for Blue/Green infrastructure to add to the amenity and value of the development. Other barriers and issues include:
- commercial and contractual nature of multi discipline design teams (different consultants) not communicating or integrating design solutions;
- lack of early engagement with the right consultants to review and address constraints and risk;
- segmented nature of the sector and structure of developers with regard bonus incentives and delivery [strategic land/planning, construction, sales];
- perception and resistance to change, e.g. new ideas moving from the status quo;
- perceived risk;
- adoption and Long term maintenance. e.g. SUD’s lack of consistent adoptable standards from one Local Authority/Water Company to the next;
- continual and engaged management and maintenance;
- new homeowners tenants seeing service charge as a cost rather than a long term benefit;
- short term nature of delivery in housing and commercial sectors (numbers driven).
Early engagement of consultants at the right stages of a project allow a multitude of issues to be addressed with clearly defined developable areas and integrated multifunctional (SUDS, BNG, Amneity) designs considered form the outset of masterplan development.
These are Key Benefits that Enzygo have been able to offer some of our clients through a one stop shop consultancy including:
- integrated sustainable designs, through a single point design team that respond to context, constraints whilst satisfying statutory requirements for design and environmental standards.;
- reduced capital costs through multi- functional designs which integrate a scheme and deliver on amenity, bio diversity, flood, leisure and recreation. e.g. attenuation on podium landscape, amneity and biodiversity within SUD’s design;
- potential savings through mitigation of contamination, soil manufacture, water treatment (reduced connections);
- ease of construction with considered and integrated designs from the outset, minimising conflicts and responding to budget constraints and drivers from the outset;
- maximising developable areas and viability of sites;
- reduced project and planning risk as respond to context, provides narrative.;
- enhanced placemaking.;
- SUDS, and green infrastructure often have reduced installation costs and easier to install. Cheaper to maintain over time;
- improved sales story and offering e.g. use less carbon, delivers more habitats;
- enhanced property value and improved sales through USP and quality environments.
So the moral of this story is early enagagment with the right design team can avoid post planning issues, build in visual and amenity benefits to a scheme and result in something which is seen as higher value for the ultimate user/occupiers.
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