Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture at University of Sheffield. Describing himself as an ecologist and plant scientist, his presentation was entitled ‘Urban Planting for Beauty and Function’.
Having undertaken my undergraduate degree in Sheffield, and having lived there for several years afterwards, I retain a keen interest in all things Sheffield. Nigel’s focus was on how to make GI work in cities, and in particular approaches to planting (what types of plants are used where) which are both functional and beautiful.
He outlined a SUDS Scheme (sustainable urban drainage system) he worked on outside Sheffield’s law courts (West Bar) in the city centre. A SUDS scheme is a natural approach to managing water drainage (for example storm water drainage).
This scheme included storm-water basins (which store storm water and remove pollutants) and bio swales (which slow down and filter storm water), as well as a strong planting design. This scheme is not only very beautiful enhancing the city for its inhabitants and workers as they walk by this busy area, but it is designed to alleviate flooding. It is low maintenance water-wise due to the planting scheme and retention of water in the basins and swales.
Nigel explained how the scheme is being maintained by Green Estate, a specialist landscape management company (a social enterprise), who are trained to know how to maintain the planting scheme. He highlighted how this is a particular issue for these type of schemes where conventional urban public landscaping companies don’t have the expertise to manage these sites well. To my mind it seems there is a considerable need for new jobs and skills in this area.
I’m particularly interested in how less affluent communities can also have access to the positive health, environmental and economic benefits that GI can bring communities. And have found a particularly interesting project in inner London, led by Groundwork and Hammersmith and Fulham Council, where working with local residents on three social housing estates, they have designed and implemented climate change adaptation measures. Including green walls, rain gardens (SUDS) and green rooves, to help reduce the risk of flooding and help cool the city during summer heatwaves (the image here is of Richard Knight House).
Image credits: 1, 2, 3 Nigel Dunnett, University of Sheffield, 4 House Groundwork, London