03Oct 2013

Communities and surface water management – it’s happened

Owen Davies, Sustainability Engineer, Lambeth Council

I wrote a blog in January about community engagement and surface water management focusing on an event supported by Lambeth where 27 residents attended a subsidised green roof training day. I said in that blog that if as the LLFA we got 10 green roofs installed as an outcome of the day it can be considered extremely successful.


I should have pointed out at the time I wrote the blog that green roofs are not the answer to surface water management and will not magically remove the risk of flooding. However green roofs, as rain gardens, as swales, as water butts all do have an ability to remove a percentage of surface water from the overall picture, so are part of the solution and not the whole solution, the sum of all the parts or as I like to refer to it as one of the wedges of the Socolows wedges of surface water management.


In January and February Lambeth undertook a residents workshop and an online survey to help inform the development of the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy. In the online survey we asked residents what measures they would support Lambeth in undertaking across the borough, the results below are quite clear and highlight a desire to green the borough:-


96% residents support Depave

86% residents support Highway Rain Gardens

90% residents support new grass verges

96% residents support green roofs


So we know that there is a desire to green the borough, we know this will have a positive benefit to not also surface water management but also bio-diversity, ecology, urban heat island, air quality and health and well being. We know residents and communities have a desire to be up-skilled and empowered so we seem to be heading in the right direction it’s just how do we make that final connection how do we get the wedge to be put in place to deliver?


It seems the answer is really very simple, by providing simple straight forward training with practical hands on experience to give people the confidence and knowledge it seems things will happen. The residents who attended the green roof training in January were asked if anyone had installed a green roof?


The response?


As can be seen in the photo a green roof garden has been introduced in Lambeth on Christchurch CE Primary School, it can be seen in the photo that this is an educational intervention which includes a habitat wall, bug hotel and water management as well as providing an outdoor classroom. One has been installed in Greenwich because someone who attended helped their friend install a green roof on their shed/workshop. So we have two green roofs installed with a third installed as a direct outcome of the training though funded directly by Lambeth.

Jules green roof

Courtesy Jules Rodgers 2013


OK its not the 10 and one is outside the borough but in 8 months that’s not a bad return and it all helps.


Lambeth are committed to support and offer green roof training with an event on the 9th October and further events this financial year. So why are Lambeth committed to this training?


The simple answer is that its fun it builds resilience and skills in the borough (and outside) residents are up-skilled and empowered. As for the justification of supporting and paying for the training the figures are now starting to speak for themselves.


1.7% of the added burden budget

96% of residents want green roofs

11% of those who attended the first course have installed green roofs


So yes Communities and surface water management does work and it actually works quite well with some really great outcomes and just a little bit of job satisfaction.

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