The Crucial Value of ‘suds’

The past few decades have seen the loss of much of our important green spaces.

Due to lack of funding in the 1980s, many of our urban parks fell in to a state of disrepair or were sold for development.

Alongside this loss, we have seen more out-of-town developments that include large car parks and with fewer planted areas.

More provision has been made for cars and many front gardens, such as those in West Bridgford, have been paved over to make way for driveways.

This has had a negative effect on how rain drains away. Without vital green space, rain runs quickly into watercourses and causes local flooding that adds to already- swollen rivers.

The recent flooding has caused major disruption and damage to property. David Cameron has acknowledged the opinion that the increase in extreme weather events is linked to the effects of climate change.

But green space and green infrastructure – the term used to describe any green elements within the landscape such as parks, green roofs, gardens and trees – also play a crucial role in reducing flooding (as well as helping connect people with nature within cities and improving air quality).

The current practice in landscape design is to consider rain first.

Recent large landscaping projects such as the Olympic Park demonstrated this practice of harvesting rain, and not seeing it as something that should be disposed of as quickly as possible.

Features that specifically deal with rain within landscape design are known as "suds", or "sustainable urban drainage systems". There are ways in which we can slow rain. Down-pipes can be used for collecting water with water butts for watering plants in pots and so on.

Rain gardens are becoming more common within landscape design. These can be simple ponds or bog gardens that are filled by rain and provide habitats for wildlife and can be interesting features within the garden.

There are ways of achieving off-street parking with careful design of a front garden that offers both hard standing but that is permeable to rain.

This can be a "grid" system that grass can grow through, a parking strip that is surrounded by planting, grass or other low-growing ground cover plants or a permeable landscape product such as block paving.

Public spaces should be designed to incorporate suds; green space and architects should consider how rain can be harvested from buildings and incorporated in to features such as green roofs. And urban spaces such as Trinity Square in Nottingham need to be designed with more consideration for the proportion of green space to hard surfaces in order to reduce localised flooding.

The current proposal includes trees – but would benefit from planted areas too.

[Helen Taylor, Hosta Consulting landscape design, writing in 'First Person', in the Nottingham Post,  Saturday, 18 January, 2014]