13 Jun 2007

More on SUDS: every development needs them

Yesterday evening I met with Bob Bray, an international Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems expert (and more info here) and a top Planning Officer from another local Council who has an interest in SUDS - we met at the Co-Housing project in Stroud where they have an exciting scheme.

Photo: Co-housing

As blog readers will know SUDS is one of the areas I have tried to get more noticed - we have an extraordinary cavalier approach to our water supplies and the way we treat our water - things must change - already in Ireland and Scotland the practice is mandatory - here it is not - our local Council has a policy but the reality is that it needs tightening up and planners, developers, councillors and more need to know more about this approach.

Many myths abound like SUDS can't be used if there is no green area and that they are more expensive - both nonsense - infact maybe it's time to develop a SUDS Myth Buster leaflet?

Photo: water cascades down the tiled walls

Anyhow we started with a look at how the system works at Springhill - developers had said it was impossible to do a SUDS scheme there but it is up and running and working well. Water cascades down tiled walls in between timber and stone gabions. Then rills and swales collect and store the rain water allowing it to seep away before it can put an extra load on the local drainage system.

Photo: main pedestrain street with rills - seen as controversial as they are open water ways - children might get hurt - however they have been made safer by covering key sections and planting others - grills are another option but were seen as more expensive

Under the main pedestrian path are tanks that will take extra water if necessary. The village green is shaped like a basin so it can fill up with rain when it is very heavy - apparently it has only had a little water in the bottom in the past years.

Anyhow we then want onto a more suitable location to explore how to get SUDS accepted more by planners and all - various ideas discussed and I will be pursuing some of those - indeed in future blogs I hope to carry more on this issue.

Anyhow for those unfamiliar with the Springhill Co-housing in Stroud - it is the first co-housing community in the UK and is certainly a model for future sustainable communities - indeed already in Stroud there is now a Co-flats project with it's own wind turbine.

The Co-housing comprises of 35 households plus a Common House where people cook and eat together about three times a week. This substantial additional space makes it easy for people to have smaller private dwellings with a safe pedestrian street through the middle of the site.

Here's more info:

Designed by Architype, specialists in timber frame houses, the project shows how a small, inconvenient sloping site can be transformed into a new community. Recycling, community composting, high-intensity insulation, PV panels, a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS), and a car-sharing scheme all contribute to an environmentally sensitive scheme. Something in the overall attitude of the site minimises negative and enhances positive environmental and social impacts.

Co-housing promotes a very strong sense of belonging and encourages friendly, co-operative and helpful behaviour, including self-policing. The residents all became directors of the development company so were involved in commissioning the construction. Three out of the 35 units are subsidised in perpetuity at 15% below market value.

In Denmark 3-4% of the population live in co-housing. The high level of single parents at Springhill (nearly half the families with children) shows how co-housing responds to their need for safety, services and social interaction close to home. A third of the residents of Springhill work from home and the nature of the community means there is lots of business support sharing, offering a glimpse of a possible future for home-based enterprise integrated with more sustainable living.

In Stroud they are already working on schemes for co-flats and actively looking for other sites to develop. As UK households continue to change and shrink co-housing may be an answer more widely.

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