Flooding reveals a hard truth

While it will be little consolation to the many hit hard by the season's unprecedented rainfall, one thing is now clear - the need for water-sensitive urban design, which has languished way down the political priority list, can no longer be ignored.

Kate Lowe: Image HW
Kate Lowe: Image HW

In an interview with Horticulture Week here, the Committee on Climate Change head of adaption Daniel Johns makes it clear that trends in planning, urban green space and impermeable surfacing need to be reversed.

To date, action has been too little too late. By the time planning changes were brought in to stall the paving over of gardens with non-porous materials, two-thirds of London's gardens - an area the size of 22 Hyde Parks - were already at least partially encased, greatly increasing the load on the drainage infrastructure. More recently, the adoption of sustainable drainage systems, required under the Flood & Water Management Act, has stalled.

Meanwhile, urban green spaces across the UK face devastating cuts to their maintenance, which can only hasten the time that some are sold off for development following their inevitable collapse into disrepair.

In a recent column for HW, nurseryman Tim Edwards noted that use of sustainable drainage systems is just one of many examples of how good landscape design can solve real human problems. But he warned that effective designs only get delivered if the landscape element of a development is given the respect it deserves - and the share of the budget it requires.

From green space management to the building of sustainable landscapes, the horticulture industry has the skills to make a decisive contribution to contemporary challenges. All that is needed is the political will.

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