Housing developers using "feeble" excuses to avoid building green roofs and other green infrastructure, PlantNetwork event hears

Some building developers are trying to worm their way out of blending green infrastructure into projects with lame excuses and blatant untruths, a conference heard last week.

Sustainable drainage expert Simon Bunn told a PlantNetwork conference on 12 April developers made feeble excuses to sidestep the need to create measures like retention ponds, living walls and green roofs.

"Some developers give excuses not to use green roofs," he told the Urban Public Gardens conference at Cambridge University Botanic Garden. "Some say they don’t work on slopes, others that you can't use them with solar panels."

Such reasons were not true said the sustainable drainage engineer for Cambridge City Council. His authority was one of only a few that had "adopted" sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) and could offer an advisory service to developers.

His council calculated the yearly average cost of flooding to be £1.86m and that 11,000 out of the city's 50,000 houses were at risk of flooding. However the university was leading a unique landmark project for student facilities and 2,000 homes in north-west Cambridge. 

"All surface-water runoff will be collected in four lagoons that will be treated and pumped back to offset the possible water demand for all of the homes. It will be the largest system of its kind in the UK."

Bunn said cash for green infrastructure often came from developer contributions, but the Environment Agency offered a flood-defence grant aid of around £100,000 for city-wide surface-water plans.

He said good reference points for SuDS inlcuded three publications from CIRIA: Planning for SuDS C687, The SuDs Manual (C697) and Retrofitting to Manage Surface Water (C713).

Cambridge City Council has also published an award-winning document, SuDS Design & Adoption Guide.

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