New world-leading research has shown that alongside Newcastle’s traditional colours of Black and White, increasing the amount of blue and green in the City could help tackle flood risk and climate change, and bring other social, economic and environmental benefits. Newcastle’s approach to tackling flood risk in the city is now also being used as a role model for other UK cities.
It comes following estimates for the City Council which highlighted a £70m gap to keep flood risk on the Ouseburn and City Centre at current levels by 2030, accounting for growth, paving over open space, and climate change.
Research from the Blue-Green Cities Consortium, led by the University of Nottingham, has found that increasing the amount of storage ponds, water channels, green roofs, green walls and green space (known as blue and green infrastructure) in Newcastle could make a significant contribution to reducing flood risk, as well as improving air quality and biodiversity.
Local partners are already working together to embed such approaches into the City, including in the final masterplan for Science Central, providing a new state-of-the-art urban water research facility as part of Newcastle University’s new Urban Sciences Building, as well as creating more storm water storage space for water by diverting a section of the Ouseburn at Brunton Park – the existing river channel will be used for storage in times of heavy rainfall.
The importance of the findings are such that they have led Newcastle City Council, the Environment Agency, Northumbrian Water, Newcastle University, Arup and Royal HaskoningDHV, to come together and be the first organisations in the country to explicitly commit to a blue-green approach, as recommended by the research. By signing a pledge, they hope that other local and national organisations will join them in their aspiration to make such approaches common across England.
Professor Colin Thorne, from the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham, who led the research said “The project has provided us with new insights, which not only confirm how effective using blue-green infrastructure can be, but gives Cities the tools to implement it. The City Council and all stakeholders have been so engaged, and the launch of the pledge can only help maintain momentum.”
Cllr. Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, with responsibility for climate change at Newcastle City Council, said: “The research is clear – increasing blue and green infrastructure offers significant added value for the City. Smart investments such as this support our efforts for more and better jobs, and can help shield our most vulnerable residents from flooding. This is a new way of working with partners to make such approaches a reality’.
Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater Director, Richard, Warneford, said: “Flooding causes so much devastation and is a horrendous experience for people to go through. Signing this pledge further demonstrates our commitment to reducing flood risk. Having access to such insightful research and working with partners from so many different types of organisations, all with varying knowledge, expertise and information, will enable us to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to protect homes and businesses from flooding.”
Other key outputs and findings from the research include:
• New modelled estimates of damage which show that the June 2012 ‘toon flood’ event caused £78 million damage to the local economy
• A deeper understanding of how to overcome the challenges in implementing blue and green infrastructure, including finance, the willingness to trial new approaches and limited understanding of blue-green approaches
• A new, cutting edge model to test how blue and green infrastructure reduces flood risk in the City
• A new way for local authorities and their partners to map the extra benefits that using blue and green infrastructure provides compared to hard engineering solutions.
The findings are being launched at a national conference at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle on Thursday February 18, which will share the cutting edge research with local authorities, regulators, industry and academics from across the UK.