Digital Book of Landscapes 2020


Edinburgh’s Sustainable Rainwater Management Guide

Ujwala Fernandes
Associate Director

“The main design reference used in Scotland is the Sewers for Scotland specification which provides the basic level required for vesting and did not provide inspiration for anything that was more creative or place specific. Edinburgh wanted to raise the profile of SUDs systems and methods of water attenuation and conveyance so that it could be adopted as supplementary planning guidance and drive forward better design solutions.”

- Julie Waldron, Senior Planning Officer, CEC

This innovative guidance is the first of its kind in Scotland and sets a high benchmark for integration of blue-green infrastructure in the City of Edinburgh. It takes a holistic approach to rainwater management and climate change adaption providing a practical, accessible guide that covers the ‘why, ‘how’ and ‘where’ of bringing about positive change, restoring nature, greening our cities and creating beautiful inclusive place.

In 2019 Atkins were commissioned by City of Edinburgh Council with funding from SUSTRANS to develop technical supplementary planning guidance on the design and implementation of sustainable drainage. At an early stage in the project we recognised the Guidance needed to go beyond SuDS and look at the role of natural water management and climate change adaptation in placemaking. The Guidance considers not just new development but the challenges of adapting existing streets including the unique sensitivities of Edinburgh’s iconic historic core. It looks in detail at the role of sustainable rainwater management in good placemaking and how analysis of benefits such as biodiversity, health and well-being can help to support communities and enable quality design.

All information presented in the guidance is based on thorough consultation, best practice, expertise and current research to support innovative design solutions at a range of scales.

Sustainable drainage uses the natural properties of soil, trees, planting and geography integrated with or in place of traditional ‘grey’ urban drainage systems while providing important environmental benefits that will contribute to:

  • Improving water quality
  • Reducing pollutants
  • Improving air quality
  • Reducing ‘heat island’ effects
  • Supporting biodiversity
  • Aiding carbon reduction

The project examined issues like:

  • Planning and asset adoption
  • Physical risk and safety,
  • Relationships to with other local and National guidance
  • Designing for practicalities of construction and maintenance
  • The constraints and opportunities within historically sensitive areas
  • Constraints within the airport bird
  • Potential benefits to communities
  • Supporting Edinburgh’s long-term vision
  • Specifications in response to climate change

The Guidance Document

The Guidance is a live document responsive to new policies and with an ongoing series of technical factsheets under development on specific types of SuDS features or areas of special design consideration.

The document is structured to move from Edinburgh specific considerations to technical detail on the siting, design and construction. It aims to answer the questions of:

  • Why we need sustainable drainage systems in Edinburgh?
  • What are the practical considerations?
  • Where and what kind of sustainable drainage can be introduced in Edinburgh?
  • How to fit sustainable drainage in Edinburgh’s streets, public spaces and new developments.

Developing the Guidance

By actively listening to the future users of the guidance which include developers, consultants and a wide range of users within City of Edinburgh Council, we gained an understanding of their differing needs and existing knowledge, leading to a commitment to produce guidance that is:

  • Clear
  • Practical
  • Uses accessible non-technical language
  • Uses high quality visual information
  • Is easy to navigate (online or in print)
  • Is simple to update
  • With comprehensive easy to follow links and references

The guidance … forms a ‘practical ‘tool’ for on the ground delivery. With a strong emphasis on process, the guidance suite clearly sets out Council expectations for collaborative working from design to delivery on the ground and long-term maintenance. The guidance is informed by insight from/collaboration with the development industry to ensure a forward-thinking end product that ‘works’ at the coalface of delivery.”

- Wendy Campbell Senior Planner (Water)

In the process of developing the Guidance it became evident that these topics and our comprehensive approach to sustainable water management were also very relevant to other Scottish local authorities and stakeholder organisations. We are therefore currently engaged with national working groups to assess how the Guidance can be applied at a national level across Scotland.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) won this year’s Landscape Institute award for Excellence in Landscape and Parks Management.

Find out more about Atkins role here…