The Countryside and Community Research Institute at the University of Gloucestershire was part of a successful team that won a 2016 Gloucestershire CPRE award for ‘innovative use of natural resources, including land and water’.
The award, which was presented last night (4th October) at a special ceremony at Highnam, Gloucestershire, relates to the Stroud Rural Sustainable Drainage Project (SuDs), which was set up in response to the 2007 floods.
The project is run by Stroud District Council in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council and the Environment Agency, who have been working closely with landowners and organisations including Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the National Trust and the University of Gloucestershire. The aim has been to implement a range of measures using the natural landscape to help provide greater protection from extreme weather and to slow the rate that water flows in streams that run into the River Frome.
Rural SuDs has implemented techniques to reduce flood risk by improving and restoring natural habitats to restore and make use of natural drainage processes. Measures include creating ephemeral ponds and wetlands to hold flood waters and remove silt, improving connectivity between water courses and flood plains and providing new habitats for wetland and aquatic species.
Chris Short, CCRI Reader in Environmental Governance, nominated the project for the award. He is working with Stroud District Council, overseeing the University partnership and is a member of the Advisory Board. He said:
‘This is really a recognition of the work undertaken by Stroud District Council, and in particular Chris Uttley, who has developed a strong partnership across the Stroud valleys to take a creative approach to tackling flood risk. The cost of constructing natural flood defences, such as leaky dams and catch pools, is much lower than engineered and hard flood defences and the structures fit well within the landscape and can be constructed through community groups, such as local flood action groups.’
The pilot project has involved working with local landowners, local flood forums as well as local communities, community groups, developers and businesses. Members of local flood forums have not only visited the site but have helped in the construction of the structures and undertaken other work that contributes to the overall project. They also contributed to the film that the CCRI and University of Gloucestershire helped produce.
It is also an excellent example of a high profile local project that the University of Gloucestershire has been working in partnership through the CCRI and Dr Lucy Clarke of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, who sits on the management board and has overseen University students undertaking a range of projects across the Frome valley from a geographical perspective. These include recording the structures on GIS, helping in creating an ecological baseline and developing some of the communications material.
It is still early days, but of the 150 major structures that have been installed at an overall cost (revenue & capital) of £1500 per structure, changes in these water bodies has been recorded. The project has also delivered re-siting of drinking troughs, fencing, maintenance works, signage, publicity, film, interaction and communication with the local flood forums, the wider local community, attendance at public meetings and individual landowner meetings.
The aim of the CPRE Gloucestershire Awards Scheme is to promote high standards of development and management of land and to recognise and celebrate projects which are exemplars of good practice. The scheme is not a competition. Rather, it is a way of recognising excellence in projects and there is no set number of Awards in any one year and CPRE invites nominations which are then reviewed by an independent panel of judges.
Chris Short gave a public lecture on natural flood management in February 2016 which can be viewed on the CCRI slideshare account.
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