Case Study

Living With Water Partnership, Hull, UK

Sector: Water, Built Environment, Coastal Resilience and Climate Adaptation, Arts Entertainment and Recreation
Highlights: Education, biodiversity, ecological uplift, property protection, community engagement, carbon mitigation
Project owner: Living With Water
Project start/end:
2020-Ongoing
Location:
Hull and Haltemprice, Northeast England
Community impacted: Urban, Coastal, Rural
Hazards mitigated: Flooding
Number of vulnerable people made more resilient:  267,100*
*Kingston upon Hull population change, Census 2021 – ONS
Case study provided by:  Stantec UK Ltd

Find out more

Living With Water is a partnership between Yorkshire Water, Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, the Environmental Agency (EA) and the University of Hull, supported by Stantec. All stakeholders play an essential role in managing water in Hull and East Riding, and are collaborating to build flood resilience, develop innovative water management systems, and highlight the region as a great place to live, work and visit.

About the Project

Hull and Haltemprice are situated within a bowl-shaped zone with sloping topography leading to a flat, urban area; this causes rainwater to collect, triggering floods, with only 2% of the area considered not to be at risk from flooding. Flood risk is expected to increase as the population grows, urban creep decreases green space, climate change increases rainfall, and tide levels rise. Since 2007, there’s been significant investment to reduce these incidents, however, to prepare and adapt to climate change, a collaborative, long-term vision is required. The Hull and Haltemprice Blue-Green Plan was commissioned to look uniquely through a long-term lens, reducing this flood risk. The plan describes how blue (waterways) and green (vegetated) infrastructure can work together, improving flood resilience while enabling sustainable and healthy lifestyles and providing attractive places to live and work. Implementation of the plan will decrease flood risk as rainfall is managed at the source and the flow is slowed.

The research team brought in expert knowledge from universities, consultancies, councils, and the Environment Agency (EA). Due to the complex and long-term nature of the plan, a wide range of digital tools were used to capture accurate information, including the CIRIA B£ST estimation tool, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), OS Mapping and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) GIS tools. With a unique opportunistic approach, solutions were developed to be delivered in a phased approach with the ability to adapt as possibilities arise.

One of the primary objectives of the plan is to reduce flood risk by implementing natural flood management techniques. This includes the restoration of floodplains, the creation of wetlands, and the use of sustainable drainage systems to absorb and slow down rainwater runoff. Green infrastructure elements, such as green roofs, permeable pavements, and bioswales mimic natural processes, allowing rainwater to be absorbed into the ground rather than causing surface runoff. This reduces the risk of flooding, improves water quality, and provides additional greenery in the cityscape.

The plan also prioritises the restoration of natural ecosystems, such as wetlands, rivers, and green corridors. This enhances the resilience of these ecosystems by allowing them to function more naturally. Healthy ecosystems can better adapt to environmental changes and provide critical services like water purification and habitat for wildlife.

Climate-resilient planting and landscaping strategies, including drought-tolerant species, have been incorporated to help natural systems withstand the challenges posed by changing climate patterns. A focus on sustainable water management ensures the availability of water resources during periods of drought. This resilience is achieved by recharging aquifers, preventing over-extraction, and preserving water quality through natural filtration processes.

Deep public consultation has been undertaken to understand community needs and increase understanding of the plan. This included involvement with the Youth Parliament to include younger voices and community outreach events. The Hull and Haltemprice Blue-Green Plan also enables educational programmes and initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of nature in urban living.

Community engagement and participation are key to ensuring that the plan’s positive effects are widely distributed and inclusive. Educating residents about the importance of natural systems and involving them in conservation efforts builds a sense of stewardship and pride. Communities that are engaged in the preservation of natural systems are more likely to support and protect these systems in the face of challenges.

Using the CIRIA B£ST tool, it has been estimated that there will be 160,182 visits for physical and emotional wellbeing per year to new or improved green spaces. It was assumed that 40% of the local population within the study area will live near or will intentionally pass through these areas. The plan has laid the foundations to be recreated in other areas and Yorkshire Water has planned 10 similar projects due to the results of the Hull Blue-Green Plan.

Intended Outcomes

Social

By building and improving green spaces, such as parks and waterfronts, residents will benefit from an enhanced quality of life, access to recreational areas for leisure and relaxation, and healthier lifestyles. Moreover, the plan’s flood mitigation measures ensure the safety of local residents, reducing the risk of property damage and displacement during extreme weather events and mitigating knock-on health impacts, such as physical and mental trauma, and skin and gut infections. Additionally, the promotion of sustainable transportation options, like cycling and walking paths, fosters healthier lifestyles and reduces traffic congestion and pollution, improving overall wellbeing. Access to green areas also reduces stress and promotes better mental health.

This plan provides learning opportunities for communities to become more familiar and comfortable with water management. The region has 104 schools averaging 300-400 students each. Based on the data, it has been assumed that a minimum of 500 students will be engaged in school trips or activities related to the new blue-green infrastructure per year.

Environmental

The plan also contributes significantly to environmental conservation. Through the implementation of green infrastructure and sustainable urban planning, it enhances biodiversity by creating habitats for local wildlife and preserving green corridors, allowing wildlife to move freely within the city. The use of sustainable building practices and green roofs helps to mitigate the urban heat island effect, reducing energy consumption for cooling. Moreover, the plan’s focus on floodplain restoration and natural water management not only protects against flooding but also improves water quality and promotes sustainable water resource management. Natural water management techniques, like restoring wetlands and creating floodplains, mitigate flood risk and serve as natural habitats for aquatic and bird species. They enhance water quality and contribute to the overall health of local ecosystems.

Specific attention has been given to designing spaces that cater to wildlife habitats, including incorporating areas for nesting sites for birds, bat boxes, and amphibian-friendly water features. Such elements contribute to the urban ecosystem’s diversity and resilience. Incorporating nature into the urban environment in these ways not only enhances the quality of life for residents but also contributes to environmental sustainability and resilience against the impacts of climate change.

Air quality is also improved through green infrastructure and urban forestry elements, reducing pollution and improving the filtration of stormwater. The planting of trees and vegetation in urban areas including streets, pocket parks, and greenery along waterways not only improves air quality and provides shade but also supports wildlife and creates a more visually appealing urban environment.

Economic

The plan will result in 14,000 fewer properties flooding and will deliver an expected £2.6bn in potential benefits to the community. It does this by improving the natural environment and making a more appealing area, both of which have a positive impact on property values. In addition, by placing an emphasis on sustainable urban planning, businesses are encouraged to make investments in the neighbourhood, which results in job creation and expansion of the local economy. Flood resilience measures also lower insurance claims and governmental expenditures that are related to flood damage, which results in a cost-saving not only for residents but also for the government. This strategy promotes long-term economic sustainability for the region.

Other benefits include traffic calming, noise reduction, carbon sequestration, and energy savings through reduced pumping. Increased resilience ensures that communities are better equipped to adapt and recover from these challenges.

How has carbon mitigation been integrated?

The Hull and Haltemprice Blue-Green Plan includes several carbon mitigation efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change. Expanding cycling infrastructure, creating pedestrian-friendly pathways, and incentivizing the use of electric cars reduce carbon emissions associated with conventional automobiles. Enhancements to public transportation systems, including the development of efficient bus routes and the expansion of public transit networks, encourage residents to choose eco-friendly transportation options, further reducing carbon emissions from individual vehicles.

The plan encourages the adoption of green building practices and standards. This includes energy-efficient building design, the use of renewable energy sources like solar panels, and improved insulation and ventilation systems to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from buildings.

Planting trees and increasing urban green spaces helps to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees act as natural carbon sinks, sequestering carbon and improving air quality in the urban environment. Green infrastructure features like green roofs, permeable pavements, and bioswales also help to manage stormwater effectively. By reducing the energy required for water treatment and transportation, these features indirectly contribute to carbon mitigation efforts. The plan also supports net-zero carbon targets through improved biodiversity and ecological uplift. Based on initial carbon assessments, the overall scheme’s whole-life carbon emissions are less than the cumulative carbon required to recover from flooding without the scheme, i.e., it is carbon neutral in the long term.

Raising awareness about carbon emissions and climate change within the community can foster behaviour change. Educational programmes can encourage residents and businesses to adopt more sustainable practices, such as reducing energy consumption and minimising waste.

The plan’s focus on climate resilience helps mitigate the future impacts of climate change, which is essential for reducing carbon emissions associated with climate-related disasters and their aftermath. Overall, the Hull and Haltemprice Blue-Green Plan employs a multifaceted approach to carbon mitigation, addressing various sectors and aspects of urban life to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a more sustainable and climate-resilient community.


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