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Learning from Europe – a trip to Prague

Our Director of Operations, Jo Bradley, attended the annual international conference COUNTING ON WATER 2022, which took place this year on Thursday 24th November in Prague. This year’s 8th annual conference was dedicated to learning about approaches to the implementation of blue-green infrastructure. The event was run by a not-for profit called ‘We Count on Water’, funded by the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic.

We discussed the definition of blue-green infrastructure and we tried to decide what it is and what it is not for different professions. We considered what possibilities the systemic approach brings and what advantages can bottom-up approaches have? The Czech Republic speakers discussed if they want Green Blue Infrastructure and, if they do, how they will enforce its delivery and maintenance. We questioned how can it be delivered and how it will be paid for? The conference was designed to jointly seek answers to these and other questions in a selection of presentations from Czech and foreign speakers, but also during the panel discussion.

The presentations were fascinating and it was clear that the Czechs are determined to deliver BGI across some of their cities, but that they are facing the same barriers that we did at the beginning of our SuDS journey in the UK; the Policy isn’t keeping pace with ambition; there are lots of questions about adoption and operation; there are people who believe that SuDS cannot be delivered in cities with underground services and there is no clear funding mechanism. But the Czechs are keen to learn from others who have more established SuDS Policies and examples of delivered schemes.

There was a good discussion about the definition of Blue/Green infrastructure and we didn’t really agree on an answer. But there was also a discussion about which discipline should lead on SuDS design and we agreed that it should be a team effort between Landscape Engineers, architects, civil engineers, ecologists, drainage engineers, highway engineers etc. Jo tried to remind everyone that the people who will be living in the development should also be included wherever possible. However, there was a feeling that not everyone in the room agreed with the ‘team effort’ approach and some thought that their discipline should definitely lead!!

The presentation from Korea was fascinating, showing high-tech raingardens with over 1000 sensors and connection to IoT. It was very different to Kevin Barton’s presentation of exemplar vegetative SuDS from the UK, highlighting the need for good soil and connectivity to sub-soils. It’s good to learn about different approaches.

Jo presented about the need for better SuDS with more irrigation/water storage, better habitats for wildlife, no illumination and fruit trees/bushes to encourage children to forage for their own snacks.

It was a fascinating event and it is heartening to see that, even in the absence of Schedule 3 in England, we do have some fabulous SuDS.

Jo balanced her carbon impact from flying to Prague by sponsoring the planting of 4 trees in a new broadleaved woodland in Anglesey with the Community Interest Company, 9Trees.


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