In recent months, there have been many discussions about the use of ponds as part of the SuDS management train for residential developments. Ponds are often included at the bottom of the development, close to the place where the surface water discharges off site. The surface runoff from the roofs, driveways, roads and pavements runs down across the development and into the pond. Sometimes the pond is designed to have water in it all the time, but sometimes they are designed as basins that only hold the water for a day or two after the rain storm.
SuDS practitioners are beginning to say that it is better to ‘distribute’ the SuDS across the development, including raingardens, swales and tree pits on and around all the streets and open spaces. This spreads the green space across the development, and saves the space that would be needed to build the pond. We agree that this is a good idea, and that everyone should have green space and natural spaces near their home. But we have been visiting SuDS ponds in the last couple of weeks and maybe it is time to reconsider this shift away from ponds?
The ponds that we have visited have created magnificent habitats for wildlife; they were buzzing with insects, there were dragonflies all around, and one had birds visiting to eat seeds on the vegetation. They were densely vegetated, with reeds, bullrush, willow and more, and the vegetation was deep and damp, providing perfect habitat for insects and amphibians. Because the pond was near the bottom of the development, it was remote from most of the homes so it was quiet and dark at night. There were benches nearby so that the local people could enjoy watching the wildlife, but the wooden rail and the dense vegetation means that people don’t venture into the area in and around the pond. This creates perfect conditions for creatures to live and thrive, with little disturbance and ready access to food, water and shelter.
Maybe we should encourage the inclusion of ponds and basins on new developments, and support designers to deliver perfect ponds for wildlife.