Edinburgh’s innovative Green Blue Network and its digital geo-spatial platform is providing a framework to identify opportunities to integrate nature-based solutions in the city at a strategic and local scale.
Edinburgh recognises the importance of a connected network of healthy trees, soil, water, and ecosystems supporting health and wellbeing to ensure a future as a thriving and climate resilient city. As a progression from Edinburgh’s Water Vision developed by Julie Waldron Senior Planning Officer (SuDS Champion 2021), Atkins were commissioned to develop a holistic Green-Blue Network Strategy for the City of Edinburgh bringing together information from multiple sources to consider climate change adaptation at a strategic level. Development of a digital geo-spatial platform was key to this process. This unique platform allows for the first time, open and transparent sharing of information and discussion between multiple stakeholders. Atkins unique working relationships with Scottish Water, SEPA and Edinburgh Council enabled identification of benefits for all the stakeholders beyond the reach of their own organisations remit.
The key aims of the Green Blue Network are to:
- Provide a framework to identify opportunities to integrate nature-based solutions in the city at a strategic and local scale
- Bring together information from Edinburgh council and key stakeholders on environmental green-blue assets, climate risks, active travel and social data
- Safeguard and enhance a network of strategic green blue corridors
- Support and inform future planning and investment decisions
- promote joint working between partnership agencies, and
- Identify opportunities to:
- Provide environmental, social and economic benefit for people and wildlife
- sustainably manage water and flood risk, and
- future proof of the city against the effects of climate change.
In March 2021, the Edinburgh Green-Blue Network was one of six projects shortlisted by Scottish Government to be showcased at a virtual exhibition for ‘World Water Day’. The theme of the exhibition was to demonstrate ‘the best of what Scotland is doing in the green blue infrastructure sector’.
Developing the Green Blue Network Strategy
The landscape-architect led multi-disciplinary team of flood risk and water management specialists, ecologists, environmental scientists, transport planners, and geospatial specialists drew on local knowledge and extensive experience in nature-based solutions to integrate the principles of quality placemaking in all technical outputs.
To ensure quality datasets were heavily critiqued before use, the mapping and analysis was based on robust established methodologies with rigorous approach to data integrity and management. Live projects developed in parallel also informed development of the network including the Edinburgh Climate Change Risk Assessment and Edinburgh’s Sustainable Rain Water Management Guidance (shortlisted for an LI Excellence award in 2020).
Delivering a network for Green Blue Infrastructure
As part of the ongoing project a broad range of Atkins specialists have worked together with stakeholders to deliver:
• A strategic flood risk assessment and flood risk modelling to identify hotspots for fluvial and pluvial flooding, detailed assessment of all development areas and identification of opportunities to de-culvert ‘lost’ watercourses.
• An integrated digital platform using GIS to bring together data and information as a baseline for the Green-Blue Network and resource to assist planners and decision makers.
• Mapping of Surface Water Flow Paths across the city to identify opportunities for storm water separation using sustainable surface water management to relieve pressure on Edinburgh’s drainage infrastructure enhancing existing and identifying opportunities for creating new blue green corridors.
• Ecosystem service mapping of air quality, noise, recreation, biodiversity, and land capacity for carbon sequestration, to identify gaps and areas most in need of improvements.
• Identify key opportunities at strategic and local scale that could provide multiple benefits in the form of ecosystem service improvements, sustainable water management and improved connectivity for people and nature.
• Extensive consultation and knowledge sharing with stakeholders throughout the course of the project to understand priorities, inform the development of the network and agree emerging opportunities.
• Cost /Benefit information to inform prioritisation and programming of ‘Priority Action’ sites to be taken forward for implementation as part of the LDP Action List.co-ordination of planning activities and alignment of investment across multiple stakeholders.
Future actions will include looking at the areas defined in the project as opportunity areas within more regional and local green blue networks, linking to work in the ‘Water Sensitive’ areas of the city and the proposed active travel routes in the city. This will enhance and safeguard Blue Green Infrastructure providing benefits for people and nature. We hope to dovetail infrastructure planning and investment in taking forward adaptative City Planning that maximises both the liveability and resilience of the City recognising their interdependencies . This will involve all sectors Council, agencies private, public , community and Government working together to at all scales from hyper local to City Region in a future fitting way; supporting collective partnership working, driving innovation and sharing lessons learnt and bring about large scale transformation.
This innovative project has been developed collaboratively with input and funding upport from SEPA, Scottish Water, Sustrans, city of Edinburgh Council with data and expertise from NatureScot and Scottish Wildlife Trusts.