Nature-Based Stormwater Management

Nature-Based Stormwater Management

Managing stormwater risks by bringing multifunctional green infrastructure to tower hamlets.

The Project

The Goal

The project focuses on the development of multifunctional Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) planning guidance for high-density urban areas and its implementation in a pocket park, as a real-world demonstration showcase.

Local Task Force

The main facilitator was the Tower Hamlets Highway Planners (Local Authority Planners) who developed the planning guidance in collaboration with the University of East London (UEL). In addition, they were both involved in the implementation of a pocket park together with the Greater London Authority, the Thames Water Ltd, Greysmith Associates, the Grass Roof Company, and the Oxford House.

The Process

For the project to succeed it was key the collaboration between the Local Authorities Planners and urban ecologists.

Existing Dynamics

The project built on several legislative requirements such as, the EU Floods Directive (2008), which requires member states to develop and update a series of tools for managing all sources of flood risk. In England and Wales, the Directive was transposed through the Flood Risk Regulations (2009) and subsequently through the Flood and Water Management Act (FWMA) (2010) and the National Planning Policy Framework. Included within the FWMA is defined the role of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) to develop, maintain, apply, and monitor a strategy for local flood risk management in its area. This also includes the responsibility for the approval of Sustainable Drainage Designs for all major planning applications.


Some of the drawbacks that the project had to face were the lack of data on the performance of green SuDS solutions as well as the lack of funding to monitor the real-world benefits of SuDS solutions once installed as part of the showcase.


The project was able to leverage financial support from the Greater London Authority Pocket Park fund. Land for the Pocket Park was provided by the Local Authority. Furthermore, it was supported by urban biodiversity knowledge and SuDS design understanding. In terms of what resources were lacking, a more detailed assessment of ecosystem service and community needs prior to development would have helped with the planning of Pocket Park.

Strokes of Luck

Both the availability of the site as well as the Pocket Park funding were great opportunities for the project.

The Achievements

Short-term Results

The project provides a multifunctional SuDS planning guidance, with a focus on biodiversity-friendly solutions suitable for high-density urban areas, as well as showcasing a multifunctional pocket park. However, even though physical improvements were demonstrable in the pocket park, these changes can only be truly quantified if the green infrastructure components are monitored.

Long-term Benefits

In the long-term, it is hoped that this good practice demonstration will lead to more implementation across the borough and thus more resilient communities. Furthermore, the project will provide multiple benefits such as stormwater management, biodiversity protection, urban cooling, re-use of derelict space, social cohesion, local SME support, and sustainable transport enhancement.

Key lesson learned - Stuart explains

"Collaborative working comprising different disciplines and silo-busting in Local Authorities is required to unlock the potential multifunctional benefits of urban SuDS. Real-world demonstrations represent excellent mechanisms for showcasing Local Authority visions for planning guidance. They also show that planning guidelines requirements are possible in real-world settings."
Stuart Connop, UEL