Hogsmill River Biodiversity Update

London Zoo hosted the annual Hogsmill Forum, where professionals and volunteers including members of the Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group discussed issues faced by the Hogsmill River – a tributary of the Thames River which flows along the boundary of the Kingston School of Art. Discussions focused on how to implement solutions to improve the river. The South East Rivers Trust updated on issues relating to important catchment plans for the Hogsmill. The aim of the meeting was to improve communications between volunteers and the main agencies and groups working on the river and to support development of volunteer work in the river catchment.


A monthly Hogsmill Newsletter summarises the results of River Monitoring Initiative (RMI) sampling on the Hogsmill in February, together with other pollution monitoring and other river-related activities and events – click through to this link to access the PDF newsletter to find out more.

River Monitoring Initiative (RMI) is a national scheme for monitoring the health of rivers. Volunteers undertake regular surveys using a standard net sampling technique to count the number of certain “water quality sensitive” invertebrates. An overall “score” is then calculated. A sharp fall or a drop below a “trigger” level could indicate pollution. This can then be reported to the Environment Agency (EA) to enable further investigation. Misconnected wastewater pipes and cross-connected sewers are a major source of pollution in the Hogsmill. Under a Pollution Patrol scheme organised by the South East Rivers Trust (SERT), volunteers undertake regular assessments of the outfalls thought most susceptible to pollution, the results being reported to EA and Thames Water (TW) to help steer remedial work.


Image: Thames21

Thames 21’s “lab boat” – “HMS Kingfisher” – is being tested on the Hogsmill. This remote controlled boat has sensors that measure several indicators of water quality, such as dissolved oxygen, conductivity and temperature. Hopefully it will soon be able to measure nitrogen, phosphates and more. It also has software enabling the data to be geo-referenced and viewed in real time. The plan is to survey as much of the Hogsmill as possible over the next few months to create a map of water quality on the river and then to repeat this as often as possible over the rest of the year. The boat will also be available to measure water quality soon after any new pollution incidents or a sharp change in RMI score. Thames21 are looking for local volunteers to assist in surveys – contact  caitlin.curry@thames21.org.uk

Transforming the Hogsmill – Volunteers joined the Malden Manor Community Group for a clear-up by the Hogsmill in Old Malden. With support from SUSTRANS, the Kingston Environment Trust and the Ahmadiyya Association “large rubbish” was removed from the river bed; a riverside path was restored; and bulbs were planted. Scrub clearance beside the Tolworth Brook completed preparations for the “capital works” stage of the project to revitalise the Raeburn Open Space in Berrylands. Contractors are scheduled to start work soon taking out concrete banks, removing a weir and installing a new bridge.


Images: Peter Short

With Environment Agency funding and support from the local council, South East Rivers Trust is undertaking a feasibility study of ways to mitigate the impact on the upper Hogsmill chalk stream of the poor water quality in the Green Lanes Stream. It is currently investigating an option that would divert the Stream through a meandering channel across Chambermead meadow re-joining the main river about 200 metres downstream of the current confluence. Wetlands and ponds and scrapes would be constructed in the meadow that would reduce the impact of pollution and sediment and also lower flood risk by attenuating peak flows down the Stream. If you’d like to know more about the project contact: toby@southeastriverstrust.org


Sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS): a comparison of green roofs and permeable paving.

Source: Pappalardo, V., La Rosa, D., Campisano, A., La Greca, P.(2017). The potential of green infrastructure application in urban runoff control for land use planning: A preliminary evaluation from a southern Italy case study. Ecosystem Services. 26(B): 345–354. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.04.015.

This study investigates how green roofs and permeable paving contribute to flood mitigation. Using a hydraulic model technique, the research found that, in particular urban cases, green roofs were more effective than permeable paving. Policies to promote the adoption of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) could prove more effective under certain circumstances, and policymakers should look at ways to promote SUDS where suitable.

A worldwide trend in an increase in impervious surfaces (impermeable to water), coupled with precipitation extremes, are contributing to a rise in urban flooding. Current drainage systems may struggle to cope with the amount of water run-off during heavy rainfall events, which are predicted to increase under climate change1. The effectiveness of green roofs and permeable paving for stormwater management in an urban location was assessed.

SUDS refers to a range of drainage technologies that are more sustainable than conventional solutions2, and may include types of green infrastructure, for example green roofs, permeable surfaces, and purpose-built ponds and wetlands. These techniques use landscape features and natural processes to slow flows of water, increase evaporation and encourage infiltration into the ground. As a co-benefit, SUDS strategies can enhance ecosystem services, such as wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, recreation and education. Conventional drainage, meanwhile, focuses on channelling water into drainage areas as quickly as possible.

To evaluate the effectiveness of two types of SUDS, the researchers compared three scenarios in the city of Avola, Sicily — an area which underwent rapid urbanisation in the 20th century. First, they identified the amount of land falling into different use categories, for example ‘residential-semi-intensive’, with less than 50% permeability, ‘road and parking areas’ and ‘bare soil’, and obtained plans of the sewer system. Together with rainfall data going back to 1940, these inputs were used with modelling software (the US EPA Storm Water Management Model3) to analyse water flows and run-off under each scenario, for a sub-catchment (part of the wider watershed) in the city.

Modelling was conducted over two-, five- and 10-year timeframes, taking into account the number of peak-flow events (e.g. storms) that would be likely to occur during this time, known as a ‘return period’. In the first scenario, with no SUDS measures in place, modelling showed that the existing drainage system would not cope adequately with peak flows over five and 10 years — therefore flooding would occur in several places.

In the second scenario, 150 areas of permeable paving, covering 15 m2 each, replaced impermeable surfaces in public spaces. In the final scenario, green roofs were installed on 110 buildings, covering about 3.3 hectares. These measures were placed upstream of the area that experienced flooding in the non-SUDS scenario.

Results showed that green roofs were the most effective at mitigating run-off and flooding, but efficacy depended on the return period considered. Over two-year periods, both permeable paving and green roofs exhibited improvements over the first scenario, and over five years they reduced, but did not prevent, flooding. Green roofs halved the volume of flooding over the 10-year period, while permeable paving only slightly reduced the incidence.

Surface run-off, meanwhile, was reduced from 34.7mm (non-SUDS) to 34.3mm (permeable paving) and 30.7mm (green roofs), in this time period, indicating limited benefits in this category.

The researchers attribute such limited benefits to the small area covered by the SUDS measures and the fact that the area was limited to public space, compared to the large impervious surface area over the whole catchment. They also acknowledge that the SUDS modelled were only designed to achieve a general reduction in run-off peak discharge, to relieve downstream areas during heavy precipitation.

The results are also subject to some uncertainty. There is a lack of field data on the performance of real-life SUDS in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, but such data would help to improve modelled results. Such validation would also allow urban planners to use this type of model to inform the best positioning of SUDS, say the researchers. The researchers also underline that results obtained from SUDS simulations are strongly dependent on site-specific characteristics of the urban catchment, which limit the possible location of permeable pavements and, therefore, favour green roofs. In this study, the researchers highlight that more substantial mitigation of peak flow was achieved by green roofs, which are located on private buildings, than permeable paving in public areas. This implies that policies incentivising private adoption of SUDS measures are important. Demonstration projects and subsidies may be used to drive adoption, they suggest, as well as compliance-based instruments such as building-code requirements.


1. Fratini, C. F., et al. (2012). Three Points Approach (3PA) for urban flood risk management: A tool to support climate change adaptation through transdisciplinarity and multifunctionality. Urban Water Journal, 9(5): 317–331.

2. Fletcher, T.D., Shuster, W., Hunt, W.F., et al. (2014). SUDS, LIDS, BMs, WUDS and more – The evolution and application of terminology surrounding urban drainage. Urban Water Journal, 12(7): 525–542

3. Rossman, L.A., 2010. Storm Water Management Model User’s Manual. Version 5.0.

Contact: vpappala@darc.unict.it

For technical information, guidance and advice, CIRIA provides a comprehensive range of resources on SuDS through its Susdrain network.  It has also produced detailed best practice guidance on the planning, design, construction and maintenance of SuDS in ‘The SuDS Manual’ and an accompanying ‘Site handbook for the construction of SuDS’, which provides guidance on the construction of SuDS to facilitate their effective delivery.

The Landscape Institute’s Technical Committee published Management and Maintenance of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) Landscapes (March 2014) which includes a selection of water management case studies.

Scotland’s ‘Place Standard’ tool facilitates collaborative working

The Place Standard tool for Scotland, developed through a partnership between the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland and Architecture & Design Scotland, has been designed to support communities, public, private and third sectors, to work together  providing a framework to assess the quality of a place.

The tool supports collaborative working by providing a framework for structured conversations to occur, and allows participants to consider what action might be taken and to identify where their priorities lie.  It enables the physical, social and environmental quality of a place to be evaluated in a structured way, but also, importantly, it aims to initiate positive conversations and collaborations between key groups and to identify areas where quality can be improved.

It can be used to evaluate established places, places undergoing change, and those which are still being planned.  Users are asked 14 simple questions, with prompts provided to assist them with the results plotted on a simple diagram.

place tool

Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect and chair of the Place Standard project board, explained the importance of the tool to the Government’s equality agenda:

“Research shows that the places where we spend our time have an important impact on our lives. The way a place looks, feels and functions can influence our health and well-being, and the quality of life experienced in communities.   Improving the quality of places can help to tackle inequalities and the place standard aims to provide a platform for the issues relevant to communities and industry to be discussed consistently and effectively.”

You can either complete the tool on paper, or go online to http://www.placestandard.scot/#/home. There is also a Place Standard app for Apple or android devices.

Project Iceberg: the ground beneath our cities and subsurface space management.

Project Iceberg undertaken by Future Cities Catapult, British Geological Survey (BGS) and Ordnance Survey (OS) examines the lack of information about the features beneath our towns and cities; data is often incomplete and the approach to managing subsurface space is isolated and uncoordinated.  Project Iceberg consideres both physical infrastructure (i.e. underground utilities) and natural ground conditions (i.e. geological data).

iceberg project3

This project looks at ways of sharing all the information among a wide range of relevant organisations including utility and energy companies, the transport sector, street works planners and building developers, as well as the public sector. The study aimes to enable a methodology that aids discovery and access to relevant data about the ground’s physical condition and assets housed within it, in a way that is suitable for modern, data driven decision-making processes.

 iceberg project

 Image: Iceberg project – potential benefits from an integrated data system.

The project also identifies the potential to integrate new technologies to benefit businesses and citizens. Augmented reality (AR) could be used before a dig to safely identify the location of existing pipes; or it could help evaluate the performance of urban drainage schemes to help manage flood risk.

iceberg project2

Image: Iceberg project – augmented reality

Chicago Riverwalk

Once a meandering marshy stream, the Main Branch of the Chicago River became an engineered channel to support the industrial transformation of the city. Following the  reversal of the river, in which the city reversed the flow of the Main Branch and South Branch to improve sanitation, architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham introduced a new civic vision of riverside promenades. Over the last decade, the role of the river has been evolving with the Chicago Riverwalk project – an initiative to reclaim the Chicago River for the ecological, recreational and economic benefit of the city.


Image: Ross Barney Architects

Sasaki, Ross Barney Architects, Alfred Benesch Engineers, Jacobs/Ryan Associates, and a broader technical consultant team, was tasked with creating a vision for the six blocks between State Street and Lake Street. Building off the previous studies of the river, the team’s plans provide a pedestrian connection along the river between the lake and the river’s confluence.


Image: Ross Barney Architects

Sasaki and Ross Barney Architects employed the bridges using them to segment the walkway into block-sized “rooms” for different uses in between. The two firms then split up the design of the sections. To each room is attributed a slightly different character, expressed through material, form and function. One, for instance, is conceived as an auditorium with a series of steps and has been successfully used for free public events; one as a garden with plants moored in the water; another as a “Water Plaza” with fountains for kids to splash in. In another “room” the level of the walkway descends right down to the water’s edge to facilitate kayaking, and a new boat rental pavilion has appeared at street level to lure citizens and tourists to the water.

Sasaki designed jetty, which features protruding platforms that provide decks for fishing and chunks of greenery placed in between. For the Cove, the firm slightly angled the deck to wrap around a series of benches and face the kayak rental, while the Marina section is linear and lined with trees.

Post-Grad Landscape Drop-in Evenings at Kingston University

Smartphone Technology and Citizen Science Research: Impact of Nature on Mental Well-Being in Real Time

Urban Mind: Using Smartphone Technologies to Investigate the Impact of Nature on Mental Well-Being in Real Time. BioScience, bix149, Oxford University Press, Published: 10 January 2018.

Authors: Ioannis Bakolis, Ryan Hammoud, Michael Smythe, Johanna Gibbons, Neil Davidson, Stefania Tognin and Andrea Mechelli. 

Urban Mind is an app that has been developed to measure the experience of city living in the moment. Collecting real-time data allows an understanding of how different aspects of the urban environment affect mental well being. Results may then inform future urban planning and social policy aimed at improving design & health. Urban Mind is a collaboration between King’s College LondonJ&L Gibbons, Nomad ProjectsA&EVan Alen Institute and Sustainable Society Network+.

urban mind


The Urban Mind app was used to monitor individuals who completed assessments over a 1-week period. Significant immediate and lagged associations with mental well-being were found for several natural features. These associations were stronger in people who demonstrate a tendency to behave with little forethought or consideration of the consequences and which is indicative of a higher risk of developing mental-health issues. Investigation suggests that the benefits of nature on mental well-being are time-lasting and interact with an individual’s vulnerability to mental illness. These findings have potential implications from the perspectives of global mental health as well as urban planning and design.


Over three-and-a-half billion people, more than half the world’s population, live in urban areas. This number is rising fast in both developed and developing countries, and it is expected that 66% of the global population will live in cities by 2050. This ongoing urbanization has major implications for global mental health, because people who live in urban environments are at higher risk of a range of mental-health issues, including depression, generalized anxiety disorders, psychosis, and addictive disorders. Crucially, the observation of a dose-dependent effect provides support for a causal relationship, rather than a mere association, between urban living and risk for mental illness. Further evidence for this causal relationship comes from the finding that the adverse impact of urban living can be reversible, with some categories of patients showing improved clinical outcomes after moving from urban to rural environments. Although city dwellers are at higher risk of mental illness, an increasing body of evidence suggests that natural features within the built environment can counteract the detrimental effects of urban living and even promote mental health. For example, living in urban areas with natural features such as trees, gardens, parks, birds, and water is associated with higher levels of mental well-being and reduced incidence of chronic mental illness. A number of biologically plausible theories have been proposed to explain this effect, including attention-restoration theory, stress-reduction theory, and biophilia theory.

urban mind2

Selection of photographs submitted by participants using the Urban Mind tool.


The investigation represents a successful example of citizen science, enhanced by the development of a project-related social media (e.g., Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook). Findings indicate that

  • it is feasible to use smartphone-based ecological assessment to examine the relationship between natural features of the built environment and momentary mental well-being in real time;
  • exposure to natural features including trees, the sky, and birdsong has a time-lasting beneficial impact on momentary mental well-being;
  • the beneficial effects of nature may be especially evident in those individuals with greater levels of trait impulsivity who are at greater risk of developing addictive disorders and other mental-health issues.

These findings have potential implications from the perspectives of global mental health and urban planning and design.

Click here to read the full article including a description of the Urban Mind app, data findings, discussion of results and identified limitations.

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