The winner of the 2007 Living Wetlands Award is Sutcliffe Park -
Quaggy River Flood Risk Management Scheme submitted by the
Like many of the capital's ancient waterways, the River Quaggy was
increasingly channelled along man-made drains and through culverts
beneath the ever-growing city. For years, a section of the river
was lost in a tunnel under Sutcliffe Park in Greenwich, until a
review of flood defences prompted a dramatic revival in its
fortunes. Increasing development in Lewisham and Greenwich
had led to an ever-increasing risk of flooding and traditional
remedies called for further widening and deepening of the
artificial channels that took much of the river's 17km length.
Instead, the Environment Agency chose to bring the river back above
ground, cutting a new channel for it through the park creating a
multifunctional open space that would improve flood management and
the quality of the park while also restoring the river through the
site. A culvert remained below ground to take excess
water in times of flood and a new lake was created to take over
when that too became full. The park itself was lowered and
shaped to create a floodplain where water could collect instead of
rushing downstream to flood Lewisham town centre.
Careful design consideration of the park has created an impressive
natural habitat. Over the last two years the park has blossomed
into an important habitat, universally recognised by conservation
groups such as National Trust, British Trust for Ornithology and
members of Kingston University who have all commented on the
surprising degree of biodiversity.
Sutcliffe Park has become a blueprint for 'best practice' in
providing a multifunctional solution to a range of problems
including flood risk, local lack of amenity, public safety/crime
reduction and the provision of attractive natural habitat within a
highly urbanised, 'inner city' location.
As public use of the park has sharply increased among the wider
community there has been a corresponding drop in petty crime, such
as youth drinking and vandalism. The restored river and habitat is
now enjoyed by local residents and the various user groups that
have formed over the course of this project's development continue
to be strong advocates.
Richard Copas from the Environment Agency, said: "Sutcliffe Park is
an integral part of the Quaggy flood alleviation scheme. In times
of flood, it can now hold the equivalent of 35 Olympic swimming
pools of water, reducing the flood risk to 600 homes and businesses
in Greenwich and Lewisham.
"It is fantastic how much the wetland environment has established
itself in such a short space of time and some of the species it is
now attracting to this part of inner London."
He added: "This award means a lot to us. As one of our flagship
projects Sutcliffe Park is one off the most dramatic examples of
how a flood alleviation scheme can not only reduce the risk of
flooding, but also create significant recreational and
environmental benefits. We are very proud of it, and thrilled that
it has been recognised in this way."
Justin Taberham, Director of Policy at CIWEM said: "This is a
fantastic example of an urban restoration project that has multiple
benefits for biodiversity, flood defence, recreation and leisure.
The judging panel was unanimous in its support for this project to
be this year's winner. What was a fairly degraded site has become
an urban oasis for wildlife."
This development demonstrates that a flood alleviation scheme can
be actively combined with the multifunctional dimensions of
environmental enhancement, habitat creation, including improved
recreational capacity and aesthetic improvement of a poor quality
inner city green space.