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Climate of change

Regeneration special - While the global debate continues on the causes, extent and speed of climate change a West Midlands urban regeneration scheme is taking a lead in minimising environmental impact. Mark Hansford reports.

Bilston Urban Village sits in Britain's true industrial heartland, just 4km south east of Wolverhampton.

The site comprises 43ha of no-nonsense brownfield land, previously used for everything from coalmining and ironstone extraction to foundries and scrap yards. The area was also home to various 'metal-bashing' manufacturing industries that have been in decline over the past 30 years. A change of direction is clearly needed to regenerate the area.

It is no secret that our climate is changing. The 1990s was the warmest decade in central England since records began in the 1660s, and it's predicted that average temperatures in the West Midlands will rise between 2°C - 5°C over the next 80 years. The pattern of rainfall is also set to change, with heavier, more intense downpours leading to problems with storm water run-off, particularly in urban areas.

With these economic and environmental issues in mind, the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and Wolverhampton City Council (WCC) have committed themselves to the Bilston project's having the minimum possible impact on the environment while still meeting the area's need for economic regeneration.

Waterman was first appointed to the £200M project in 2004 as project manager and engineering consultant, working with master-planners FCPR.

The site's joint promoters are currently seeking a private sector development partner for the project, which includes1,000 new homes, a local healthcare centre, leisure centre and primary school, together with start up workshops, offices and shops.

The vision is for the project 'to follow an environmentally friendly path from the earliest stages and to create a highquality sustainable environment to accommodate a balanced mix of homes, employment and community facilities', says AWM project manager Alan Swales.

Waterman has worked with AWM and WCC to adapt the proposals to cope with expected climate change and to identify cost-effective and practicable engineering measures to help reduce carbon emissions.

Bilston Urban Village is one of two urban regeneration 'case study' projects being monitored by West Midlands Climate Change Partnership through its partnering organisations that are in turn helping project teams to develop detailed climate change adaptation strategies.

Practical and sustainable solutions to climate change issues have already identied (see box).

The development's transport strategy is an example of 'in-built' mitigation measures.

Although the site is brownfield and in need of remediation as a result of previous industrial, mining and other uses, it's close to a Midland Metro line and the Black Country Route, is within walking distance of Bilston High Street, and on a good bus route.

Such accessibility means that sustainable forms of transport to reduce carbon emissions can be encouraged, ranging from walking and cycling to a choice of high quality public transport.

The design includes attractive streets with footpaths and cycle ways linked to Bilston High Street.

A sustainable energy strategy has also been developed for the scheme that has led to the proposed establishment of a Bilston Community Energy Trust to develop a district heating proposal for the urban village and adjoining areas.

When complete, more than three-quarters of the development area is likely to be classied as 'impermeable'.

Waterman has introduced Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SUDs) together with a strategy that involves replicating the natural drainage system and then dealing with run-off at source.

A focal point of the Bilston Urban Village drainage strategy is a water feature partially sustained by storm run-off from the development together with the incorporation of several storage basins to retain storm run-off during periods of heavy rainfall.

Storm ows will discharge into these features from swales and piped networks.

The overall water conservation and drainage strategy has been put together in consultation with Severn Trent Water to ensure the wider area's systems can cope with the development.

Work is now nally underway on Plot A, which is the first phase of Bilston Urban village.

This initial stage will include the leisure centre and a health centre.

Saving the planet the local way

Bilston's practical approach to combating a changing climate

Integrated mixed-use master plan incorporating green space and encouraging biodiversity;

Re-use of a contaminated site formerly used for coal mining and a variety of manufacturing industries;

High quality public transport links;

Internal footpaths and cycleways with links to Bilston High Street;

Re-use of existing materials including colliery spoil and foundry waste;

Use of soil xing and ground improvement techniques;

Contamination remediation avoiding off site disposal;

Local Combined Heat and Power energy centre using biomass fuels managed by Bilston Community Energy Trust.

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