Sustainable Cities™

Upton: Drainage scheme makes for peace of mind in urban extension

In Northampton in England, a landscape-based drainage scheme has helped achieve sustainable urban development in an area previously plagued by flooding. The new community of Upton handles rainwater at source by means of a system of ditches and green areas and focuses on vulnerable road users and proximity to everyday necessities.

Upton, venligst udlånt af Homes & Communities Agency

Planning of the urban extension of Upton on  the south-western outskirts of Northampton in the East Midlands of England is based on a landscape model which implements SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System). The task was to protect the area against flooding as well as to create green recreational areas in the community. By handling rainwater with respect for the existing landscape, the object is to provide wildlife habitats and contribute to greater biodiversity.

Efficient rainwater handling was given high priority during planning in the area, which was hard hit by floods in 1998. The strategy involves limiting and controlling surface water run-off at source. This is achieved by means of green roofs, a system of pipes and swales, connected ponds and permeable paving where appropriate to limit the flow of rainwater into the public sewage system. Rainwater harvested from the roofs of blocks of flats and other buildings is used for domestic purposes.


The site's relatively steep gradient presented a challenge in terms of the creation and utilisation of water storage. For this reason, swales were established parallel to contour lines to maximise the storage and surface area for rainwater to infiltrate. Where this was not possible the swales were aligned to follow the slope and weirs installed at intervals to retain surface water and to simplify maintenance. The drainage scheme's swales and retention ponds have made brought the countryside into the public domain as well as enhancing biodiversity.

Because the drainage system was designed into the area from the start, it is integrated throughout Upton, with green swales along the side of the roads and in the middle-of-the-road in places . The swales are arranged at the best possible angle to the sun to ensure maximum evaporation. Bridges have been built across the swales at intervals of max. 60 metres in connection with pedestrian crossings to increase safety and provide uninterrupted access for vulnerable road users.

The area's close concentration of houses along the main streets facilitates provision of public transport and means that every day facilities are within walking distance. Apart from the sustainable SUDS system, Upton also boasts a number of environment friendly solutions, such as solar water heating, geothermal heating, sustainable building materials, household waste sorting, waste water cleansing and recycling of so-called grey water (ordinary household waste water not from lavatories) for certain purposes.

"Upton is an excellent example of what can be achieved through raising public awareness and by promoting community participation to help overcome a drainage problem in a local and sustainable manner." - Peter Martin, B&V, Redhill, UK

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014