Mobilising Adaptation: Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction (Topic B)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Urban Studies and Planning

Abstract

'Mobilising Adaptation: Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction' (MAGIC) will demonstrate and evaluate a community led approach to reducing flood risk, whilst providing opportunities for urban residents to improve their health and wellbeing, through better engagement with blue/green space. We will do this via a case study of the flood-vulnerable region around Hull. Landscape interventions such as raintanks, ponds, raingardens, swales (designed ditches) provide additional water storage and slow run-off after heavy rain, thus reducing flood risk. This is especially true if numerous features can be embedded in one area to provide additional flood storage. Flood authorities know that climate change requires more storage, but to date they have been reluctant to fit such features, due to insufficient public land and the complexity of operating/maintaining diverse features across a city.

In MAGIC we will explore whether communities themselves can provide and manage such storage features either on public land or on their own properties. Motivation to do so may come from a desire to reduce flooding risk, but also because such features enhance 'a sense of place' when designed imaginatively. Moreover, re-greening urban areas has been linked to improvements in health/well-being (better mental health and greater opportunities for physical activity) as well as promoting social cohesion. This is especially so when the community comes together to plan and manage the features. Additionally, if people collaborate to make their neighbourhood more flood resilient, they learn about the dynamics of local flood risk and how best to manage this. Even when floods occur in the future (and they will not be stopped completely), having considered and reduced the extent of local flood risk may help people feel more in control. In summary, MAGIC aims to examine whether flood avoidance/resilience can be enhanced through greater activation and empowerment of local communities - activities which we believe will improve local water management, but also have additional positive effects on residents' locality and well-being.

This will be achieved through a case study in flood-prone Hull. Indeed, MAGIC can be understood as initiating Hull's 'third reservoir', adding to the existing systems of water supply (first reservoir) and flood storage lagoons (second). The third reservoir is not a single body of water but the accumulated storage from domestic raintanks, raingardens and swales combining across different neighbourhoods to help absorb heavy rain. We will also address flood resilience e.g. flood warnings. Building on close relations established in a previous project, MAGIC aims to facilitate change in two contrasting neighbourhoods: Bilton village in the East Riding and Derringham in Hull. We will also work with developers to explore how novel design can ensure new developments contribute to flood resilience, but in a way which enhances greenery and increases property value rather than simply relying on 'hard' engineering solutions. We will interview policy makers in Hull and London to examine how local and national organisational structures and policy making frameworks enable or inhibit local involvement in flood risk management.

We will work in close collaboration with the Living with Water Partnership (a formal partnership of the flood risk management authorities for the Hull drainage catchment) and the Hull and East Riding Timebank (>900 individuals and organisations exchanging skills and offering mutual aid in Hull). The project objectives are:

1.To develop methods of coproducing household and neighbourhood adaptive infrastructure
2.To adapt flood resilience products and services for an urban setting at a neighbourhood scale to ensure they deliver best value in terms of both functional water management and local wellbeing
3.To identify wider factors supporting or hindering the uptake of coproductive flood resilience.

Planned Impact

The co-produced research activities set out in this proposal will pave the way for a step-change in climate hazard adaptation. Specifically, it will stimulate three sets of changes:
(1) governance innovation in terms of the processes through which water governance organisations investigate, develop, promote, implement and maintain local adaptations;
(2) product and service innovation in terms of examining evaluating and adapting flood resilience products and services to deliver best value in terms of both functional water management and local wellbeing; and
(3) understandings of developers in terms of the functionality and profitability of utilising green infrastructure elements to achieve compliance with regulatory requirements.

These changes will significantly contribute to building capacity for resilience of UK society as a whole and will hence impact upon water, planning, and health policy makers, practitioners and developers, in the UK and internationally, and will influence a range of academic disciplines. To accelerate the translation of research into high impact outputs, MAGIC has been developed and will be implemented and disseminated in partnership with its stakeholders. Four key groups highly benefitting from the co-production of flood-adapted communities are anticipated: Communities through implementing and maintaining adaptations, and/or benefitting from the resulting flood risk reduction and healthier more community orientated spaces; Water governance stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, water supply and sewerage providers, water regulators and government) through access to a new scientific evidence base related to how adaptations contribute to flood resilience including risk of exposure to flooding, and public understanding, readiness and community (in)vulnerability, as well as guidance about how to organise and deliver coproductive adaptations; Development stakeholders (e.g. housing associations and housing developers) through co-designing and fitting adaptations and through accessing a new scientific evidence base on hydrological reliability of adaptations (in terms of reliable compliance with regulations) alongside their attractiveness, contribution to local wellbeing, low-cost and trouble-free maintenance; Wider urban governance stakeholders through cross-sector collaboration and learning including accessing a new scientific evidence base of the multiple benefits of co-designed adaptation investments (e.g. improved amenities, social cohesion and wider health benefits). In addition to these groups further beneficiaries include: Future planners, landscape designers and engineers through training and supporting a cohort of people working in co-producing adaptive solutions to climate hazards; Environmental and social interest groups through accessing an emerging scientific evidence base on multiple benefits generated from co-produced adaptation initiatives including human and planetary health benefits. There are also a set of academic beneficiaries who will benefit from the insights obtained, these include individuals from the climate adaptation, action research, blue-green infrastructure/flood risk management, and public health research communities. For specific activities, please see attached pathways to impact document.

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