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I was invited to present at a very interesting meeting recently in Whitehall at RUSI – the Royal United Services Institute to discuss about how services have responded to the current flood situation and how flood risk might be handled in the future.

RUSI look at risk and conflict throughout the globe and have for years been advising on flood risk as a major environmental risk within the UK.

The meeting was well attended by flood risk experts, emergency planners, the MoD, representatives of the insurance industry, academics and senior Civil Servants. The conversation was wide ranging and very thought provoking trying to look beyond the current headlines to how professions and organisations could work more effectively together to deliver appropriate flood risk management in the current economic climate.

RUSI will be taking these comments and formulating their own policy advice for consideration by their clients and hopefully by government agencies.

Stuart Ryder – Director

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Still from Remote Controlled Aerial Helicopter Flight

Floods have tremendous power, you only need to stand by a river in spate or watch waves crash against a sea wall to see that.
However they have another great power, they manage to move Politicians out of Westminster to demonstrate their leadership qualities and empathy with flood victims. They wish to show their understanding of flood dynamics and hydrology and as the blame game will be unpicked over the coming weeks and the floods subside both out in the field and in the media’s mass memories there is one thing to remember – floods are natural, they have occurred throughout the ages and will continue to occur in the future.
Do not get us wrong I am hugely sympathetic for flood victims. I see this first hand working in flood affected communities who are struggling to come to terms with this watery visitor they did not invite into their homes. It is second only to bereavement and burglary I believe in terms of psychological impact to its victims. I come from York where flooding was and still is a major issue for the City. However York and many other historical cities are sited on the rivers as means of trade and water supply and with it came the risk of flooding.
However with modern life comes plaster board walls, fitted carpets, electric fittings and a 101 other things that a flood will quite merrily ruin. This is one of the reasons why flood impact is so much greater than in the recent past when properties could be more easily cleaned and renovated. I am not saying we should all hark back to the past but the cost and impacts of flooding is compounded by our modern way of life.
So what is to be done about it?
There is no easy answer and it will take combined effort and foresight across all levels of government at national and local level not to mention considerable funding and a change in our way of development thinking. The Flood and Water Management Act should be fully enacted and the principles of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) followed.
It is difficult to design flood alleviation proposals but not impossible as the attached aerial video clip of Shrewsbury shows. It was shot on the 10 February 2014.

Our landscape staff worked with the Environment Agency to deliver a scheme that reduces flood risk to a great part of Shrewsbury but also contributes to the character and appearance of the river front. We are rightfully proud of the scheme.
Here’s an idea, how about for every picture of flooding we have a picture of a successful scheme just to act as a counterbalance?
Mind you bad news always sells better than good!

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Last autumn we added GIS  to our software suite at Ryder Landscape Consultants and we thought it would be good to write a short blog entry  about GIS and how we are using it at Ryder Landscape Consultants.

Our Assistant  Landscape Architect Laura Mason’s background is in GIS and environmental studies and she has created the below image as a short explanation as to what GIS is and what it can do. Laura has also provided a brief  overview of how we use the software in our day to day workings and how we have found the integration of GIS with the other software we use.


A short introduction to Geographic Information Systems 

Introduction to GIS

(click image for larger view)


How have we used GIS?

We have used GIS in Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIAs) to analyse environmental designation data and to create LVIA figures.  Through using GIS we have been able to make the most of openly available spatial data sets applicable in LVIA assessments.  We have also used GIS in combination with other software to create annotated mapping for reports and tenders.

Integration with other software 

In the office we use AutoCAD and Adobe Creative Suite and have found the movement of data between these software suits and our new GIS software (ESRI ArcGIS ArcMap) to be relatively straight forward. When we run and analyse Zones of Theoretical Visibility (ZTVs), we use AutoCAD KeyTERRA-FIRMA and ArcGIS in combination to make the most of the different capabilities of each software in the process of ZTV production and analysis.

What we like about GIS  

It’s quick! Well, we like the fact that when we have data from various sources sharing the same geographical information the overlay is speedy. We also quite like how it is relatively easy to export information to AutoCAD and vice versa (On a slightly geeky note, Laura quite likes how it can handle polygons with a hole in the middle of  them).

What we hope to do next

So far we have trialled it on fairly small projects, but we are now looking to make the most of its capabilities and start using it in larger projects where its database functionality and ability to handle large datasets will be useful.

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From the left, Chantelle Martin, Andrea Davies, Laura Mason

Chester based landscape architects Ryder Landscape Consultants (RLC) has appointed two new staff members to help manage its growing portfolio of landscape visual impact and assessment work. Chantelle Martin, formally of RSK, has joined the team as a Chartered Landscape Architect. Chantelle has worked on a number of large and small scale wind farm developments and more recently the second phase of HS2, she will be taking a leading role in RLC’s expanding team. Laura Martin, formally a GIS Practitioner at RPS Group, joins RLC to continue to grow and diversify the Practices services. Andrea Davies has also joined the practice as Office Manage to help support the team with its growing portfolio of work.

Stuart Ryder, Director, said ‘As our portfolio of projects continues to grow we are seeing more clients being asked to assess the landscape effects of their developments in greater detail and earlier in the development cycle. Chantelle and Laura bring with them a depth of knowledge that will allow us to continue to deliver highly focussed and effective support to our clients.’

Jonathan Miley has recently been promoted to Associate and will be heading up the Practice’s team of designers as they work on a diverse mix of projects including public realm, schools, care homes, housing and flood defence.

Jonathan said, ‘Our portfolio continues to grow and diversify and we are receiving enquires for new work on an almost daily basis, we continue to work with clients across the UK and we are looking to the future with optimism.’

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RLC have successfully been appointed by Gwynedd Council to redesign the old harbour promenade in Caernarfon. The old promenade is seen as one of Caernarfon’s prime assets but could do with a little face lift to give it a new breath of life. Set against the old medieval town walls and overlooking the Menai Strait, this is an exciting opportunity and we are very much looking forward to it. We will keep you updated with our progress over the next few months.

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Sir Tony Baldry MP for Banbury with the Lord Mayor of Banbury unveiling the commemorative plaque
The project team and sponsors gather at one of the scheme's two large control structures

Well it has only taken 11 years of my life to see this scheme on to the ground!

Friday 19th October saw the official opening of the Banbury Flood Alleviation Scheme that I personally started working on back in 2001.

2001 – A Banbury odyssey and all that!

The scheme to protect Banbury has cost £17million pounds to build and at times of flood will store water in a temporary flood storage reservoir on farmland upstream of Banbury slowly releasing it at a rate that will not inundate vulnerable areas of the town.

It sounds simple doesn’t it?

  • Well to build the reservoir we have had to
  • Excavate 200,000 Cubic metres of clay and soil to build an embankment almost 3km long.
  • Move the river in three separate locations
  • Raise 860m of the A361 road
  • Excavate roman farmsteads
  • Protect Historic Battlefields and more modern anti-aircraft emplacements, and
  • Deal both with droughts and floods during its construction!

This last point means the scheme has already been tested. Back in April 2012, even before it was properly finished, a low level flood occurred and thankfully the scheme worked as it was designed to do.

Moving forward we are working with the Environment Agency and Cherwell District Council to help form a new Country Park in the area so it looks like we have a few more years service to complete on this long-running but ultimately very rewarding project!

Stuart – 23rd October, 2012

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Students exhibited work related to their MA projects.
North West practices exhibited work alongside the students.
Jonathan Miley talks about current RLC projects and that diversity is the key!

RLC were asked by Manchester Metropolitan University to give a talk at a gathering of newly graduated Landscape Architectures and fellow professionals at a celebration event held in CUBE Gallery, Manchester. The event coincided with the Masters Students end of year show and provided them with an opportunity to meet and showcase their work to professionals from around the UK.

It was clear upon entering the gallery that the tutors at MMU have allowed this year’s graduates to be more expressive with their exhibitions than in previous years. This resulted in a significantly raised bar and an exhibition that appeared well considered, highlighting a diverse range of responses to the brief and more than competing with the Architecture graduates exhibiting just next door.

RLC were one of three speakers on the night including Tom Lonsdale of Playcraft and fellow Landscape practice Kinnear who had travelled from London for the event. Jonathan Miley (Senior Landscape Architect) gave RLC’s talk and encouraged the next generation of Landscape Architects (and professionals alike) that it isn’t all bad out there at the moment and things are (although slowly) getting better.

After much deliberation Jonathan decided to talk about a number of commissions the practice is currently undertaking using them to demonstrate the diverse range of projects Landscape Architects get involved with – some of which are more obvious that others! These ranged from helping a zoo to re-arrange a number of animal enclosures, developing multi-million pound flood defence schemes working with the Environment Agency and trying to convince Anglesey County Council that sinking a warship off the coast of Anglesey to create an artificial dive reef was a great idea! Jonathan argued that it’s the professions inherent flexibility and the diversity of skills that are our greatest asset. All we need to do now is educate the client to think the same!

Jonathan ended his talk on a subject that is currently in the media spot light, describing the work the practice does in this area as one of its most fulfilling. Whilst developing flood alleviation schemes isn’t viewed as the most glamorous work for Landscape Architects, it’s certainly one area that has the greatest positive effect of people lives. These schemes help safeguard communities, homes, businesses and places of work for the future. They involve the creation of new dams, embankments and flood walls and can run through open countryside, town centres or people’s back gardens. They involve community consultation, masterplanning, concept and detailed design, environmental assessment and habitat creation. In short, they encompass all that we do as Landscape Architects….they help to protect the environment whilst improving people’s lives.

The event was well attended by both students and professionals and the message from all speakers appeared to be the same; stay flexible and remember diversity is the key to the continued development, and survival, of the profession.

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New facilities taken over by Friends of Dunwood Park! – the turnout was amazing on the day
Open at last. Colourful bunting, community designed gates all made by local people adding to the festival atmosphere
We wish them well for the future and their continued success

Last Saturday the team celebrated the end of the project and the parks 100th anniversary by attending the Official Opening of the refurbished Dunwood Park.

After many months of hard work by ourselves, Oldham Borough Council’s countryside and horticultural teams, many volunteers and the Contractor, Casey Construction the park has finally come to fruition and opened to the public.

If you are thinking of something similar near your home and want to make a difference: maybe to a local park, school or area of open space in need of TLC please give us a call. We would be delighted to help, no matter how large or small the site or how crazy the ideas you have may be!


For a period of 1 month only during October 2012, RLC are offering individuals, companies and interest groups a free 2 hour consultation session.  A “Walk and Talk” with you by one of our experienced landscape architects to answer questions on taking the first steps, looking at ways to access Heritage Lottery Funding.

Please call Stuart or Alice on 01244 400064 to arrange.

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Alice and Stuart had a busy couple of days in Morpeth recently as they helped present and staff the preliminary design proposals for the town’s flood alleviation scheme. Two events were organised in association with the Environment Agency and Northumberland County Council. A town-wide event held at Morpeth Town Hall saw an estimated 100 people through the door to learn the good news that the scheme had received £21million of funding and that detail design had commenced. The next day a drop-in session held in the highly attractive High Stanners part of town explored the preliminary proposals with at least 80 residents braving the heavy rain to attend.

Stuart Ryder – Director

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New Logo

The two trees have gone! We’ve had the corporate lumberjacks in and they have felled our trees to make place for our new, ‘swish’ logo – green and dynamic just like us. The new image is part of a re-branding exercise we are rolling out that includes new marketing material and increased business to business contact.

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