Delivering housing and community regeneration in partnership

The Challenge

The resilience of our communities and economies relies heavily on the sustainable use and management of our environment and water. This kind of sustainable living starts with placed based innovation. Through our partnership with Durham County Council, Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency, we have the opportunity to take a streetscape approach in a street of residential properties in County Durham. This live test facility supports businesses to test green products in a live residential environment.

South Moor (Stanley, Co. Durham) was established around four collieries, within a five-mile radius, next to the River Twizell. The Twizell’s natural course and ecology has been significantly and detrimentally impacted from physical modifications (associated with historic mining activities), and poor water quality from urbanisation. In South Moor, over 1000 homes feed into a combined sewage and surface water drainage system. In heavy rainfall, this combined sewer and surface water system discharges via combined sewer overflows (CSOs) directly into the River Twizell.

Several partners have been working together to deliver housing and community regeneration schemes in South Moor over the past five years. Durham County Council, the Environment Agency, Durham University, and Northumbrian Water are among the partners that have collaborated in the design and delivery of sustainable urban drainage modifications to limit CSO discharge, and enhance blue-green infrastructure in South Moor. The ambition from partners moving forward, was to:

  • establish a community-based test facility, to promote open collaboration and innovation
  • amplify and grow existing ‘place’ based investment and activity
  • develop innovative solutions to water infrastructure problems
  • advocate the creative use of open data to improve product development, and empower citizens and communities to take practical steps to preserve water for future generations
  • identify and test new mechanisms for value capture where technological, creative and societal innovation could facilitate change

What we did

This challenge was officially launched by The Water Hub and partners at Venturefest 2017, by exploring Green Infrastructure: Community engagement and retro-fitting of cost effective solutions to attenuate rain and surface water at the street and individual house scale.

The Water Hub, with Northumbrian Water and Durham County Council, presented the challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable drainage and energy efficiencies and hosted an ideation session, attended by 15 participants from across academia, business, and government. Specifically, The Water Hub and Durham County Council invited ideas and expressions of interest from companies to apply for near release commercial tender to deliver community scale sustainable drainage at South Moor, County Durham.

Following Venturefest 2017, we coordinated a soft market event for prospective solution providers to promote a collaborative working approach. The Water Hub leveraged £75,000 of additional funding to deliver the tender. In this project, a team of SMEs brought together by The Water Hub, have (i) retrofitted water attenuation features, (ii) installed technology to monitor performance over 12 months, and (iii) established a local “Water – Energy Friends” group, to educate and encourage residents to support further investment in green infrastructure.

In total, five businesses are working together to address the challenge of storing and managing rainwater and runoff, presented in a joint tender from The Water Hub and Durham County Council. The project, managed by Groundwork NE, includes input from Fairhurst, Brambledown Landscape Services, SuDSPlanter Ltd, and Environmental Monitoring Solutions. The work complements ongoing improvements to the region, carried out by the Wear Rivers Trust and through the Greening the Twizell Partnership. We have established a wider network of interested parties to take forward a second, very ambitious bid to continue a number of work packages, building on the knowledge and engagement achieved in this challenge.

What next

Whilst this amazing work continues on site, we are creating opportunities for the next phase, including:

  • Applying for further funding to deliver work focussing on deployment of sensing and digital technologies
  • Supporting one SME to access The Water Hub’s small grant scheme
  • Discussing research collaborations with academics at Durham University to support product development
  • Facilitated discussions between one SME and a researcher in Durham’s Energy Institute, to integrate smart energy and water data from South Moor on their data acquisition platform
  • Secured slots within the Great Exhibition of the North to share the outcomes and learning from this fantastic case study
  • Chaired discussions with stakeholders to prepare a proposal for funding a second phase of this project.
  • Discussing funding opportunities with Newcastle University to scale-up the work
  • Established a consortia to further develop ideas relevant for local growth funding and current Industrial Strategy Challenge Funding (Strength-in-places call)

George Gerring, Partnerships Manager at The Water Hub and the Environment Agency, reflected: ‘Through partnership working, The Water Hub has established a demonstration site at South Moor. This will allow small, innovative businesses to test new water and energy saving products in a live environment. Crucially the project includes input from 300 residents to shape solutions and deliver immediate impact for the residents at South Moor’.

Alex Stephenson, Director of H2O Intelligence Ltd, and co-founder of SuDSPlanter (with Lorna Davis Designs) noted the support he has received from The Water Hub, which extends beyond gaining access to a real-world validation site: ‘The Water Hub is supporting us in two or three ways: they’re helping us to collaborate with researchers, gain access to some grant funding and help to develop our product further.’


Groundwork NE
Brambledown Landscape Services
SuDSPlanter Ltd
Environmental Monitoring Solutions