Green fingers crossed for award success

14th October 2020

Developers behind Countesswells’ will have their green fingers crossed later this month when they attend Scottish Home Awards virtual ceremony where they are nominated for ‘green infrastructure development of the year’.

Sponsored by Scottish Natural Heritage, the new award recognises the efforts of a private developer or housing association to deliver multi-functional green and blue infrastructure as part of a nature rich, high quality housing development.

Set in the west of Aberdeen and balanced neatly between town and country living, the development has long placed green infrastructure as a driving force in its growth. Aimed to transform low-grade agricultural fields with limited existing features and biodiversity into a new settlement, the blossoming town uses new landscape spaces and high quality and biodiverse blue and green infrastructure, whilst connecting to woodland resources around the site.

Located across 200 hectares, with over a third as open space, Countesswells, made up of neighbourhoods from a range of Scottish homebuilders and a thriving town centre, will also house four main parks, ideal for community gatherings as well as connecting with nature. The largest of the four, Cults Burn Park, is centred on the re-alignment of existing drainage ditches which have been opened up to create an ecological park running north to south encouraging nature into the site.

All four of the parks at Countesswells will be connected with footpaths creating a green network through the community and join with the existing Countesswells and Hazlehead woods which border the site.

Project director, Martin Dalziel explains: “When it came to the initial planning stages of Countesswells, the challenge we were met with was identify those limited existing high-quality elements within a relatively mundane and inert site and ensure they were incorporated into the green and blue networks.

“In this way, they helped inform the designs and become character generators themselves for the new public spaces, reinforcing a local landscape character. This included the mature avenue of trees which run along Countesswells Road and the walled community orchard, which was constructed from stone reclaimed from some of the existing structures on the site. The use of characteristic Aberdeen granite and native trees is a subtle nod to local landscape setting and is nestled by the watercourse corridor to provide a resource and focus for the residents.”

An integral part of Countesswells’ waterway is its innovative Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) which effectively deals with and treats the surface water that will inevitably be altered by the introduction of new urban surfaces.

Mr Dalziel said: “The SUDS at Countesswells have been designed as more than functional grass basins which fill with water during storm events. In day-to-day conditions, they form useable open space while also hosting a bio-diverse range of native species within various ground conditions and earth forms.

“The design team worked in a truly collaborative way to balance ecology, landscape architecture and engineering issues to produce an innovative approach which met the needs and aspirations of both SEPA and Scottish Water. In addition, the colourful wildflower planting includes over 30 different species and together with tree planting provides a great habitat for animals and insects.”

Having previously been awarded for by the Scottish Awards ‘Quality in Planning’ as well as awards from Homes for Scotland and RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), planners behind the town are hoping for another award win at the online ceremony on 29th October.

Almost four years since the first residents moved in, the town now represents over 300 families who have been attracted to the upfront green infrastructure of the development. Early construction of the town has included, to date, a community orchard, 600 trees, 25,000 plants and 34 species of wildflower, all of which are native species, planted in what was previously a monoculture of agricultural grassland.

Mr Dalziel added: “The environmental aspect of Countesswells has been a fundamental element in the planned approach to Countesswells since the very start. This has resulted in it being set within an attractive usable landscaped area of significant combined size, rather than relying on the surroundings and simply adding incidental open spaces.

“The on-going construction of the community will continue to reflect this and winning the award for green infrastructure development of the year would cement our success to-date before we move on the next phase of development.”