Mike Vaughan (Civil Engineering, 1994).

Exeter engineer leads Olympic Park project

The largest urban wetland planting scheme ever undertaken in the UK has been led by an Exeter alumnus at the Olympic Park in London.

Chartered Civil Engineer Mike Vaughan (Civil Engineering, 1994) led a team from company Atkins, designing wetlands and restoring the banks of the River Lee, which flows through east London into the River Thames.

The work included hydraulic modelling of the river to understand the hydraulic behaviour of the river and the design of hard and soft river edges in conjunction with the landscape, utility, drainage and bridge teams. The landscape will provide a backdrop to this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Starting on derelict industrial land, the four-year project included work on 8km of riverbanks, providing 2.3 hectares of habitat, including soft bioengineered banks, wetlands and wet woodlands and ponds. The wider Park contains some 20 hectares of grassland and planting with 45 hectares of new habitat.

Mike said: “It has been an amazing project. Our team has transformed what was a declining and run-down part of east London, with invasive weeds and industrial debris devaluing the river running through it, into a stunning new landscape. Even though it is in the heart of the capital, it has been designed to support a diverse range of plants and animals into the future.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the thousands of people enjoying the Park as part of their London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic experience. It is also great to be part of a project which has created a real legacy for people living in and using that part of London for many years to come.”

A 12-month planting trial took place along the banks of the Lee to establish which marginal species coped best with the area’s conditions. As a result over 300,000 seedlings were planted into special mats made from coconut fibres, over a year before being planted in the Park from the summer of 2010. At 2.3 hectares it is probably the largest such planting scheme of its kind in the UK.

Three new ponds have also been created, with two designed to cope with drying during the summer months creating moist grassy hollows.  

The Biodiversity Action Plan for the Park led to 675 bird and bat boxes being installed. Part of the preparatory work included re-homing 4,000 smooth newts, 100 toads and 330 common lizards.

Mike has worked on other large projects in the past including the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

Atkins is the official engineering design services provider for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

You can learn more about Mike’s work on the Park by following him on Twitter @Atkins_MVaughan

Date: 2 July 2012