Greater Manchester River Ecology Project


The Greater Manchester Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) pilot was produced by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Natural England in 2021 to identify and prioritise a network of habitats and the measures necessary to improve them.  The LNRS provides a framework to build business cases that help to attract funding and apply resources where they will have most impact (e.g. through the investment of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) credits).

However, valuable wildlife habitats across Greater Manchester identified in the LNRS are under threat from a range of factors including:

  • Habitat damage and loss through development

Mitigation is via comments and advice on planning applications by the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit (GMEU) and will begin to be addressed by the implementation of BNG.  However, the impacts of these comments are not monitored meaning little is know about changes to the environment following development. 

    • Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS)

INNS are recognised as a strategic issue for river management in our region: they feature in the Northwest River Basin Management Plan (NWRBP) and the Irwell Catchment Partnership has a specific working group to address the problem.

Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan Balsam are widespread across Greater Manchester and cause damage to habitat by outcompeting native species and causing soil erosion.  The fragmented knowledge of where they are growing makes it difficult to formulate a strategy to tackle them and to secure resources for catchment wide action.

  • Lack of investment in effective habitat management

Due to ad hoc monitoring, the current scale and extent of indicator species such as otters are unknown.  This results in difficulties identifying trends in biodiversity and to know where more habitat improvement is needed.

A greater understanding of these issues will enable more significant deliver of LNRS objectives.

What we are doing:

GMEU will continue the work from Phase 3, providing advice and requesting additional WFD impact assessments to riverside development applications on behalf of local authorities.

GMCA will commission research into the impact of GMEU’s ecological advice on development outcomes and request suggestions for improvements and guidance regarding when regulations are applicable.

Consultants will be commissioned to survey INNS along the main rivers of the Irwell Catchment to gain a comprehensive understanding of their distribution.  This information will be combined with information held by catchment partners to feed into strategic planning for potential projects to tackle them.

Using the lessons learned so far from developing wildlife management plans, GMCA will identify opportunities for resourcing habitat maintenance and develop methods for attracting funding for work on LNRS core sites.  They will also access funding for the implementation of wildlife site management plans developed during Phase 3.

Creating a citizen science otter survey to monitor their distribution as they become re-established within Greater Manchester.

Who else is involved?

Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Ecology Unit (Tameside Council), Greater Manchester local authorities, local community groups and volunteers.

Project location:

River catchments within Greater Manchester.

Latest update:

Otters return to Greater Manchester

Citizen Science: Results from new otter survey indicate healthier rivers