Greater Manchester Green City Region. Creating a greener, greater city region differently

Greater Manchester’s Natural Capital Annual Conference 2018

Representatives from across Greater Manchester’s environment, health, planning, utilities and transport sectors attended the conference, hosted by Manchester Museum, to share evidence for the many benefits found in connecting people with nature and to spark a debate around how we can connect people with nature in Greater Manchester in new and innovative ways.

Anne Selby, Chair of the Natural Capital Group and CEO of The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside opened the event by outlining the importance of natural capital and Greater Manchester's role as the Government’s Urban Pioneer.

Keynote speakers for the morning included Dominic Higgins, Nature and Wellbeing Manger for The Wildlife Trusts, and Hayley Lever, Strategic Manager for Greater Manchester Moving, who informed us of the many health benefits associated with getting active outdoors.

Outdoor physical activity is vitally important, but we're currently faced with an 'inactivity crisis' in Greater Manchester, which is estimated to generate avoidable costs of almost £59million a year. If we can connect people with nature, we can make a real difference to this burden on the NHS.

Prof Sarah Lindley from the University of Manchester and Dave Bell and Jane Houghton from Natural England then explained the opportunities available to use green infrastructure data, and how it correlates with health data and health outcomes for local people across Greater Manchester.

Projects such as 'Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population' (GHIA) and 'Accessible Green Space' can be used to maximise the benefits from green infrastructure.

There was an alarming Health Inequalities dimension to this research - 17% of people from lower socioeconomic groups had not accessed green space in the previous 12 months, compared to 3% of people in higher socioeconomic groups.

The benefits associated with connecting people to nature dominated discussions throughout the day, with Ashley Gorst from Vivid Economics outlining the strong economic case for doing so.

Whilst the natural environment cannot be fully valued economically it is useful to monetise the outcomes, for example, the value of London's parks to people's mental, physical and social health and wellbeing is £950 million a year.

Partners at the conference, outlining what they are doing specifically to connect with nature, delivered a series of short perspectives.

Anna Hetterley of Lancashire Wildlife Trust discussed restoration, reconnection and access to our Carbon Landscape, whilst Anna da Silva from RHS Bridgewater, Europes largest gardening project, explored how we might get more people engaged in gardening.

The first of the day's workshops was led by Jessica Thompson from City of Trees, who was representing Green Connections, a project that aims to connect people to the natural environment by encouraging them to explore and visit greenspaces across Greater Manchester.

Cllr Alex Ganotis, Leader of Stockport Council and Greater Manchester’s Lead for the Green City Region provided the keynote speech for the afternoon, during which he outlined both the opportunities and the challenges we face as a city region in achieving our transition to a greener, more sustainable Greater Manchester.

"A number of key audiences, including the local planning authority, policy-makers, funders and stakeholders in the community need to be engaged to ensure that interventions are delivered in a cost-effective manner and will generate the outcomes predicted," stressed Cllr Ganotis.

Henry McGhie from Manchester Museum also delivered an inspiring presentation ‘Less information more inspiration’ on the positive role that museums play in contributing effectively to the sustainability agenda, promoting positive environmental and social outcomes. 

As the natural environment has evolved and changed over many years, so too has the climate. Mindful of this, Matt Ellis, Climate Resilience Officer from Greater Manchester Combined Authority set out the key climate impacts for our future cities from the RESIN project - what they look like and what they tell us about where we are heading in terms of pace of change and impact and the role of nature-based solutions in addressing them.

The second workshop group was facilitated by Louise Marix Evens and Gill Fenna from Quantum Strategy and Technology, who used the occasion for delegates to share their environmental vision for Greater Manchester and spark a debate that might feed into the Mayor’s Green Summit.

Participants discussed what a 'Green City' might look like and what is stopping Greater Manchester from achieving this status, as well as what needs to happen to overcome any barriers and help us deliver our ambitious goals.

All of the day's attendees were thoroughly engaged and their contributions will help to inform the Mayor's upcoming Green Summit on March 21st.

All presentations and workshop outcomes from the day can be found here. 

In the run up to the Green Summit, we also warmly welcome thoughts and ideas from the general public on changes necessary for Greater Manchester to achieve its climate change goals. You can have your say by completing this survey and getting involved in the conversation on twitter #GMGreenCity.

“It was great to be able to bring so many experts in nature together for the conference," reflected Anne Selby.

"We had presentations from a number of existing projects already working hard in Greater Manchester to protect and improve Greater Manchester’s natural assets, and had the opportunity to exchange ideas around potential new projects. It was also lovely to hear that external speakers were impressed by our work in Greater Manchester!”

“Greater Manchester is a very exciting place to be just now," added Krista Patrick, Natural Capital Coordinator from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

"There are so many crucial projects based here, including the EU LIFE funded Natural Course project, which brings together resources and organisations for the benefit of the North-West water environment, and the Urban Pioneer and the Northern Forest initiatives."

“There’s a lot to do, but we are at a pivotal point where we can start to make significant changes that will benefit Greater Manchester's future environment.”

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