Natural Course – An EU LIFE Integrated Project

Natural Course is an EU LIFE Integrated Project that aims to understand and develop solutions to some of the largest barriers to achieving ‘good ecological status’ under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the Northwest River Basin District. The project has included a focus on rivers in Greater Manchester, in particular the River Irwell, since it began in 2016. The project brings together public, private and third sector organisations to work collaboratively to increase their capacity to deliver improvements to rivers and the water environment across Northwest England.

Final Phase

The fourth, and final phase of Natural Course which runs to the end of March 2024, is now underway. Within Greater Manchester Phase 4 activity will focus on:

  • Further engagement in a natural capital approach to protecting and enhancing Greater Manchester’s natural environment and the ecosystem services that it provides. Planners and green space managers, who have been involved during the earlier phases, will continue to be engaged and new connections will be made with sectors such as economic development. Innovative finance models to support natural capital investment and catchment restoration will also be explored alongside partners working elsewhere in the Northwest River Basin District.
  • An on-going GM River Ecology Project will look at how resources can be generated to enhance a series of core wildlife sites identified in the pilot GM Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Meanwhile, a survey of invasive non-native plant species, such as Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed, will be undertaken to build understanding of one of the most widespread threats to habitats within Greater Manchester’s river valleys. Volunteers will also be trained and supported so that they can record the presence of animal species that help to indicate the overall health of rivers in Greater Manchester.
  • Working with planners and developers to develop tools to enable them to maximise contributions to WFD objectives through the development process, in addition to statutory requirements. This area of work has been highlighted as a significant opportunity during the earlier phases of Natural Course and will help to ensure that future developments enhance the rivers of Greater Manchester through a reduction in pollution pressures and restoring natural features as widely as possible.
  • Building a greater understanding of, and developing activities to tackle, diffuse urban pollution pressures on the rivers of Greater Manchester. This workstream will include the delivery of a demonstration project, by City of Trees, showing how nature-based solutions can be used to tackle urban pressures on the water environment and a study to increase understating of the emerging issue of micro plastic contamination of Greater Manchester’s rivers.

Active projects

Further information about the Natural Course Phase 4 programme, including activity taking place elsewhere in the Northwest, can be found on the Natural Course website.

Visit Natural Course website
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