BLOG: Re-energising Manchester’s River Valleys: A Flagship Initiative

Manchester has committed to using policy to inspire the actions needed to become a smarter, more sustainable and liveable city. Shaping the future of our local river valleys is an important part of that ambition.

Dave Barlow, Senior Policy Officer at Manchester City Council explains why plans, policies and strategies count when looking towards a greener, healthier future.

Flagships and Standards – Why Plans, Policies and Strategies Count.  

Basically, it’s about having a plan. Without an idea of what you are working with and what you want to achieve, 
it’s pretty difficult to make a compelling argument for other people to commit to it. I wouldn’t walk into Dragons Den, and make a pitch for funding unless I could make a decent case for investment.  

That, for me is what makes plans, strategies and polices so important. But I would say that wouldn’t I? I’m a Senior Policy Officer working for Manchester City Council. I have been helping develop strategies that support improvements in the City’s natural environment for over 20 years. And I can see the difference that strategies can make.

The Standard shows the way forward


Policy Officer, sounds a bit dry, I know. But without getting all jingoistic, I see strategies as a bit like the flags and standards that were carried into battle in years gone by.  

Imagine, if you will, that you have been transported back to Agincourt or Waterloo (Without a phone…) You are lost and alone… Dazed and confused by the fog of war. No Google maps or Siri to help… 

Then you see it. 

In amongst the carnage, cries and smoke, fluttering high above the battlefield, a brightly coloured standard provides the rallying point that you need. The direction of travel. That’s where I need to head, where I need to be. The standard shows the way forward…  

So there you have it. Our strategies, plans and policies are todays  flags and standards. The things we rally around and to, the things we work towards. Standard bearer sounds a bit more romantic, not quite as dry as Policy Officer… But somehow I don’t think I’ll get it on my job description. 

A good Strategy makes things happen. It doesn’t sit on a shelf. It gets people thinking, inspires collaboration and makes a difference – but don’t take my word for it.


Here’s a quote from Jonathan Sadler at the Manchester Climate Change Agency: 

“Without a clear policy and strategy for Green infrastructure in Manchester, the Grow Green project, and the other funding bids currently in development, simply would not have been possible

He used the fact that Manchester had a clearly articulated Strategy and vision for GI in the city, as a way of helping make the case for a project bid… And guess what? His bid received funding to the tune of over 10 Million pounds. Having a Plan helps.   


River Mersey Walk Sunny Day Green

Today, the river valleys of the Irk, Medlock and Mersey include many of the city’s green spaces, connect Manchester to the wider City Region and contribute to the distinct nature of our neighbourhoods. Image by Claire Stocks.

Seeing is believing

Projects though, bring strategies to life. Plans, strategies and policies provide the hooks that encourage flagship projects to be launched… So keeping with the nautical and historical theme, flagships were key ships in any naval armada – they were used to send messages to the fleet. To keep people informed, keep everyone on track and on schedule. To deliver the battle plan or strategy.  

I like the idea of Our Rivers, Our City as a flagship initiative – sending messages to a fleet including everyone, about the importance of our landscape and how it can and will be improved for generations to come.  

Dave Barlow 

Standard Bearer Senior Policy Officer, Manchester City Council

Our Rivers Our City is a project working in partnership to assess the current functionality of Manchester’s local rivers and streams, and their potential to provide multiple benefits to the city and its neighbourhoods.


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