Project background

In 2019, Manchester declared a Climate Emergency. Our population is growing, our environment and biodiversity facing pressures from increased urbanisation and economic growth. As a global community, our current trajectory is unsustainable. We need to do things differently.

Leading the way, Manchester has already 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 part of that ambition.

River Mersey sunny day landscape

For hundreds of years, the rivers flowing through our City have been central to its success – providing water for industry, for wildlife and for communities. The rivers have survived multiple challenges and continue to flow beneath houses, streets, parks and railways.

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.

However, the rivers and their surrounding landscape are also the product of their past usage, and need to evolve in order to claim their rightful place in the story of Manchester’s future.

In recent years we have come to understand and recognise how essential the environment is to people’s lives, and the positive impact that access to quality green spaces, water courses and wildlife can have on our quality of life, our health and wellbeing and productivity, and how – if we work with nature – we can tackle many of our future challenges.

Our first step on this journey is to develop a long term vision and set of actions which will re-energise the City’s river valleys.

The River Valley Action Plans

To reinvigorate a focus on Our Rivers, three ‘River Valley Action Plans’ will be developed.

These plans will holistically assess the current functionality of our local rivers and streams, and their potential to provide multiple benefits to the city and its neighbourhoods. The plans will be used to support the integration of local environmental priorities and needs into Ward level planning.

To support the assessment, and facilitate local decision-making, we want to:

  • Understand people’s experiences of Manchester’s network of rivers and streams
  • Capture the problems and the opportunities for improvement that exist along and around the Irk, Medlock and Mersey as they flow through the city
  • Create a vision for how rivers could look and function
  • Use this information to establish a plan of action that will energise improvements and maximise the potential of the river valleys for years to come


Just imagine if together, we plan ways to work with Nature, the urban landscape in our river valleys could:

  • Absorb excess rainfall and reduce surface water flooding
  • Clean water made impure by human activity
  • Reduce the impact of extreme weather events – flood and heat stress
  • Improve the quality of the air we breathe
  • Create beautiful, sustainable, enterprising neighbourhoods
  • Be better places for wildlife
  • Improve our well-being and quality of life


What you’ve told us so far

Throughout 2020-21, we reached out to a number of different communities – on social media, in online workshops and face to face – with the intention of including as many people as possible in the conversation about the future of Manchester’s River Valleys.

These reports highlight the outcomes of our stakeholder engagement up until February 2021:

Stakeholder Engagement Report – Summary

Stakeholder Engagement Full Report

Throughout the projects duration we’ll be using the hashtag #OurRiversOurCity across social media, plus you can join the conversation on the following channels:

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If you would like to discuss this project with us please contact stating ‘Our Rivers, Our City’ in the subject title.

Delivered in partnership with:

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