#Manchester Green Infrastructure Plan (progress report) to be scrutinised, Tues 4th March

On Tuesday 4th March Manchester City Council’s bureaucracy will do something that is both note-worthy and praise-worthy. It will … present a “work in progress” document for inspection by elected members of the Council. The Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy (green = parks etc, blue = canals, lakes etc) will be examined by members of the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee, at their 2pm meeting in the Town Hall Extension. (The meeting is open to public, no need to book).

As the summary at the beginning of the 25 page document says –

“Mapping of the city’s Green Infrastructure (GI), partner consultation, evidence base scoping and research was undertaken in 2013. This identified the need for a robust local evidence base to be produced to underpin the strategy, for GI to be embedded across a range of Council policy documents, and the key role that external partners could play in its delivery.
This report provides a summary of the work to date. It describes the need to establish a clear understanding of the value of the city’s GI, in terms of its contribution to a range of social, economic and environmental objectives, and the work currently underway to establish this evidence base. It also provides an overview of a range of on-the-ground activities, setting out that work to continue to enhance the city’s GI resource is ongoing, running in parallel with the development of the strategy….

We asked our resident biodiversity expert Dave Bishop for questions and comments. He sent in the following –

1. Will the Council ensure that, in local green spaces, a proper balance is struck between visitor access and the conservation of biodiversity? In the past – particularly in the Mersey Valley – there has been an overwhelming emphasis on the former and the latter has been almost completely neglected.

2. Will provisions be put in place to manage Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs) and Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) in accordance with their written management plans?

3. Will provisions be put in place to ensure that linear features in the local environment, e.g. railway and tram tracks, roadside verges, cycle tracks and river and canal banks, are managed in such a way that they can act as viable wildlife corridors connecting together green spaces such as SBIs, LNRs, parks and gardens?

with the following recommendations.

1. Remember that tree planting is not a universal panacea for biodiversity loss. Any planted trees should be certified ‘disease free’ (remember Ash Die-back!).

2. Species-rich grassland is much more biodiverse than planted woodland. Ensure that any remaining scraps are conserved and appropriately managed. Create new ones using seed which is appropriate for the area.

3. Create more ponds.

The meeting starts at 2pm., with the Strategy one of the first agenda items.  Dave Bishop and MCFly editor Marc Hudson plan to be there, and would welcome other folks who want to see democracy inaction.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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4 Responses to #Manchester Green Infrastructure Plan (progress report) to be scrutinised, Tues 4th March

  1. gille liath says:

    ‘Democracy inaction’ – wry joke or Freudian slip?

    Again the grasslands? What is ‘species rich grassland’ – un-reseeded pasture or some such? Can’t imagine there’s much of that in MCC management; and to compare newly planted woods with ancient grasslands doesn’t sound very sensible. Besides, it’s not only biodiversity that’s the issue is it? From a climate change perspective, bio*mass* is more important – and notwithstanding the Grasslands Trust claim to the contrary, I would have thought that means trees.

    Btw whatever happened to ash die-back?

  2. Dave Bishop says:

    Actually, there’s a fair amount of (potentially) species-rich grassland in the Mersey Valley, for example – but much of it is very degraded because, in the recent past, it’s not been managed properly – or not managed at all. As for planting trees in order to counter climate change, one of the UK’s greatest woodland experts, Oliver Rackham, says that asking people to plant trees in order to counter climate change is like asking them to keep down rising sea levels by drinking more! Britain is just too small and I believe, based on 40 years of observation in Greater Manchester, that the damage done to local biodiversity, as a result of ill-considered tree planting, far outweighs any benefits.
    For me, being an environmentalist is, above all, about understanding and appreciating one’s own environment – rather than arbitrarily imposing things on to it (that’s just another form of ‘development’!).

    • gille liath says:

      I take your point, but the same argument could be made about *any* environmental proposals in Manchester: in the grand scheme of things their effect will be negligible. Woodland is of course the natural habitat in nearly all of lowland Britain, and there’s very little of it in Greater Manchester. The benefits of trees to people in urban areas are also well documented. So whilst I’d be against destroying any well-established (not merely ‘potential’!) local ecosystem, I still think tree planting is to be encouraged where possible. However what should maybe also be thought about – where woods are big enough – is better management of the ‘under-storey’, eg planting appropriate woodland wild-flowers.

      I don’t know where you mean in the Mersey Valley – but surely we’re talking here about council-managed land, not farmland? There’s little or nothing councils can do to influence management of the latter, which supposedly has its own environmental schemes. Any ‘grassland’ managed by councils usually means parks and playing fields, the diversity of which extends to daisies and dandelions.

  3. Dave Bishop says:

    The other point about planting trees is, of course, that trees ‘plant themselves’ It’s called ‘natural succession’). A few years ago some (probably self-styled) ‘eco-guerrillas’ sneaked on to Chorlton Ees (probably under cover of darkness) and planted an Ash tree, and elaborately staked and mulched it. If they’d bothered to look at the area (in daylight, of course) they would have seen that much of it is currently being invaded by thousands of self-sown Ash trees! Similarly, when Transport for Greater Manchester started re-developing the old, abandoned railway lines for Metrolink extensions they promised to “increase the biodiversity” of these sites post-development. This ‘improvement’ turned out to consist of some, rather inept, tree planting – often on sites subject to heavy natural succession – which really needed to be thinned out – not subject to arbitrary tree planting! These are examples of ‘Bishop’s Law’ in action i.e. “An organisation’s knowledge of, and/or concern for, the environment is inversely proportional to its propensity to plant trees.”

    For examples of unimproved grassland in the Mersey Valley, you might like to look at the the big open area on Chorlton Ees in the bend of the river (the Environment Agency have recently cut one part of this area – bless them! It really needed doing.) and there is a big, reed-filled pond in another part. In this general area I have found a patch of Adder’s Tongue Fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum) which is an indicator plant of unimproved grassland and also probably corresponds to the colony found by the great 19th century, Manchester shoe-maker botanist, Richard Buxton and recorded in his local flora of 1849. When Buxton knew this area it was probably a classic water meadow, subject to controlled annual flooding; sadly, it’s now very degraded. On the other side of the river, near Sale Water Park, you can still find the plant Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) and this, in association with the grass Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) indicates that this area too is a piece of relict unimproved grassland.

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