Transforming our canals for wildlife

Manchester Canal

A new wildlife habitat in Manchester City Centre

As part of the Greater Manchester Environment Fund, the Canal & River Trust will be creating new wildlife habitat in Manchester City Centre, making our beloved canals safer for people and nature.

The Greater Manchester Environment Fund (GMEF) has been successful with a bid to Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF), which will support environmental NGOs to deliver key nature recovery projects. These projects will help to achieve key results against the Greater Manchester Local Nature Recovery Network Strategy

One of these key projects will be led by the Canal & River Trust, providing a series of floating reed-islands in Piccadilly Basin to green the city’s waterways. This provides essential wildlife habitat in a heavily engineered environment with limited space for nature. Not only do the islands provide a way for local communities to engage with the nature around them, but they also filter and improve the canal’s water quality.

The proposed reed-islands will provide quality blue space for the city totalling around 20 hectares, including 150m2 of reedbed containing nearly 500 aquatic plants in a highly urban environment. As well as this, over 20 pocket gardens will be enhanced or created to provide quiet spaces for people.  

These key green spaces in Manchester City Centre encourage wildlife and create habitat corridors for creatures to move safely across the city. Green and blue space is proven to reduce antisocial behaviour and allows residents and visitors to engage with Manchester’s nature.

There is a lack of quality green space in Manchester City Centre in proportion to its population. The canal network provides a blue space for people to visit and relax. However, the corridor has a lot of hard engineering providing limited space for wildlife and people to engage with. Some of the access points can be unwelcoming and attract antisocial behaviour, giving a poor impression of our beloved canals. Larger green and blue spaces, such as parks, woodlands and playing fields, are accessible along the canal corridors, with many people choosing to use these as a sustainable transport route, instead of driving.

This project will provide dedicated staff time to build upon and kickstart relationships in a challenging environment. The project will help transform an urban built environment into a diverse, safe and valued blue and green space that meets the ambitions in the Greater Manchester Five-Year Environment Plan. The space is not currently seen as a quiet haven for wildlife and people, but the project aims to turn this around.

The project provides many benefits to Greater Manchester, including:

  • 1 new job created
  • 1 traineeship created
  • 600m of hedgerow conserved
  • Access improved to 88 hectares of greenspace
  • 150m2 of reedbed created
  • 600m2 of reedbed managed and enhanced
  • 0.5 hectares of lowland grassland improved
  • 100 volunteers engaged in habitat works in Manchester
  • 80 volunteers receive new skills and learning (targeted at unemployed and people suffering social isolation)
  • 30 young people engaged in campaigning and practical habitat management (targeted in the most deprived areas)
  • 250 volunteer days undertaken on Manchester’s canal
  • 5 volunteer roles will be made available in the City Centre, targeting at unemployed to improve skills

As a result of this project, the habitats within the City Centre canals will be in a better condition with long-term plans in place to ensure they stay that way.