Our Tier 1 cities - 

Greater Manchester

The city's changing climate

The three climate zones of GM
Annual average daily mean temperature for GM, 1914-2000

The overall trend in GM is towards a warming climate. Historic reports of extreme weather events indicate that flooding is the most prevalent extreme weather event to have impacted on GM over recent decades, and that pluvial flooding in particular is becoming more common.

The projections highlight that GM may face a greater risk of flooding and heat stress over the coming decades.

Climate change projections

  • A greater number of cooling degree days
  • A decreasing number of heating degree days
  • Drier summers
  • Wetter winters
  • More frequent and intense extreme weather events, particularly strong winds, storms (although projections on future changes to these hazards are limited) and associated periods of high level short duration rainfall

Climate change implications

The EcoCities project identified three areas of focus for acting on climate change adaptation in GM. These were:

  • Safeguarding future prosperity
  • Protecting the most vulnerable in society
  • Building the resilience of critical infrastructure

Adaptation development

Greater Manchester (GM) has demonstrated political commitment to increasing adaptation and has carried out vulnerability assessments . GM, its constituent Municipalities and politicians, through their commitments and roles internationally and at a domestic level have had long standing and strong commitment and leadership around environmental protection, sustainable development and, more latterly, climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In order to effectively carry through on these commitments, a clear overview of all relevant plans and activities is needed.

Rather than produce a standalone GM-specific adaptation strategy, Greater Manchester is working to embed resilience throughout its wider plans and delivery documents.

Adaptation achievements

GM’s approach of working to embed climate resilience into wider plans and delivery documents has meant it has deliberately not progressed the development of a standalone adaptation strategy. It has, however, achieved an increased focus on this issue by:  

1. GM Climate Change Strategy

Developing a GM Climate Change Strategy that recognises adaptation as an important agenda, and includes a relevant high level objective on this theme. The Greater Manchester Strategy, which is the key overarching framework guiding development and growth across the conurbation, also recognises the importance of the adaptation and resilience agenda.

2. Political commitment

Generating poiltical commitment around the agenda provides an important platform for future progress, and for turning knowledge and understanding or climate risk into action ‘on-the-ground’.

3. Multilateral cooperation

Working with local universities, research consultancies and community groups who have undertaken relevant research and activity in this field for over a decade. This provides a useful resource to support ongoing and future adaptation and resilience work.

4. Greater Manchester Local Resilience Forum (GMLRF)

Working extensively with the GMLRF and its supporting staff who have driven a package of work and initiatives that have started to consider climate resilience alongside wider DRR and community risk and resilience issues. This has seen GM sign up as a role model city within the UNISDR’s resilient cities campaign and participate in the EU funded U-SCORE project, which is developing a ‘city resilience scorecard’ and recently seen GM accepted into the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities initiative.

Adaptation measures

Actions and initiatives to manage current and future climate risks to the conurbation have already been carried out in Greater Manchester. These include:

Salford Second Basin

A second flood storage area has been created upstream of Salford, on the site of the old racecourse in Castle Irwell. It will store water from the River Irwell when it is in flood and prevent it flowing downstream and flooding properties in Salford, increasing the standard of protection to protect against a 1 in 100 year flood event for 1,900 homes and businesses. The cost of this scheme is approximately £8 million and, alongside flood reduction and future climate resilience, multiple benefit features were incorporated such as: 

  1. A new 5ha urban wetland designed by Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. The final wetland planting has just been installed, and will include a mosaic of wetland habitats including reedbed, wet grassland, rough grassland and shallow and deepwater areas. This new priority habitat has wider environmental/green infrastructure benefits even with a urban zone, and make it more resilient for future.
  2. A new community orchard, wildflower grassland implementation on new flood embankments, and ecological enhancement of retained riparian woodland.
  3. Use of felled trees associated with scheme to create new habitat within the river channel, by installing large woody material at prescribed locations. These will help to provide a more varied flow regime and new aquatic habitat for fish. 

Howard Street Suds

Three London Plane trees were planted in a specially designed trench in Howard Street, Salford and Greater Manchester in June 2015 with the aim of capturing the impact that trees had on both cleaning polluted water from road run off and managing levels of surface water, which can lead to flooding. The ground-breaking study is a partnership between the Environment Agency, The University of Manchester, City of Trees, United Utilities, Urban Vision and Salford City Council trialling new and innovative forms of nature based climate resilience and sustainable water management solutions.

More information about this project can be found on our website here - http://www.cityoftrees.org.uk/project/howard-street-salford

Restoring the River Medlock, East Manchester

As part of the European Water Framework Directive, which maps out what EU member states must do to improve their rivers and water courses by 2027, a stretch of the River Medlock river has been brought back to life. This exciting renaturalisation of the River is the result of a collaboration between the Environment Agency, Manchester City Council, Medlock Valley Project and Groundwork Trust.

A first phase began in 2013 with the aim to breathe new life into around 1km of neglected watercourse in the heart of East Manchester. And it’s a complex piece of river engineering. After serious flooding in the late 19th Century, the river was given a makeover, in the form of a sterile red brick channel in order to prevent further flooding. The project retains the flood defence function of the river while at the same time restoring it to a more natural habitat. There have been many end products to this initiative already. It will improve flood defence, water quality and biodiversity value, at the same time improving the sense of place and opportunities for communities to engage with the river. When realised in 2014, the pilot project had delivered the most amazing transformation of the River Medlock for the past 100 years. And the ongoing naturalisation requirements on the river present future opportunities for further positive interventions.

More information

Revealing the River Roch

The River Roch, which has been hidden underneath Rochdale town centre for more than a century, has been uncovered, alongside its historic bridge, as part of a wider £250m regeneration programme. This major urban deculverting project was part of a town centre regeneration, heritage, flood reduction and ecological improvement scheme.

During the winter floods, the newly opened river mitigated the major damage that widely affected other parts of Greater Manchester, reducing flood levels, duration and damage significantly by allowing overland flow to by-pass an upstream restriction from the culvert itself.

Culverting the river in the 19th century (left), reopened river after deculverting works

More Information

Adaptation challenges, opportunities and needs


Whilst progress has been made in research, policy and strategy, creating stakeholder networks and generating political commitment, GM faces significant challenges regarding building urban climate resilience.

1. GM needs to improve understanding of how the changing climate will impact spatially on its socio-economic make up, environment, urban fabric and critical infrastructure.
2. GM needs clarity of the complex and interlinked stakeholders within and outside the region and their actions to adapt and increase resilience as the climate changes.
3. To ensure climate change adaptation and critical infrastructure protection commitment and action is embedded into a wide range of delivery and investment programmes covering a range of sectors and spatial scales.

However, GM benefits from certain characteristics that provide opportunities to support its efforts to become better adapted and more resilient to the changing climate. A long history of collaborative working across the ten districts that make up the conurbation, provides a platform to support engagement of other partner organisations involved in adaptation and critical infrastructure activities. GM also benefits from existing legislative frameworks and statutory requirements produced at the national level, including the Climate Change Act (2008) and the Flood and Water Management Act (2010), which if applied effectively can support adaptation and resilience work locally. There is ongoing local political commitment to adaptation including Mayors Adapt, the Covenant of Mayors and the UNISDR Resilient Cities programme and most latterly GM’s participation in the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities initiative. Progress in these areas coupled with long running links to expert academic and research advice, development of conurbation wide spatial planning frameworks and an increasingly devolved level of control over budgets, present a very positive platform for the future.

Adaptation context

Map of the ten GM districts in context of England (Matt Ellis, GMCA)

Greater Manchester covers an area of 1,277 km2 with a population of 2.7m and is comprised of 10 local authority districts (Municipalities). Greater Manchester (GM) was at the heart of the industrial revolution, becoming the world’s first industrial city. This brought great wealth, but also substantial environmental and social problems. Some parts of GM still suffer considerable negative environmental effects from the industrial legacy.

GM’s climate risk, if not understood and addressed, may undermine wider efforts and investments within the city to deliver its sustainable economic growth and social wellbeing aspirations.

It is therefore important to understand Greater Manchester's geographical and socioeconomic context as this affects its climate risk, its adaptation responses and directly influences its adaptation needs and priorities. These context issues are covered in more detail in the Greater Manchester City Assessment Report but are summarised below:

Health and ageing

Projections indicate an ageing society. GM has seen the overall health of residents improve for several decades including an increase in life expectancy, a decline in infant mortality, and a fall in overall mortality rates. Despite these trends, health in GM is still below the UK average. People in poor health may be more vulnerable to extreme weather events and the consequences of infrastructure failure (e.g. reduced access to healthcare).

Ethnic diversity

GM is ethnically diverse, although there are significant differences between the ten local authority districts with their demographic population. In terms of climate change, communities less connected to the social networks that underpin resilient responses to extreme weather events can be more vulnerable.


Some of the ten per cent most deprived areas in England are in GM, such as parts of north Manchester, Rochdale, Oldham and Bolton. Many of the areas that are exposed to certain climate hazards (for example flooding) are also the residential locations of people who are less able to cope with and adapt to the current risk of extreme weather events, and the changing climate.

Spatial distribution of deprivation across Greater Manchester based on the Indices of Deprivation 2015



GM’s Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2014 was approximately £54 billion; this has increased from £34.9 billion in 1991. GM is economically strong in comparison to the rest of north-west England, but weaker than the national average. GM’s economy consists of a large number of small-to-medium enterprises. It should be noted that approximately 85% of SMEs have between 0 and 9 employees, which may pose issues for their capacity to address the risk of climate change on their business.

Critical infrastructure

An open data map of key infrastructure and other environmental information has been produced by the GM Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Infrastructure Advisory Board. The map includes basic flood risk information but does not yet represent wider climate change impacts, and the subsequent impact these would have on the current infrastructure (and its capacity) as presented.


TfGM is currently preparing its strategy - Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040: Our Vision – which is due for publication in 2016. Additional transport investments include £560 million for the Northern Hub rail scheme (completed c. 2019). The UK Government has also designated the Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone and there is ongoing work at the port of Salford and the Manchester Ship Canal.

Other built environment assets

GM’s predominant building types can accentuate climate risk, particularly flood risk in the case of terraced housing and temperature issues in the case of rented, high rise properties. In central Manchester, many commercial office blocks are high rise with glazed curtain walling and may need to be adapted in the case of increasing temperatures. There have also been large investments in energy efficiency retrofitting programmes, which will continue to help GM realise its low carbon emissions targets.