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Greater Manchester Combined Authority uses OS data for groundbreaking nature recovery

The city-region was one of five pilot areas chosen by Defra to develop a new Local Nature Recovery Strategy.

All other councils must now develop a similar programme, mapping and identifying locations for new nature-first projects. Greater Manchester Combined Authority [GMCA] began work towards this in 2020, teaming up with Ordnance Survey [OS], which has provided vital information on land use and type through its National Geographic Database [NGD]. 

By understanding the make-up of each co-ordinate across the 10 metropolitan boroughs and surrounding countryside, efforts to develop a Local Nature Recovery Strategy [LNRS] were expedited. It was also easier to locate places where investment in green initiatives is likely to have the most significant impact. 

Now home to more than 3million inhabitants, the OECD ranks Greater Manchester as Europe’s 11th largest metropolitan area, and the city is growing considerably faster than the UK average. Nevertheless, the OS data shows the county is actually two-thirds woodland, parkland, green space, waterways, and farmland. 

In addition to plotting land use and signposting places that would gain the most from LNRS-aligned work, the project also utilised OS data to track species movement through the landscape. This will provide invaluable insights into permeability and existing corridors for animal passage, potentially feeding into improvements such as natural bridges and tunnels. 

‘Using OS data has saved the project so much time – it really has been a game-changer. The various feature sets have enabled us to estimate land use percentages so we can see how much is made up of agriculture, buildings or residential gardens and driveways,’ said Paul Barrington, Biodiversity Systems Manager for Greater Manchester Environment Unit.

‘OS data is also helping us identify which groups of stakeholders and land managers have the most influence and who we need to be engaged with to assist with that nature recovery,’ he continued. ‘I couldn’t have done this without NGD data. It has saved me – and the ecologists we would have needed out on the ground – so much time.’

So far, GMCA has used resources including OS NGD Land [Landcover & Landform], OS NGD Geographical Names [Named Features], OS NGD Land Use [Land Use Site], OS NGD Administrative and Statistical Units [Boundaries] and OS NGD Water [Water network, Waterbody Catchment & River Basin District Catchment]. OS NGD Buildings and OS NGD Structures were also utilised. 

A number of new datasets are being added to the NGD this month, including Land Cover type, percentage cover, and Field Boundaries. In turn, these will help support analysis of the Greater Manchester city region in more depth, leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness of the LNRS.

‘This is a really strong example of the power of NGD data, supporting national policy and allowing customers to create bespoke maps using select and build recipes,’ said John Kimmance, Managing Director of National Mapping Services at OS. ‘It has provided a valuable insight into the make-up of the landscape in Greater Manchester, facilitating some really significant work into nature recovery. It also shows the level of trust our customers and partners have in OS location data – and I am delighted that a tranche of richer datasets, due to be released in late March, are going to benefit organisations such as the GMEU directly.’

More on nature recovery: 

Biodiversity Net Gain is now active policy, here are its limitations

Experts lobby International Criminal Court on ecocide and Rome Statute

Lancashire Wildlife Trust peat project receives £167,000 boost

Image: Tak-Kei Wong

 

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