Natural Course - LIFE IP

An integrated approach to water management is set for the North West of England. Natural Course is a ground-breaking collaborative water management project which brings together catchment partnerships across the North West along with the Environment Agency, Natural England, United Utilities, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Rivers Trust.

Natural Course is the first LIFE Integrated Project (IP) in the UK and aims to tackle the issues and challenges presented by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). Innovative approaches and techniques will be trialled which together will improve water management in the river catchments of North West England.

Current estimates suggest that under half of our waters are good enough to meet European standards or that they will achieve good status by 2027. The need for action in NW England is pressing as one third of the poorest quality rivers in England and Wales lie in the region. Meanwhile, long-standing partnerships and relationships developed in the NW River Basin District provide the ideal context for the enhanced integrated working associated with the Natural Course project. Meanwhile, especially in the urban areas, significant numbers of properties are at risk of flooding. These challenges and the strong record of partnership working in the North West provide the ideal basis for Natural Course.

Initially, Natural Course will bring organisations together and build capacity to deliver integrated water management solutions. The project partners will collaborate to deliver a series of innovative projects aimed at tackling issues such as diffuse pollution from urban and rural sources and reducing the risk of flood.
Wherever possible solutions which attract new sources of funding and which draw on and enhance Natural Capital will be used. A virtual cross-sector team is being established to focus initially on the River Irwell to liaise closely with planners to ensure that opportunities for integrated water management and Natural Capital enhancement are considered during the development of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and other city-region strategies.The Natural Course project partners are currently assembling a broad range of data and evidence to guide actions across the catchments within the NW River Basin District.


Natural Course is led by the Environment Agency, recognised by the European Commission as the Co-ordinating Beneficiary, working together with four Associated Beneficiaries: Salford City Council as the lead authority for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, The Rivers Trust, United Utilities Ltd and Natural England.

Natural Course supports and builds on the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) at the local level and the Beneficiaries will work closely with the Government-recognised catchment hosts including the Mersey Rivers Trust. Natural Course will run for 10 years, 2015 to 2025, and will be divided into four 2.5 year phases. The first phase of the project covers the period 1st October 2015 to 31st March 2018 when the River Irwell catchment is the focus.

The total project budget is just over €20M. The EU LIFE programme will contribute almost €12M, or 60% of the total eligible budget. The budget is focused on the first phase in order to kick-start and stimulate the new integrated approach to water management. Detailed budgets are prepared at the start of each phase, rather than for the full 10-years of the programme. The total budget for the first phase is €8.5M; €5M from EU LIFE.

Natural Course has help fund the following Mersey Rivers Trust projects:

Alt/Crossens Catchment Partnership

Lower Mersey Catchment Partnership

Upper Mersey Catchment Partnership

Rivacre Eel Recovery Project

Tributary no. 2 re-naturalisation

WWT Martin Mere Wetland reed bed

Carbon Landscape - Hey Brook Revival

Local Action Project group engagement

Upper Weaver Water Sampling



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