Environmental Quality


The environmental quality of England’s Northwest is of critical importance to the economic wellbeing of the region. The natural environment underpins primary industries such as agriculture, and supports wider economic growth through being at the centre of much of the region’s tourism industry. The quality of the environment plays a key role in shaping the image of the region as a place to live, work and visit.  It is also a key factor in attracting and retaining investment and skilled workers. The poor quality of parts of the region’s environment has been identified as an inhibitor of economic growth.  The partners focused on enhancing the environment, through building and land regeneration programmes, supporting economic growth whilst tackling the region’s environmental deficit.

  • Air quality. In spite of the sustained period of economic growth in the Northwest over much of the last ten years, emissions of major pollutants from industry and major installations monitored and regulated by the Environment Agency have fallen in the region, partly reflecting greater investment in newer, cleaner technologies and processes. However, these reductions have been offset by the growth in emissions associated with road use. According to DEFRA, some 50% of the region’s population live in a local authority that is classified as an Air Quality Management Area, largely reflecting the increase in emissions from road use
  • Water quality. The Northwest has seen major improvements in river water quality in recent years. Although still below national averages for river lengths of good or fair quality, the Northwest’s river water quality is now considerably improved. Progress in the chemical composition of river water has been particularly strong and is very likely to be related to the reduction in pollution incidents discussed below. Whilst improvements have been made to the biological quality of river water, the Northwest still has some significant way to go before it reaches national average standards
  • Land, Soil and Agriculture. Agriculture accounts for 80% of the land-use in the region; 9.5% ofEngland’s agricultural land area is in the Northwest. Organic farming, which brings benefits for sustainable land management, accounts for a very small proportion of overall farming. Only 0.5% of land is organic or being converted into organic – this amounted to 15,096 hectares of organic and 7,708 hectares in conversion in 2004. This is well below the national average of 3%. The proportion of the region’s land classified as derelict was 3.5% in 2002, compared with the national average of 1.7%. Indeed, the region has a quarter of all derelict land in theUK. There is more previously developed land available in the Northwest than in any other region, offering a lot of potential for re-use
  • Brownfield Land and Landscape Quality. Historically, the Northwest has held 25% ofEngland’s Brownfield land. This is the highest regional concentration and was a prime reason for seeking to tackle this legacy of industrialisation. 18% of the Northwest’s area was designated as National Parks in 2004, well above theEngland average of 7%
  • Biodiversity. Farmland bird populations fell between 1994 and 2002, while woodland bird populations increased in the same period. There are 438 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the Northwest, although less than 50% of these are categorised as favourable. 6% of the regional land area is covered by trees, 2% below the average for theUK.
  • Local Environmental Quality. The region is ranked fourth overall for local environmental quality. Of the sites surveyed as part of a national ENCAMS survey, 62% were rated unsatisfactory; none were rated poor

NW Ecosystem Services Scoping 2011 (102.9 KB)

Sustainable Tourism Framework 2007 (614.4 KB)

Environment Evidence Base For RS2010 (4.8 MB)

The Case For Investing In Green Infrastructure 2009 (1.3 MB)