Publication Local Plan, Chapter 18: Water

Creating a fairer Salford by:

  • Ensuring that everyone has access to a good supply of water
  • Improving the quality of water bodies across the city
  • Minimising the number of people and businesses that are at a significant risk from flooding, including within the high risk areas in the east of the city associated with the River Irwell

18.1 Water is a key component of the natural environment, and a good supply of water resources is essential to health, quality of life, biodiversity and many business processes. Unlike some other parts of the country, water supply and wastewater treatment are not a significant constraint on development in Salford, although some further investment will be required to improve functionality and to facilitate individual new developments. However, water-related issues are very important to Salford as a result of significant parts of its urban area being at risk of river and/or surface water flooding, and the relatively poor quality of some of its watercourses.

18.2 Many prosperous cities across the world, such as London, successfully balance the management of flood risk with the need to accommodate large levels of development. The economic and social benefits of continuing to secure investment within areas of Salford that could be subject to flooding are considered to significantly outweigh the potential risks and costs. Some of these areas are fundamental to the prosperity of Greater Manchester, whilst others need investment to support their regeneration and to ensure that they can more actively contribute to and share in the city’s economic growth. They are also often areas where development can help to reduce the need to travel.

18.3 The emphasis is therefore on ensuring that the scale of flood risk is minimised as far as possible, and that buildings are appropriately sited and designed so as to reduce the potential impacts in the event of a flood. No amount of investment in flood defences would entirely remove flood risk and therefore it is important that both existing and new development in flood risk areas is resilient to flooding. Overall, the number of people who live or work in a flood risk area may increase, but the number who would be significantly affected by a flood event should decrease. This will provide a more sustainable position than at present.

18.4 Some of the measures aimed at reducing flood risk, such as minimising surface water runoff and increasing the use of sustainable drainage systems, should also help to address problems of water quality in the city’s watercourses. However, specific investment will be required, such as in improving the oxygen levels within the Manchester Ship Canal. This will help to ensure that European targets for water quality are met by the end of the plan period.

The North West River Basin Management Plan and water quality

18.5 The North West River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) seeks to tackle the pressures facing the water environment. The legal framework for protecting and promoting sustainable water management of surface waters and groundwater is currently based on the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC). This promotes an integrated approach to the water environment, including water quality, flood risk, biodiversity and the sustainable use of water as a resource, and requires all inland waters to achieve ‘good’ status.

18.6 The overall status of each water body is assessed as a combination of ecological and chemical status, having regard to:

  • Biological quality (a measure of biodiversity);
  • Hydromorphological structure (such as the structure of a river bank and bed, and the continuity of the watercourse);
  • Specific pollutants (such as metals and organic compounds that have a detrimental impact on wildlife);
  • Physico-chemical quality (such as levels of dissolved oxygen, temperature and nutrients, which affect wildlife function); and
  • Chemical quality (relating to priority substances such as mercury and benzene that present a significant risk to the water environment).

18.7 The majority of watercourses in Salford and the North West, as well as some canals and reservoirs, are currently failing to meet RBMP objectives. Achieving those objectives will take a combination of measures. Major environmental improvements are needed to most of Salford’s river corridors to improve their overall quality, functioning, connectivity and ecological quality, addressing issues such as canalisation and culverting, a lack of greenspace buffers and invasive non-native species.

18.8 Development can have a major impact on the water environment, and so needs to be controlled accordingly, delivering enhancements wherever possible. Development that would be likely to lead to deterioration in the overall status of a water body, or would prevent future attainment of good status, can only be permitted in exceptional circumstances as set out in regulations.

18.9 Even with improvements to the wastewater treatment works in Salford and adjoining areas, controls over polluting activities, and restrictions on surface water discharge to the sewerage network, other measures will be required to ensure that the water quality within the Manchester Ship Canal is improved. This will be particularly important at Salford Quays given the prominence of the area and the proposed scale of investment, building on the success of the existing oxygenation scheme. The city council will work with key partners including Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council, United Utilities, the Environment Agency and the Manchester Ship Canal Company to identify a funding mechanism for a more cost-effective long-term solution that could be extended further down the Manchester Ship Canal.

18.10 The Environment Agency has identified Groundwater Source Protection Zones across the country which are intended to ensure that groundwater sources used for public drinking water are not adversely affected by contamination. In addition, all other groundwater abstractions intended for human consumption will assume a default source protection zone. The presence of these zones may lead to restriction on the activities that can take place within them.

Policy WA1 - Delivering the North West River Basin Management Plan

Development must not have an adverse impact on the current overall status, or prevent future attainment of ‘good’ status, of any water body. 

Where practicable, development shall take opportunities to support the improvement of water bodies to at least ‘good’ status, including through: 

  1. The provision and design of green infrastructure;
  2. Utilisation of sustainable drainage systems;
  3. Control of pollution;
  4. Remediation of contamination;
  5. Naturalisation of watercourses; and
  6. Reducing obstacles to the movement of wildlife.

Further culverting of watercourses shall be avoided unless there is an overriding need for it. 

Activities within the Groundwater Source Protection Zones [1] will be regulated to ensure the protection of groundwater quality. 

An assessment identifying the impact of a proposed development on water body status shall be submitted with a planning application where: 

  1. The proposed development would be likely to lead to deterioration in the overall status of a water body, or prevent future attainment of ‘good’ status;
  2. The development would involve the modification of a water body, for example through diversion, culverting, dredging or bridging; or
  3. The development is adjacent to a water body and requires an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Schemes aimed at improving the status of water bodies will be supported, including investment in: 

  1. Salford’s wastewater treatment works, particularly to reduce the frequency of intermittent discharges of storm sewage
  2. Long-term improvements in oxygen levels and litter reduction at Salford Quays and along the rest of the Manchester Ship Canal, provided these are compatible with the shipping function of the Manchester Ship Canal


For the purposes of this policy, a water body is defined as the whole (or part) of a stream, river or canal, lake or reservoir, estuary or stretch of coastal water, or a defined area of an aquifer. 

The status of a water body is its classification in accordance with the River Basin Management Plan.

Water supply, infrastructure and use

18.11 Salford falls within United Utilities’ Integrated Resource Zone which covers much of the North West region. The latest baseline forecast, taking into account economic growth and climate change, suggests that the amount of water available to meet the projected demand shows a surplus over the 20 years from 2020 to 2040 [2]. Consequently, the total available water supply should not act as a constraint on development within Salford during the Local Plan period. Nevertheless, it is still more sustainable for new developments to be designed to use water efficiently, in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with water treatment and taking pressure off wastewater treatment works.

18.12 Two critical pieces of water supply infrastructure run through Salford and so need to be protected from adverse impacts:

  • The Thirlmere Aqueduct forms part of the Greater Manchester ring main, which serves the majority of the conurbation
  • The West East Link Main connects the water supply systems that serve the Manchester and Liverpool City Regions, enabling water to be moved around more easily to respond to the challenges of climate change, statutory compliance and maintenance

Policy WA2 - Water supply and water efficiency 

The Thirlmere Aqueduct and the West East Link Main will be protected from development that could compromise their physical integrity or effective maintenance. 

Development is encouraged to minimise water use as far as practicable by incorporating appropriate water efficiency and water recycling measures.

Flood risk management and infrastructure

18.13 The city council will work with partners, such as other local authorities and the Environment Agency, to take an integrated catchment based approach to managing flood risk within Salford and neighbouring areas. This will include attempting to identify the potential for additional flood water storage and reduced surface water runoff upstream of Salford.

18.14 The city council will use its powers under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to identify, protect and ensure the maintenance of structures and features that affect flooding. Planning controls will be coordinated with this regime, with developments not being permitted where they would adversely affect infrastructure that helps to reduce the risk and impacts of flooding.

18.15 The two flood basins at Littleton Road and Castle Irwell protect Lower Kersal, Charlestown and Lower Broughton from river flooding to a standard of no flooding in a 1% annual exceedance probability (AEP) fluvial event [3]. However, further measures for reducing flood risk will be sought, in order to better protect the residents and businesses of Salford and communities downstream. This will not only include activities within the city, such as the coordinated improvement of the Cambridge area, but will also involve encouraging actions upstream of Salford that could slow the flow of water into the city. Such measures may include “natural flood management” such as woodland planting as well as more conventional flood management infrastructure.

Policy WA3 - Flood risk management and infrastructure

Structures and other features that help to reduce the risk of flooding or mitigate its impacts will be protected, including the flood basins at Littleton Road and Castle Irwell as shown on the Policies Map. The loss, alteration or replacement of such features will only be permitted where there would be no increase in flood risk. 

Further improvements in flood mitigation in Salford will be supported, potentially including the provision of new open space within the Cambridge area, the raising of river banks and natural flood management measures. New flood risk management infrastructure should incorporate multifunctional green infrastructure where practicable.

Development and flood risk

18.16 Based on the most recent Environment Agency Flood Map for Planning, around 250 homes in Salford would be adversely affected by a 1 in 100 year flood event [4], with many times this number being at risk in a 1 in 1,000 year event [5]. The main source of this flood risk is the River Irwell, although there is some limited flood risk associated with several of the city’s other watercourses, surface water, groundwater and sewers. It will only be appropriate to permit development where it can be clearly demonstrated that there would be no unacceptable risk or impact of flooding, either on the development itself or elsewhere.

18.17 National planning policy sets some requirements for managing flood risk, based largely around a ‘Sequential Test’ and an ‘Exception Test’. The Sequential Test seeks to steer development to areas with the lowest probability of flooding, with this being particularly important for the uses that are most vulnerable in the event of a flood. Some uses are considered so vulnerable that it would be inappropriate for them to be located in the highest risk areas. Where such uses already exist in those locations, the city council will work with occupants to find alternative sites wherever possible. If development proposed for a site at risk of flooding can meet the Sequential Test then, for more vulnerable uses, it also needs to pass the Exception Test, which essentially requires it to be demonstrated that the sustainability benefits for the community outweigh the flood risk, the development will be safe, and that it will not increase the risk of flooding elsewhere.

18.18 Given the scale and extent of flood risk in Salford, it is essential that a rigorous approach to assessing the flood-related implications of developments is taken. Site-specific flood risk assessments are an important part of this, and these should have regard to the strategic flood risk assessment for Salford and any other relevant information on flood risk. Critical drainage areas, where drainage is a particular problem and stricter requirements for flood risk assessments apply, were initially defined within the 2010 strategic flood risk assessment and may be refined by subsequent information.

Policy WA4 - Development and flood risk 

Development shall take opportunities to reduce flood risk wherever practicable. 

Development will not be permitted where it would: 

1A) Be subject to an unacceptable risk of flooding, with the acceptability of any risk being determined having regard to:

  1. The likely frequency of a flood event;
  2. The likely depth and velocity of any flood waters;
  3. The vulnerability of the use;
  4. The potential impacts on any users of the development; and
  5. The potential impacts on any buildings and other structures;

1B) Materially increase the risk of flooding elsewhere;

1C) Result in an unacceptable maintenance liability in terms of dealing with flood-related issues; or

1D) Require unduly complicated or burdensome emergency planning procedures.

Within areas that would be subject to a 1 in 100 year risk of flooding (1% annual exceedance probability (AEP)) (not taking into account flood defences), the following uses will not be permitted:

2A) Police stations, ambulance stations, fire stations, command centres and telecommunications required to be operational during flooding;

2B) Basement dwellings;

2C) Caravans, mobile homes and park homes intended for permanent use, including sites for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople; and

2D) Installations requiring hazardous substances consent, except where there is an essential need.

Where such uses already exist within the high flood risk area, proposals to relocate them to an area of lower flood risk will be supported, where the new site would be in accordance with other policies in the Development Plan.

Development that would be subject to a 1 in 1,000 year risk of flooding shall:

3A) Be designed to minimise the impact of any flooding, in a way that is proportionate to the level of flood risk;

Development that would be subject to a 1 in 100 year risk of flooding (taking into account an appropriate allowance for climate change) shall:

3B) Broadly maintain, and wherever possible increase, the flood water storage capacity of the flood cell within which it is located;

3C) Enable the appropriate flow of flood waters;

3D) Have safe and clearly identified access and egress routes, or a safe refuge, to be used in the event of a flood; and

3E) Have clear evacuation procedures in the event of a flood, and be fully integrated into the city’s emergency planning systems throughout its lifetime. 

Flood risk assessments

A site-specific flood risk assessment shall be submitted with any planning application for development that would:

4A) Potentially increase the risk or impacts of flooding; and

4B) Be located on:

  1. Any site within Flood Zones 2 or 3;
  2. Any site elsewhere that is known to be at significant risk from surface water, sewer or groundwater flooding;
  3. Any site within a critical drainage area measuring 0.5 hectares or more; or
  4. Any other site in the city measuring 1 hectare or more.

The flood risk assessment shall consider all types of flooding and the relationship between them, including that associated with rivers, canals, reservoirs, surface water, sewers and groundwater.

The level of detail in the flood risk assessment should be proportionate to the potential risk and impact of flooding that the development would result in or to which it would be subject.


For the purposes of this policy, all assessments of flood risk (excluding those relating to 1 in 1,000 year scenarios) shall take full account of the latest predicted impacts of climate change.

Surface water management and sustainable drainage

18.19 The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 introduced new responsibilities for the city council relating to the approval of proposed drainage systems in new developments and redevelopments, subject to certain thresholds and exemptions, having regard to minimum national standards. The following policy should be read in conjunction with these statutory requirements.

18.20 Given the significant risk of surface water and river flooding affecting many parts of Salford, it will be important to minimise the amount of surface water runoff and discharge from development sites across the city. In addition to reducing flood risk, using sustainable drainage systems can provide construction and maintenance cost savings and bring a wide range of benefits, adding value to schemes by enhancing water quality, providing habitats for wildlife and creating more attractive and desirable developments. The wider benefits of investment in drainage systems should be maximised as far as possible, especially by designing them to form part of the city’s green infrastructure network and supporting the objective of significantly increasing Salford’s overall biodiversity value. Such benefits will be most effectively achieved by designing sustainable drainage systems into the site layout at an early stage.

18.21 The discharge of surface water to the combined sewerage network can lead to the hydraulic capacity of that network and some of Salford’s wastewater treatment works and assets being exceeded. This results in intermittent discharges of storm sewage from those assets into the city’s watercourses, which have an adverse impact on water quality. Surface water discharge to the sewerage network can also result in local sewer flooding, due to the limited network capacity in some areas. It is therefore necessary to ensure that new developments across the whole city, including those on previously developed land, do not discharge any surface water to the combined sewerage network (either directly or indirectly).

Policy WA5 - Surface water and sustainable drainage

Development shall ensure that surface water across the whole site is managed in a co-ordinated, sustainable way, helping to minimise flood risk and water pollution, promote biodiversity, and secure compliance with the North West River Basin Management Plan (see Policy WA1).

Surface water shall be managed in line with the following hierarchy (highest priority first) recognising that a combination of measures from different levels in the hierarchy may be required to satisfactorily deal with all surface water:

  1. Infiltration to vegetation
  2. Store rainwater for later use on-site
  3. Infiltration (into the ground)
  4. Discharge to a surface water body such as a pond
  5. Discharge to a watercourse
  6. Discharge to a surface water sewer or highway drain
  7. Only in exceptional circumstances, where evidence is provided that levels 1-6 above are not possible, discharge into the combined sewer network, either directly or indirectly

On-site measures to deal with surface water shall, wherever possible, be designed as multi-functional green infrastructure connecting to the wider green infrastructure network. Removal of existing impermeable hard surfaces will be encouraged.

Foul water shall be managed through a separate system to the management of surface water, and it shall drain to the public sewer.

Development shall result in:

  1. On greenfield sites, no net increase in the rate of surface water discharge
  2. On previously-developed sites, a reduction of at least 50% in the rate of surface water discharge or a reduction to equivalent greenfield rates, whichever allows for the greater discharge

Exceptions to points A and B may be made where it can be demonstrated that it is:

  1. Clearly impracticable to meet these requirements and the rate of surface water discharge has been minimised; or
  2. Necessary to move surface water away from a site more quickly in order to help mitigate serious flood risk problems within the local area.

Where on-site attenuation measures are required to reduce the rate of surface water discharge, underground solutions such as detention tanks and oversized pipes shall only be utilised where it is not technically feasible to incorporate above ground sustainable drainage features that contribute to the green infrastructure network.

Appropriate provision shall be made for the long-term management and maintenance of any sustainable drainage features.


18.22 The main indicators that will be used to monitor this chapter are:

Indicator Baseline position Target
Percentage of surface water bodies of at least good ecological status or potential 0% [6] 100% of those not identified as technically infeasible or disproportionately expensive by 2037
Planning applications approved contrary to Environment Agency advice on flood risk 0 [7] Zero (2019-2037)
Number of developments approved which include sustainable drainage schemes 2015/16 – 5
2016/17 – 4
2017/18 – 6
2018/19 – 4 [8]
Increase by 2037


[1] Groundwater source protection zones (SPZs) 

[2] United Utilities (2018) Revised Draft Water Resources Management Plan 2019, p.3

[3] That is in any year there is a 1% (1 in 100) chance of there being a river flooding event that would exceed the level of protection. 

[4] A 1 in 100 year flood event is an event that has a 1% chance of occurring in any one year. This figure excludes almost 2,100 homes within an area benefitting from defences.

[5] A 1 in 1,000 year flood event is an event that has a 0.1% chance of occurring in any one year. Approximately 17,500 properties are at risk in an extreme event of this magnitude.

[6] Environment Agency (2019) Catchment Data Explorer

[7] Environment Agency objections to planning on the basis of flood risk

[8] Unpublished work by Salford City Council

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