Greater Manchester Urban Historic Landscape Characterisation Project (HLC)

Norman Redhead, 2012

Data copyright © Norman Redhead unless otherwise stated

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Norman Redhead (2012) Greater Manchester Urban Historic Landscape Characterisation Project (HLC) [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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The purpose of the project

The broad overall objective of the project was to facilitate learning, understanding, awareness and appreciation of the historic environment and thus the promotion, preservation and protection of the resource. Some of the local authorities of Greater Manchester have already incorporated some of the management recommendations made through the project into strategy documents. However, this report and the other products are only a beginning. The recommendations in the final report need to be built on in order for the aims of the GMUHLC project to be fully realised in the future.

The future

The final analysis phase dipped into a very small part of the huge HLC data set that defines Greater Manchester's landscape character. The main part of the project involved creating records and producing reports for the ten local planning authorities. But in the last phase of the project it has been possible to start analysis across the whole county, from district to district. Indeed it is now feasible to make wider comparisons, across regions and nationally.

The following list represents some of the key points of interest that have come out of the last phase of analysis:

  • the extraordinary pace of suburban growth, and especially social and private estates since 1965
  • the historic development of communications networks which have had such a great impact on the landscape, not just in themselves but also in the way in which they have acted as a catalyst for industrial and suburban growth; these include: turnpikes, canals, trams and railways, cars, buses, airports, and modern trams
  • the rapid expansion of industrial land use in the 19th century followed by the equally rapid decline of traditional manufacturing during the second half of the 20th century
  • how local authorities have dealt with the challenge of replacing with new economic generators and recreational space the land previously occupied and often scarred with heavy manufacturing and extraction industries
  • a remarkable level of survival of field systems, especially in upland valleys and the Wigan area; but these are poorly understood and in many cases are vulnerable to degradation
  • significant archaeological sites and historic landscapes that reflect the history and character of the Greater Manchester area generally lack recognition and appropriate levels of protection.
  • It should be remembered that the HLC data set reflects just one way of looking at and understanding the landscape, but there are other tools as well which complement it. The HLC data set and the interpretation of the project results have been prepared mainly by archaeologists, but other users, such as spatial planners, conservation specialists, geographers, landscape historians, and local communities, might interpret the data in their own way. It is hoped that some of the recommendations that have come out of the project will be taken up and that the database will be utilised as an integral part of the evidence base informing the policies of local planning authorities.