Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by English Heritage (IW 66)

POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS

  Thank you very much for allowing us to submit this late memorandum of evidence to the above Inquiry. English Heritage is the Government's adviser on the conservation of the historic environment and is active in the identification, preservation and managed re-use of England's archaeological and built heritage. Recent research undertaken for English Heritage by MORI, revealed that nationally 40 per cent of the population recognised that heritage included canals and rivers, rising to 52 per cent in some parts of the country. Designation of waterway conservation areas by local authorities reinforces this strong commitment to strengthening and enhancing this aspect of the historic environment

  The Inquiry is relevant to the duties and strategic objectives of English Heritage in a number of ways, principally urban and rural regeneration; recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage; and the historic environment. There are implications for the historic character of inland waterways arising from infrastructure development relating to water transfer, drainage and telecommunications, and freight transport. Effective management of the historic waterways depends on funding for the maintenance and development of inland waterways, and roles and responsibilities for agencies involved in protection and maintenance.

"WATERWAYS FOR TOMORROW"

  The "daughter document" Waterways for Tomorrow establishes a sound policy framework for management of the historic waterway environment emphasising in particular the interests of English Heritage regarding:

    —  the extent and importance of the waterway heritage (paragraphs 2.15 and 6.17-6.25);

    —  the special character of the waterway environment (paragraph 2.1);

    —  the value of waterways for informal recreation (paragraph 6.2) and as "gateways" for access to the wider landscape (paragraph 6.4), especially linking places of interest (paragraph 6.11)

    —  the opportunities for urban and rural regeneration through the sustainable re-use of redundant waterside buildings (paragraph 6.46), suitable new development (paragraph 6.21 and 6.47-6.48) and appropriate schemes of waterway restoration (paragraph 6.49);

    —  the need to sustain traditional skills in order to maintain the distinctive qualities of traditional materials and craftsmanship (paragraph 6.21); and

    —  the value of inland waterways as an educational resource for both interpretation (paragraph 6.36-6.39) and wider programmes engaged with promoting citizenship (paragraph 6.40-6.41).

  The latter is particularly significant since recent research carried out by MORI identifies strong public support (96 per cent) for the educational value of the historic environment in terms both of raising awareness and educating the younger generations.

  The summary of planning policy for inland waterways (Appendix 3) in Waterways for Tomorrow provides a useful point of reference, avoiding the need for separate Planning Policy Guidance confined to waterways. Much of the guidance in PPG15: Planning and the Historic Environment is relevant to the historic waterway environment, especially in relation to conservation areas and the conservation of historic buildings, thus extending beyond the themes which have been selected for inclusion in the summary (Appendix 3, paragraphs 21-23).

ISSUES FOR THE INQUIRY

Urban and rural regeneration

    —  The aspirations in Waterways for Tomorrow can best be fulfilled by establishing an appropriate balance between, on the one hand, the objectives for revitalisation and renewal, and, on the other, the benefits of sustaining the traditional working environment of the waterways and the opportunities for quiet enjoyment.

    —  Corridor Studies are an important means of defining and characterising the special qualities of the waterway environment, from which policies and proposals can be devised for conservation, enhancement and development. These "conservation plans" should be regarded as a pre-requisite for decision-making.

Leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage

    —  Waterways generally—and centres for interpretation and education in particular—provide valuable "gateways" for the understanding and appreciation of both urban and rural landscapes. Waterways thus make an important contribution to the richness and diversity of local heritage from which the social and economic benefits of cultural tourism are derived.

    —  The individual character and traditional quality of the historic waterway environment is therefore an asset which deserves protection and for which investment is justified from the dividends yielded to the national economy through tourism.

Environment and enhancement of wildlife

    —  Effective management for the historic environment of inland waterways requires a strong strategic vision and high standards of managerial expertise and craft skills. These standards can best be achieved through continuing commitments to training (eg conservation training for waterway managers) and collaboration with expert advisers (eg conservation staff in agencies and local authorities).

    —  The sometimes competing demands of nature conservation and conservation of the historic environment can best be reconciled through the articulate definition of conservation policy and the rational evaluation of primary considerations in the particular circumstances of each case.

Water transfer, drainage and telecommunications

    —  Technical requirements arising from the operation, maintenance and innovative utilisation of inland waterways need to be reconciled with the objective to maintain the distinguishing characteristics of design, materials etc on particular canals. Design guidelines and written technical guidance are an effective means of translating policy into practice through enlightened managers and skilled craftsmen.

CONCLUSION

  There does not need to be a prescriptive formula for the organisation and funding of conservation and enhancement for the historic waterway environment. The principal requirements are to establish sound frameworks of policy and best practice and to ensure that adequate funding for maintenance is allocated according to need, quantified on the basis of regular audit surveys of condition. For the majority of "narrow" canals, the opportunities for significant increases in freight transport are likely to be constrained by the capacity of the network and by the high amenity value which would be diminished by any substantial and widespread infrastructure development.

Sue Demetriadi

Central Planning


 
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