Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by The Inland Waterways Association (PPG 01)

  The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is a registered charity, founded in 1946, which advocates the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways for public benefit. IWA has about 17,000 members whose interests include boating, towing path walking, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and many other activities associated with the inland waterways. This memorandum is made on behalf of the Council of the Association and is submitted from the Association's Head Office.

  Inland waterways offer a wide variety of recreational activities, including boating, walking and jogging on towing paths, angling, canoeing, gentle recreational cycling and opportunities to study wildlife and built heritage. It is estimated that 165 million leisure visits are made each year to British Waterways' canals and rivers alone[1]. The inland waterways network is over 2000 miles long and is continually being extended through waterway restoration: improved recreational opportunities are just one of the many benefits of such restoration.

  In its Waterways for Tomorrow document1, the Government recognised the importance of inland waterways and undertook to improve planning guidance on them when revising and updating relevant PPGs. However, IWA feels that this has not been achieved in the case of the draft PPG 17, which lacks detail and makes little reference to water-related recreation. In particular, it does not recognise the need to protect inland waterways from inappropriate new development, which often adversely affects recreation, and fails to address potential conflicts between recreational uses of waterway towing paths.

  It is vital that inland waterways are accounted for in the planning system at all levels. However, the chapter of the draft PPG 17 on the planning framework makes no reference to inland waterways. Many inland waterways cross administrative boundaries, so they must be addressed in Regional Planning Guidance. They must also be recognised in Structure and Local Plans, as they have an important role in recreation and improving access to both rural and urban areas. Moreover, their restoration can bring improved recreational opportunities and access as well as regeneration and many other benefits to local areas.

  Navigations have special needs: boatyards, moorings and other dedicated facilities must be accessible from the waterway, whereas most other developments do not suffer this constraint. For this reason, waterway facilities should be permitted where developments unrelated to the waterway might not be permitted. New development which would prejudice the continuance of existing waterway facilities and activities should not be allowed. The draft PPG 17 fails to address the threats to inland waterways and their related recreational activities from development pressures—this must be addressed in the revised PPG.

  IWA is pleased that canal towing paths are mentioned in the draft PPG 17, as they are important for many types of recreation and provide access and green links between towns and the countryside. However, the draft did not address the potential for conflict between different recreational uses of towing paths, such as between walking and cycling. It is important that these are addressed by PPG 17. A copy of IWA's Towing Path Policy[2] is enclosed as an appendix to this Memorandum. The revised PPG 17 should also encourage the restoration of derelict waterways and their towing paths, which would improve recreational opportunities as well as providing valuable wildlife corridors and encouraging economic regeneration.

  In summary, the draft PPG 17 document fails to provide adequate planning guidance on inland waterways. It should be revised in accordance with the promises made by the Government in the Waterways for Tomorrow document1 to give due consideration to the recreational potential of inland waterways and the need to protect them from inappropriate developments.

1   Waterways for Tomorrow: Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions: June 2000. Back

2   Towing Path Policy: Inland Waterways Association: May 1998. Back

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