Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda


Memorandum by British Waterways (PPG 16)

  British Waterways owns and manages approximately 2,000 miles of inland waterways (that is, canals and river navigations) including inland marinas, docks and 89 reservoirs. Virtually all British Waterways owned network is accessible to the general public via the towing path. British Waterways Act 1995, Section 22, places environmental and recreational duties on British Waterways which include public access.

  In June 2001 British Waterways provided a written response to the consultation on the revision of PPG 17 expressing our concern. The essence of the BW's response was that the draft contained insufficient recognition of the real and potential contribution of waterways, waterbodies and towing paths to sport and recreation. It is our understanding that this memorandum will be viewed in conjunction with BW's written response to the consultation on the revision of PPG 17.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

  DETR publication "Waterways for Tomorrow" (2000) explicitly refers to increasing the economic and social benefits offered by the waterways by encouraging people to make use of the inland waterways for leisure and recreation, tourism and sport and by supporting the development of inland waterways through the planning system. Moreover, this publication made a Government commitment to "continue to review each PPG when it is revised with the aim of developing the potential of the inland waterways through the planning system".

  As the draft revision of PPG 17 stands, it does not fully address the issues and opportunities related to water-related recreation and waterway-related recreation as well as to the role waterways and waterbodies can perform as open space. The role and value of waterways (canals and rivers) and other waterbodies (inland marinas, docks, reservoirs and lakes) as recreational and sport resources are explicitly referred to in the DETR publication "Waterways for Tomorrow" (2000). Furthermore, waterways and towing paths fall into most informal recreation categories. It is important that waterways and the towing path network is not just viewed as recreational routes but also as recreational spaces/open spaces in their own right. Therefore the PPG needs to clearly define the term "recreational space", that is, water as well as land.

  The PPG should acknowledge the vital need to protect and develop the infrastructure that sustains open spaces as recreational assets such as marinas, boatyards, moorings, slipways etc which provide access and facilities for those wishing to use the water space. It is crucial that the PPG advises Local Authorities to maintain, develop and enhance the existing waterway infrastructure to ensure enjoyment and sustainability of waterways and waterbodies. Ironically, the reference to shortage of mooring facilities on inland waterways as referred to in the current PPG 17 has now been omitted, which attempted to partially address this issue. This omission illustrates how the draft revision of PPG 17 does not fully address the issues and opportunities related to waterway-related recreation.

  British Waterways should be referred to as a statutory body with environmental and recreational duties including public access. The Government[20] requires British Waterways to encourage adjoining landowners and authorities to participate in jointly enhancing value of the waterways by the regeneration and provision of facilities that:

    —  are to the benefit of the general public;

    —  improve the recreational, amenity and community value of the waterways for boaters, anglers, walkers and cyclists.

  British Waterways, therefore, request that British Waterways is cited as statutory body and is listed under the address of relevant agencies.

        DETR publication "Waterways for Tomorrow" (2000) has been omitted from the list of useful publications.

THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE REVISED PPG TO STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR SPORT, OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION

  1.  British Waterways welcomes the inclusion of the reference to improve the waterway network ("river and canal banks") as potential green chains and green links and as sustainable transport routes that form an integral part of the local open space network. However, the PPG under "Recreation Requiring Water and Natural Features" excludes reference to the potenetial use of non operational docks and reservoirs as well as the full range of sport and recreational activities that inland waterways and other waterbodies can accommodate:

    —  towing path and associated waterside land—eg leisure cycling, jogging, walking, bird watching. Long distance footpaths and heritage trails;

    —  river navigations and canals—rowing, dinghy sailing, canoeing, angling, private pleasure boaters, holiday hire boaters and pleasure trip boaters;

    —  reservoirs and lakes—sailing, sub aqua, wind surfing, canoeing and angling.

    —  non-operational/disused commercial docks—sailing, canoeing and rowing as well as powered watersports such as water ski-ing and jet ski-ing.

  For example, British Waterways, Stockton Borough Council, OneNE and English Partnerships are currently exploring the concept of developing the Tees Navigation (Tees Barrage Reach section) as an international watersports destination and as a means of developing sport tourism.

  2.  PPG should widen the interpretation of the definition of "open space" to include waterways and waterbodies, as they can perform multiple functions as open space. Waterways and waterbodies:

    —  have strategic functions linking metropolitan areas, urban areas, market towns, accessible and remote rural areas and thus providing for recreational needs over most of the country;

    —  are an important accessible amenity in urban areas. Furthermore waterways have been recognised by the DTLR as being important catalysts for both urban and rural regeneration;

    —  accommodate active sport and informal recreational activities and the towing path network provides opportunities for people to walk, cycle or ride and thus, promote health and wellbeing;

    —  are important wildlife corridors often linking towns with the countryside and thus provide important stepping stones from one habitat to another;

    —  are an important community resource for example, programme of regular water festival events including youth events as well as providing access to the countryside from urban areas via the towing path network (acting as a recreational route);

    —  provide an important visual amenity, for example provide an attractive setting for development, particularly residential.

  3.  PPG should promote and protect the towing path and waterway network as recreational assets of regional importance. British Waterways support Sport England's view that water recreation is an issue best addressed at regional level as inland waterways transcend administrative boundaries (including cities, towns and countryside including urban fringes, green belts, green wedges, national parks and SSSIs).

THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE PPG TO THE PROVISION OF HIGH QUALITY NEW OPEN SPACE AND SPORTS OPPORTUNITIES

  1.  PPG needs to advise local authorities to specify on their Local Plan's Proposals Maps and in the accompanying schedules, waterways and other waterbodies as "sites that are of a particular quality, function or value for recreation".

  2.  PPG needs to advise local authorities in preparing development plans to give consideration to protecting and promoting disused and infilled (completely or partially) canals as recreational routes and spaces and not to prejudice future canal restoration.

  3.  PPG needs to advise local authorities to give consideration to the use of planning conditions, obligations or agreements as tools to secure waterway, towing path and access improvements and ongoing maintenance, secure canal restoration, provision of new moorings and mooring basins, new footbridges, etc. Management and ongoing maintenance are key issues relating to long-term use of the towing path network as safe recreational and sustainable transport routes. Therefore, there is a need to encourage the local authorities to:

    —  enter into maintenance agreements with British Waterways;

    —  ensure all waterside development sites include access and towing path improvements (including provision of new footbridges) are an integral part of the proposals within the planning application, transport assessment and green transport plan;

    —  ensure ongoing maintenance of the towing path forms an integral part of an overall site management plan and associated maintenance regimes through planning condition or planning obligations;

    —  secure commuted sums for ongoing maintenance of towing paths through planning obligations; and

    —  secure the provision of new moorings and mooring basins to meet identified shortfall and need of such facilities in the area.

  4.  This PPG needs to cross reference to the new PPG 13 with respect to:

    —  In Annex B of the PPG 13 the Government advises local authorities that in drawing up development plans and determining planning applications, they should seek to re-use disused wharves and basins, to retain boatyards and other services used in connection with water-based recreation;

    —  The Government advises local authorities that in drawing up development plans and determining planning applications, they should ensure new development does not prejudice current restoration proposals or proposed restoration schemes for disused lengths of canal;

    —  Mitigating the Impact of New Transport Infrastructure. The siting and location of motorway bridges, other major road bridges and railway bridges can have visual and environmental impacts on potential towing path users for informal recreation purposes, as well as, economic impacts on the existing water-based leisure industry and on opportunities for recreational and tourism development.

THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE REVISED PPG IS SUCCESSFUL IN ADDRESSING THE NEWLY INCLUDED SUBJECT OF OPEN SPACE AND RECONCILING IT WITH SPORT AND RECREATION

  1.  Waterways and waterbodies is a form of open space that can successfully accommodate land-based recreation, as well as, land and water-based sport uses. The PPG would be more successful in reconciling open space with sport and recreation, if inland waterways were more strongly promoted within PPG and that the definition of "open space" included in the PPG gives proper reference to waterways and waterbodies.

  2.  It is important that local authorities when assessing the range of existing and future needs for sport, open spaces and recreational facilities in their areas take account of the role and value of waterways and waterbodies for both land-based and water-based recreational activitities. Eg water sports, angling, recreational cycling and walking, etc.

THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE REVISED PPG'S TREATMENT OF OPEN SPACE WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE URBAN RENAISSANCE, THE PROTECTION AND IMPROVEMENT OF OPEN SPACE AND IMPROVED LIVING ENVIRONMENTS

  1.  Inland waterways are an amenity within urban areas and can create a more attractive residential environment.

  2.  British Waterways suggests that PPG cites waterways and other waterbodies as canals, river navigations, inland marinas and docks act as catalysts for regeneration[21]. Furthermore, British Waterways believes that waterways can contribute to achieving more efficient use of urban land and re-use of previously developed sites. By utilising waterways as being an informal recreational resource (that is, use of the existing "water" to provide the recreational/open space requirement rather than the traditional use of "land" for the recreational/open space provision), densities of development could be raised. The guidance needs to encourage Local Authorities to ensure development and regeneration schemes fully optimise the "added value" of the waterspace as an informal recreational resource in its own right rather than waterways just providing an attractive setting to development.

  3.  Inland waterways and other waterbodies have an important role to play in developing social inclusion, sustainable transport as well as improving the quality of life of both urban and rural communities.

THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE REVISED PPG'S TREATMENT OF OPEN SPACE WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE RURAL RENAISSANCE, THE PROTECTION AND IMPROVEMENT OF OPEN SPACE AND IMPROVED LIVING ENVIRONMENTS

  1.  With respect to provision of facilities in rural areas, there are extensive opportunities to maximise the utilisation of waterways as an important local recreation and tourism resource in market towns, accessible and remote rural areas. Furthermore, waterways and waterbodies contribute to the creation of an enterprising countryside partly through greater opportunities for the urban dwellers to gain access to and enjoy the countryside as well as for rural communities themselves. PPG needs to promote waterway corridors as environment for rural recreation.

  2.  Waterways and waterbodies have inherent constraint in that they are not "footloose" assets (face similar issues as country houses that are also not "footloose" assets). Therefore, in some cases, leisure and recreation facilities such as indoor leisure facilities, marina/ mooring basin developments may be necessary in the green belt and open countryside, in order to support and develop the use of waterways as recreational resource.

THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE PPG TO ACHIEVING THE GOVERNMENT'S ASPIRATIONS ON URBAN PARKS AND PLAY PROVISION AS SET OUT IN THE URBAN WHITE PAPER

  1.  Many sections of waterway act as linear urban parks, form regional and local country parks (eg Lee Valley Regional Park), water parks (eg Cotswold Water Park) and many waterways adjoin formal parks and informal areas of open space. The waterway performs an essential linking between such public provision, while acting as a stepping stone (connecting habitats) and "green lung".

  2.  Many sections of urban waterway corridors remain under-used. Recognition of this valuable linking within a specific package of proposals for improving urban parks would enable Local Authorities, British Waterways and our partners to accelerate the regenerative effect of inland waterways within urban areas.

  3.  Enhancement of waterways and towing paths should be cited as an example of scheme that could be funded through the Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities initiatives.


20   DETR published "A Framework Document for British Waterways" (February 1999) & "Unlocking the Potential-A New Future for British Waterways" (February 1999). Back

21   The DETR publication "Waterways for Tomorrow" (2000) explicitly refers to increasing the economic and social benefits offered by the waterways by promoting the waterways as a catalyst for urban and rural regeneration. Back


 
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