Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by the Shropshire Union Canal Society (PGP 27)


  The objectives of our organisation are the restoration of the Montgomery Canal and to promote interest in the past, present and future of the 158 miles of canals that comprise the Shropshire Union System.

  One of the consequences of our objectives is that we have an active interest in planning applications affecting the canal corridor.

  Our major difficulty with the present planning system is that the Shropshire Union Canal network runs through four county council areas, one unitary authority area and part of Wales. Within these authorities are many local authorities each of which takes a different position with regard to both the canal and to our society. Some are very cooperative and always inform us of planning applications bordering the canal, others tell us nothing and, because the canal is a linear structure, it is difficult for us to be aware of planning applications not directly notified to us.

  The proposal for Regional Planning Guidance would not entirely solve the problem as canals run across even regional boundaries.

  The introduction of business planning zones would be welcome in the context of canalside sites as this would enable the criteria for the whole zone in relation to the canal to be determined at the outset and avoid a series of applications with each one having to be scrutinised for its impact on the canal.

  Although British Waterways is an advisory consultee, in practice, in the Shropshire Union area, it normally only comments on technical matters with regard to planning applications near the canal. Whilst this is to be welcomed it does nothing to provide guidance on aesthetic and similar considerations.

  There is also a problem, because the canal passes through the areas of so many authorities, with regard to the status of the canal corridor. For example, the southern end, thanks to the co-operation of the Staffordshire authorities is designated a Conservation area, except for the short length, which although of equal merit, happens to pass through Shropshire. Some structures are listed as Grade II historic structures, some not, again because the listing is under the control of different local authorities. To add to the confusion we have had two instances within the last twelve months of local authorities not even being aware that the canal was in their area.

  It would seem to us, because of the unique character and linear nature of the canal system throughout the country, that the canal system should be subject to a more unified national approach in a similar way to National Parks. Indeed, it would perhaps be apposite to designate the canal system as a National Park in view of the way in which its regeneration is being seen as a national asset in terms of recreation, nature conservancy and tourism. The proposed reform of the planning system could perhaps be used as an opportunity to introduce specific measures to deal with the canals.

R M Hall Esq


March 2002

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