Memorandum by the Inland Waterways Amenity
Advisory Council (IWAAC) (IW 42)
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
The key needs identified in this memorandum
Regional Development Agencies' support
is needed for waterway restoration led regeneration projects in
both urban and rural areas (paragraph 6). Local authorities must
adopt proactive planning policies (paragraph 5).
Improved services to users should
be secured via integrated management plans for each waterway covering
all types of waterway use, with their diverse demands kept in
balance (paragraph 22).
Safeguarding and developing the potential
of the inland waterways through the planning system should be
pursued by means of the proposed good practice planning document;
and an early start on the long-delayed highway guidelines to protect
lines of waterways which are not yet restored (paragraph 24).
Continuing resources are necessary
for maintaining the grant-aided waterways (paragraph 25).
Continued capital funding is needed
for worthwhile and beneficial waterway restoration projects and
revenue funding for future maintenance of completed schemes (paragraph
26), together with the necessary resources to allow The Waterways
Trust to flourish (paragraph 27).
New legislation is needed to reflect
the changed nature of BW. A new national body should be considered
for BW's inland waterways and any others which with advantage
could be transferred to it, together with a new remit and Government
funding for IWAAC (paragraph 30). Transfer of the Environment
Agency's waterways to BW or a new successor body would enable
the Agency to concentrate on its primary functions of environmental
monitoring and regulation (paragraph 31).
IWAAC's remit and membership
1. The Council welcomes the Select Committee's
decision to inquire into the potential of inland waterways and
is pleased to be invited to give evidence.
2. IWAAC is the statutory body (set up under
the Transport Act 1968) to advise British Waterways (BW) and the
Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(and in Scotland the Scottish Executive) on matters affecting
the use of the Board's 3,200 km national network for amenity and
recreation. The composition of the present council is shown at
Annex A. Council Members are appointed by the Secretary of State
for their individual experience and expertise rather than as representatives
of particular bodies or interests. BW is responsible for funding
the Council's work from its annual grant in aid.
3. In recent years the Council's scope has
been widened by Ministerial request to include issues affecting
non-BW waterways. The Council's work is now focused on the development
of strategic policy for the waterways, with emphasis on leisure
and tourism, widening the customer base, heritage and environment,
and the waterways in their wider context.
4. IWAAC has good working relationships
with the Environment Agency as a navigation authority and as guardian
of the water environment (with a national duty to promote waterway
recreation and access). The Council also works with the Association
of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA), the umbrella body for
waterway authorities set up with the support of the Government
and IWAAC as one outcome of the Government's 1995-96 Navigation
Role of inland waterways
Urban and rural regeneration
5. The role of waterway restoration in urban
regeneration is well documented and understood (cf report on waterway
Restoration Priorities, June 1998). A waterway restored to full
navigation brings economic, environmental, social and other benefits
which can justify regeneration funding for its restoration work.
This applies equally in urban and rural areas provided constructive
planning policies apply.
6. It is vital that regeneration funding
continues to be available for beneficial waterway restoration
projects. The Deputy Prime Minister has recently written to Chairmen
of the Regional Development Agencies to impress on them the need
to take account of the benefits of waterways projects in their
strategies and action plans.
Leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage
7. Leisure and recreation are unquestionably
the predominant uses of our waterways today. Waterways are valued
for their landscape and environmental qualities. They offer an
escape into tranquillity as well as a resource for formal and
informal recreation, tourism and education. All these factors
generate a wide range of waterway-related tourism activity from
the local to the international. IWAAC sees great potential for
further development and where possible restoration of the BW network
and other waterways. AINA is studying the strategic enhancement
of the system and IWAAC looks forward to commenting on the Association's
proposals when ready.
8. It is important to ensure that all members
of society have access to waterways. The Council has set up a
Working Group to study extending access to the disadvantaged.
It is due to report later this year.
9. Inland waterways are a key element in
the nation's transport history and the history of civil engineering.
Thousands of structures and waterside buildings of architectural
and historic importance survive on the BW network alone. The Council
would like the system to be given UNESCO World Heritage Status
since the creation of the canals underpinned the world's first
industrial revolution. The Government did not accept the suggestion
when made two years ago, although a number of specific waterway
locations was included in the list of tentative sites. However,
in response to a request from the Waterways Minister an IWAAC
World Heritage Working Group has been set up to consider the desirability
of pursuing a further bid for such status.
10. The Council's Waterway Restoration
Priorities report (June 1998) was prepared in response to
the Government's request for an overview of restoration activity.
It contained the Council's assessment of some 80 projects and
included an independent assessment of the existing historical
and wildlife conservation interest in the waterways concerned.
IWAAC expects to publish an update of its report at the end of
11. The tried and tested way of pursuing
waterway restoration projects is through partnerships between
a navigation authority or other promoter, local authorities, and
private and voluntary sectors. Such consortia have attracted lottery
and other funding for several major projects now underway or nearing
completion (eg Kennet & Avon Canal, Huddersfield Narrow Canal,
Rochdale Canal, Scottish Millennium Link) as well as numerous
Environmental and enhancement of wildlife
12. Waterways provide a compact range of
linear habitats both in the water channel and along the banks.
They provide "green corridors" in otherwise habitat-poor
urban and rural areas. Many lengths are of national importance
to wildlife conservation and some are of European significance.
13. Sustainable biodiversity is becoming
an important objective in waterway restoration and management.
A Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) framework for each waterway and
improved relations with the bodies caring for the natural environment
is the way forward.
14. Wildlife conservation has often been
seen to be in conflict with waterway restoration. However, with
modern ecological restoration techniques and the previously largely
unrealised potential for including wildlife gain in projects,
the area of conflict may be much smaller than has hitherto been
imagined. In many cases balanced management, which includes wildlife
conservation as one of the "uses" of the waterway, may
resolve residual problems. In this context, IWAAC is pleased to
note that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the
Regions (DETR) proposes to issue guidance on the notification
and management of SSSIs. The Environment Agency's Navigation and
environmental appraisal: a guidance note (June 2000) sets out
its Navigation restoration policy and should be a useful aid to
communication between project promoters and the Agency.
15. Climate change means that there may
be changes in the availability of water within Britain. While
advocating the need to conserve and manage water resources the
Council has expressed concerns about the impact of the Government's
proposal to bring navigation authorities within the licensing
regime for the first time. The Council hopes that the views of
the navigation authorities will be fully reflected in the draft
Bill for consultation which is promised to Autumn 2000. In responding
to the Environment Agency's Managing Water: Towards a Shared Strategy,
consultation document for Catchment Abstraction Management (CAM)
Strategies April 2000, the Council noted that navigation authorities
are mainly regulators and transporters of water rather than consumers
or polluters and should be not cast simply as abstractors.
Water transfer, drainage and telecommunications
16. Water transfer was one of the areas
for exploring public/private partnership identified in the Government's
policy package for BW Unlocking the Potential (February
1999). The option of water transfer is well worth exploring for
income generation, as long as careful evaluation of environmental
impacts is carried out, and it does not damage existing uses or
amenity values of the waterways.
17. Waterways play a key land drainage role
in some areas. BW's canals perform a valuable land drainage function
for the community. Where this service is provided by BW, it is
met via the annual grant settlement and this is an example of
services to the community provided by BW for which direct charging
is impracticable and which are supported by Exchequer grant.
18. The Council welcomes the fact that BW
is able to take advantage of its ownership of a coherent network
of canals to pursue a lucrative telecommunications joint venture,
but notes that it is not practicable to extend this to all waterways,
especially rivers with multiple riparian land owners.
Whether the potential for increasing commercial
freight transport can be clearly identified; and the role of commercial
freight in meeting the objectives of the Government's Integrated
Transport White Paper
19. Freight transport is not within IWAAC's
The extent to which the above objectives are complementary,
and whether a principal use should be given priority
20. IWAAC sees Britain's inland waterway
system as a national treasure, an asset of great historic value
and a resource for a whole variety of uses. The system having
survived for two hundred years, national policy must ensure that
it is sustained not as a museum piece but as a working heritage
giving pleasure and value to future generations.
21. Waterways today are multi-functional.
Conflicts can occur between different uses and users, but careful
planning and management can minimise this by optimising the balance
between the various activities. It is the navigation authority's
task to achieve a balance appropriate to local circumstances on
each length of waterway.
22. The Council believes that the future
of each waterway should be secured by the development of a long
term, comprehensive and integrated management plan for it, in
open consultation, and with special regard for its historical
and ecological character, the wider corridor and measures to balance
user demands. IWAAC now looks to AINA to promote this concept
amongst its members.
Whether the Waterways for Tomorrow policy document
contains adequate policies and mechanisms to ensure its goals
are achieved, and, in particular, whether funding for the stabilisation
and development of inland waterways, including revenue from licensing
and regeneration and other monies, is adequate
23. Waterways for Tomorrow is the first
document of its kind since the White Paper which preceded the
1968 Transport Act. The Council considers it a comprehensive and
forward-looking expression of Government commitment to the inland
waterways. The Council is gratified to see the comprehensive response
by Government to its advice in its 1996 Consultative report/Final
Recommendations 1997 and 1998 report on Waterway Restoration Priorities,
and is pleased that so many of its recommendations have been supported
and indeed implemented.
24. While it is disappointed that the Government
has not accepted the argument for dedicated waterways Planning
Policy Guidance, the Council welcomes the clear commitment to
developing the potential of the inland waterways through the planning
system. It also welcomes the decision to commission, jointly with
the Council, a good practice planning document, on which work
has already begun. IWAAC hopes that DETR will also make an early
start on the long-delayed highway guidelines to protect lines
of waterways not yet restored and stands ready to assist on this
25. Adequate funding for maintenance is
essential for increasing beneficial use and encouraging private
investment in development of the system. The Council welcomed
the increase in BW's annual grant over three years from 1999 to
tackle the most urgent safety-related part of the historic waterway
maintenance backlog. There is a continuing need for further investment
in the system, especially to further reduce the maintenance backlog
on BW and Environment Agency waterways. The case is reinforced
by the contribution which waterways make to the life of the nation
and the fulfilment of Government policies described in Waterways
for Tomorrow. The Council hopes that the outcome of the 2000 Spending
Review will reflect this fully.
26. The Council believes that money invested
in worthwhile waterway restoration is money well spent, by virtue
of the many benefits offered (revitalising our transport and industrial
heritage, generating jobs and development, and increased the opportunities
for leisure, recreation and tourism). Capital funding is available
principally from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Regional Development
Agencies (paragraph 6 above) and through the landfill tax credit
scheme overseen by ENTRUST. However, Millennium Lottery funding
which has been an important source for large-scale restoration
is no longer available, and it is not yet clear how useful the
New Opportunities Fund will be as a replacement. There is also
a need for long term revenue funding for future maintenance of
completed schemes which is not at present addressed by the funding
agencies or all local authorities for the areas where restoration
projects are located.
27. The Council sees The Waterways Trust
as a potentially significant development for the restoration and
conservation of the waterways heritage. It notes from the Trust's
restoration policy document that it will take IWAAC's Waterway
Restoration Priorities report into account in reaching decisions.
The Trust's intervention has already assisted the progress of
several important schemes (Anderton Lift, Forth & Clyde and
Union Canals, Ribble Link, Rochdale Canal). The Trust is bidding
to become an award partner in respect of the New Opportunities
Fund's green spaces and sustainable communities scheme. The Council
hopes that the necessary resources will become available from
this and other sources to enable the new Trust to flourish.
The structure of ownership of waterways and the
roles and responsibilities of those agencies involved in their
protection and maintenance, and any conflicts of interests
28. BW's primary legislation is already
more than thirty years old and does not reflect modern requirements.
A radical recasting cannot be postponed forever and will have
to be addressed well before another thirty years elapse.
29. The present fragmented pattern of navigation
authority management is unsatisfactory. Management is split between
a few large statutory authorities and a multiplicity of small
public and private bodies. Nothwithstanding that AINA is fostering
increased co-operation and collaboration amongst its members,
the lack of unified management is a constraint on promotion and
development of the system and results in an unjustifiably low
profile. The need to deal with a multiplicity of authorities on
regulatory matters such as licensing also causes confusion and
frustration for users.
30. A review of BW legislation would provide
the opportunity to consider the case for establishing a new national
body which would assume responsibility for BW waterways and any
others which, with advantage, could be transferred to it. (The
Council does not see the Lake District and the Broads Authority's
system as falling into this category because navigation there
is the function of the management of a protected area by a statutory
authority.) New legislation would provide a revised remit for
IWAAC relating to all waterways, funded directly from Government.
31. The Council questions the appropriateness
of the Environment Agency retaining management and promotion of
recreational boating amongst its functions, as these activities
may be in conflict with its main role as an environmental monitor
and regulator. IWAAC therefore welcomes the inclusion of the Environment
Agency's navigation responsibilities in the forthcoming DETR quinquennial
review and looks forward to contributing to the outcome.
32. IWAAC will be pleased to assist the
Committee further and hopes to have the opportunity to elaborate
on this evidence at an oral hearing.