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

Memorandum by the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IW 43)


  The Institute of field Archaeologists is the professional body for archaeologists. It promotes best practice in archaeology, and has c1,500 members across the UK Archaeologists who are members of the IFA work in all branches of the discipline: heritage management, excavation, finds and environmental study, buildings recording, museums, conservation, survey, industrial, underwater and aerial archaeology, research and development, teaching and liaison with the community, industry and the commercial and financial sectors.

  The IFA welcomes this inquiry into the future of inland waterways in England and Wales. We would like to comment on the following areas.


Urban and rural regeneration, leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage

  The IFA believes that the understanding of the Historic Environment has considerable potential in informing the enhancing urban and rural regeneration. We are able to demonstrate this through a current IFA project on Social Housing Development and Archaeology. This innovative project is helping the social housing sector and others to promote sustainable communities by refining approaches to development in heritage-rich and regeneration areas. The IFA believes that there are considerable opportunities to be derived from making canals a key focus of urban and rural regeneration programmes.

  The IFA recognises the historic importance of the canal network and the need for a proper understanding of its history, characteristics and associated features in order to conserve and retain these for future generations. Canals and other inland waterways make a significant contribution to the quality of the historic environment and to recreational and leisure uses.

  The systematic planning of programmes to enhance and develop Inland Waterways will provide great opportunities for British Waterways and the Environment Agency. It will be of great importance to ensure that all areas of concern, including the heritage and archaeological issues, tourism and commercial development and impact on the environment and on nature conservation in particular are properly taken into account in the planning processes, particularly where increased levels of use are considered. There will, inevitably be times when conflicts between the needs of the Navigation Authorities in keeping waterways open and in reopening hitherto derelict systems and wider environmental concerns needs to be balanced.

The potential for increasing commercial freight transport and the objectives of the Government's Integrated Transport White Paper

  The IFA recognises that there may be potential for existing commercial, freight uses to be continued and even developed. However, this will need to be carefully balanced against the impact of such activities on tourism and leisure uses and wildlife, which, we believe, will play an increasingly important role in the regeneration of these systems and the communities. The type of freight that would be compatible with these uses and, which would also serve the communities adjacent to the waterways needs to be very carefully considered as part of the overall environmental concerns being addressed by the Government's Integrated Transport policies.

The extent to which the above activities are complementary, and whether a principle use should be given a priority

  There is no reason why commercial and leisure uses of the canal systems should not be compatible. Indeed, visitors and tourists may well welcome and enjoy being part of a traditional and vibrant waterborne lifestyle.

  There will, however, be an increasing expectation on the part of users, that the range of activities conforms with high quality environmental standards. The management of the water resource is critical. It needs to be sustainable and to respect the landscapes of which the waterways form part.

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

  The Institute of Field Archaeologists supports the document in general, but has concerns about the extension of navigation rights into new areas. There is increasing recognition of the historic importance of the canal system. Any proposals for the development of these systems needs to be subject to the proper principles for the conservation of the historic environment particularly as expressed in Planning Policy Guidance Notes 15 and 16. Any works should be subject to proper archaeological assessment, evaluation and mitigation. The balance between modern use and historical fabric needs to be very carefully considered.

  The planning system has an important role to play in the future development of inland waterways. Guidance through PPGs is helpful to ensure that full environmental, social and economic impacts of inland waterways are fully recognised.

The structure of ownership of waterways and the roles and responsibilities of those agencies involved in their protection and maintenance and any conflicts of interest

  The IFA is aware that close working relationship between the Environment Agency and British Waterways is crucial to the success of any long-term plans. The involvement of the Heritage Agencies in providing statutory protection through Scheduling and Listing is also important. English Heritage and Cadw in Wales are also able to provide advice and support for any requirements for recording that might be necessary.

  The IFA has many members with expertise in the recording and protection of the historic environment, which includes historic, inland waterways. If the Institute can help further we would be pleased to discuss opportunities with you.

Peter Hinton, Director

28 September 2000

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