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

Memorandum by the Countryside Council for Wales (IW 51)


  The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) is the statutory adviser to government on sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and the opportunity for outdoor enjoyment throughout Wales and its inshore waters. With English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage, CCW delivers its statutory responsibilities for Great Britain as a whole, and internationally, through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

  CCW welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to this Select Committee Inquiry. Our response is structured around the content of the Inquiry as set out in the press notice from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. The Committee will be aware that the canal infrastructure in Wales is limited and that not all of it connects to a wider network in England.

The role of Inland Waterways in respect of: urban and rural regeneration

  CCW recognises that British Waterways occupies a key position alongside Local Authorities, the Environment Agencies and others with respect to urban and rural regeneration where the restoration to navigation of canals has a major role. However, this responsibility has to be balanced against the biodiversity and landscape value of many inland waterways, some of which have national or international designations.

Leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage

  CCW supports British Waterways' commitment to develop waterways sustainably for leisure, recreation, and tourism. However, we think it will be a difficult task to successfully integrate any substantial development with biodiversity conservation.

The environment and the enhancement of wildlife

  We are aware that the recent publication "British Waterways and Biodiversity, A Framework for Waterway Wildlife Strategies" sets out to promote biodiversity "as part of its remit from government to develop waterways in a sustainable manner". We support this approach but recognise that some difficult decisions may need to be made with regard to the conservation of natural resources on particular canal reaches. We especially welcome the potential for environmental improvements and biodiversity conservation within urban areas. Several key waterways in Wales are already notified as SSSI, and accepted as candidate SACs; announcements on further cSACs in Wales will be made by The National Assembly for Wales. Heavy usage of canals can result in biodiversity loss; where inland waterways are designated for their biodiversity value, this must take precedence over any development damaging to that interest.

Water transfer, drainage and telecommunications

  CCW has a number of environmental concerns about the proposed water network. From a Welsh perspective this network may result in a large increase in demand for Welsh water resources. A substantial proportion of this water may be drawn from important conservation catchments which support river and lake SSSIs and SACs.

  Inter-basin water transfer schemes in other countries have caused environmental damage including the loss of biogeographical integrity, the loss of endemic species, the frequent introduction of alien (and often invasive) aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals, the genetic intermixing of once separated populations, implications for water quality, the frequently drastic alterations of hydrological regimes, implications of marine and estuarine processes, climatic effects, and the spread of disease vectors.

  CCW recognises that drainage has detrimental impacts on aquatic systems primarily through the transport of sediment and nutrients. We believes that the new development or restoration of drainage systems should be minimised and subject to impact assessments. Attempts should also be made to develop vegetated buffer zones.

  We envisage that the use of the canal routes as a framework for a telecommunications cable network will have limited application in Wales because of the limited canal infrastructure. Any potential impacts to designated sites should be covered as part of current planning processes and consultations.

Whether the potential for increasing commercial freight transport can be clearly identified; and the role of commercial freight in meeting the objectives of the Governments' Integrated Transport White Paper

  The location and extent of navigable waterways in Wales is such that, unlike England, there is little potential for developing river or canal-based freight distribution. However, the National Assembly for Wales, in its guidance to local authorities on Local Transport Plans, recognises that towpaths can play a useful part in the implementation of the national strategies for walking and cycling, and (for example) can provide an environment free from motor vehicles by which to travel to work or school.

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

  CCW believes there is considerable scope for the development of an integrated approach to waterway restoration but that biodiversity conservation should be the highest priority at sites with a statutory conservation designation.

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.

  CCW welcomes the production of this document. We strongly support the theme of sustainable development and partnership which permeates this publication. However, we suggest that further development of the proposals should be carried out in close collaboration with the conservation agencies. In particular we need to be acknowledged as a key source of advice and guidance on environmental issues and protection measures for sites with a statutory conservation designation. Some of these sites are of national importance; others of European importance. We are cautious about proposals for the multiple use of sites and suggest that in some situations it may not always be possible to reach a balance between diverse and potentially conflicting requirements. We are concerned about the relatively poor coverage of SSSI, cSAC, etc. designations and the requirements of the Habitats Directive.

  Given the Countryside Council for Wales statutory function with regard to countryside recreation we welcome the commitment that the Government wishes to encourage people to make use of inland waterways for leisure and recreation, tourism and sport. CCW recognises that there is considerable demand and potential for the development of appropriate access opportunities to waterways and watersides. Through our grant aid programme we have supported projects such as the Taff Trail and Wye Valley Way which are alongside short stretches of rivers.

  Research by CCW has revealed that approximately 8,749 km of public rights of way are within 200 m of waterside locations in Wales. Improving access to watersides needs to be carefully planned and managed given the adverse impact access could have on such habitats. CCW would caution against increasing, to a substantial extent, access to riverbanks. However, any management policy or regulation should not, without proper evidence, reduce or restrict the present level of activities on and adjacent to waterways.

  There is also a need to establish a proper framework to address the legitimate demands of those wishing to gain access to waterways for quiet enjoyment eg canoeists. Canoeists have access to less than 1 per cent of waterways in England and Wales and greater provision, where conflicts are non-existent or can be shown to be preventable, is needed.

  Through fostering equal partnerships and dialogue, a sustainable level of the use of waterways and watersides for quiet enjoyment can be achieved. Based on this principle, and given our diversity of waterways, CCW would support management regimes that are devised at an appropriately local level within a balanced and positive regulatory framework.

  The Local Access Fora proposed under the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill could provide an appropriate vehicle, and Government will need to ensure adequate resources are made available to secure this contribution. The procedure for making voluntary agreements for access to waterways needs to be strengthened to assist legitimate interests to gain access, tempered by nature conservation interests, and reasonable angling and land management concerns.

  Further details on a possible management approach and the reasoning for it can be found in ACCESS TO "OTHER AREAS" OF OPEN COUNTRYSIDE IN WALES: CCW advice to National Assembly of Wales on open access to coasts, woodlands and watersides (November 1999). The document is available on

  In the Welsh context of industrial heritage, CADW is the executive Agency within the Assembly responsible for the built heritage. In particular, the landscape and heritage value of sections of both the Monmouthshire and Brecon and the Llangollen Canals is recognised by virtue of their status as key historic characteristics of the historic landscape areas that are described in the Historic Landscapes Register we have produced jointly with CADW.

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

  No comment.

Countryside Council for Wales

September 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 5 April 2001