Memorandum by The National Trust (IW 58)
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
The National Trust welcomes this inquiry into
the future of inland waterways in England and Wales.
The National Trust's specific interests in inland
waterways are focused in the following areas:
as owner and navigation authority
of the River Wey and Godalming Navigations20 mile navigation
dating from 1651 from the Thames to Guildford and later, in 1760,
the proximity of many National Trust
properties to canals and navigable rivers and the opportunities
for improving and developing access links between navigations
and nearby properties; and
the Trust restored the Stratford
Canal in the 1960s. This is now in the hands of British Waterways.
2. THE ROLE
The Trust recognises:
the historic importance of the canal
network and the need to retain its historic character and the
historic character of all associated features for future generations;
the contribution canals and rivers
make to a high quality environment;
the value of canals and rivers for
water borne and land based recreational and leisure use; and
the opportunities to be derived from
making canals a key focus as part of urban and rural regeneration
These opportunities represent significant challenges
for British Waterways and the Environment Agency. Planning for
increased expectations and a greater level and variety of use
in the future will be critical and local Environment Action Plans
should be the principle local planning framework for ensuring
the sustainable management and use of water resources. There are
at times conflicts between the needs of Navigation Authorities
to keep navigations open while ensuring that the local water environment
does not suffer. The abstraction of water to keep navigations
open can have a serious effect on the sustainability of the whole
water environment and guidance on the management of sustainable
navigations would therefore be beneficial.
3. THE POTENTIAL
While the Trust believes that every opportunity
to develop opportunities for more freight to be carried by rail
should be pursued, it believes that the use of the canal and river
network may prove to be more problematic. Canals with existing
freight use may be able to sustain an expansion of this use, subject
to appropriate environmental appraisal. However, the decision
to reintroduce freight traffic onto canals would have to be considered
in the light of existing leisure use, the carrying capacity of
the canal and the wider environmental impact as part of the transport
infrastructure. The type of freight traffic that would be compatible
with existing use would be traffic that serves local needs and
where the transfer of goods from one mode of transport to another
has minimal environmental impact, Although canals were built to
improve the transport of goods around the country their current
value of bringing historic, wildlife and recreational benefits
would now have to form part of the bigger picture where commercial
freight traffic is being considered.
4. THE EXTENT
Increasing expectations are now being invested
in inland waterways, as the multiple uses outlined above demonstrate.
The Trust believes that this variety of uses can be complementary
and does not necessarily lead to conflict. However, careful planning
is required on behalf of the appropriate agencies.
The management of the water resource is critical.
The transfer of water coupled with the need to meet drainage needs
must not compromise the environmental quality of water bodies.
The Trust is opposed to water transfer across water catchments
as this has the potential to seriously compromise biodiversity
interests. We do not see a difficulty with transfers within catchments,
Regulations governing leisure and commercial
freight use must ensure that the environmental quality of the
water resource is sustained and the impact of facilities to support
these uses does not compromise the character of the urban and
rural landscapes through which the navigation passes. Any planned
expansion of use in a navigation should be considered within the
context of a wider transport and environmental appraisal.
The precautionary principle should be invoked
if there is a serious conflict between the environment and commerce;
with the environment taking precedence.
5. WHETHER THE
The National Trust is broadly supportive of
the Waterways for Tomorrow policy document. We have concerns
about calls for extending navigation rights into new areas. In
particular we would wish to ensure that the restoration of abandoned
waterways would be undertaken in such a way as not to wholly destroy
habitats and species which have colonised the waterway since its
closure. The guidance from the Environment Agency "Navigation
Restoration and Environmental Appraisal: a guidance note"
provides helpful guidance for restoration projects.
There is an increasing recognition of the historic
importance of the canal system. The Trust would be keen to see
that the need to protect the historic environment and integrity
of canals was taken into full account when restoring and maintaining
canals. Modern uses are not always compatible with an historic
infrastructure and there should be some tempering of modern use
so that the historic fabric of canals is not placed under undue
stress or subjected works which erode the historic character and
integrity of the system. We are not convinced that these issues
have been given adequate attention in the policy document.
There is a need to ensure that the capacity
of navigations is assessed so that demands for new uses or expansion
of existing uses can be properly measured. The policy document
is in danger of loading too much expectation on navigations without
adequate checks and balances being in place.
The planning system, as much as transport strategies
and Local Transport Plans, has a key role to play in securing
the future of inland waterways. Guidance through PPGs is a helpful
way to ensure that the full environmental, social, cultural and
economic impacts of inland waterways, both positive and negative,
are fully considered. The section on inland waterways in PPG 13
(Transport) gives scant recognition of the commercial uses of
waterways and the fuller role waterways can play in providing
access links between rural and urban areas.
British Waterways' recent Rural Regeneration
Strategy gives an indication as to how canals can contribute to
the economic, social, cultural and environmental well being of
rural areas. Canals have been used as a key catalyst and focal
point for a number of urban regeneration schemes.
The National Trust has relevant experience in
the management of the River Wey and Godalming Navigations where
an environmental strategy has been produced which has not only
informed the Trust's future management objectives, but also influenced
the local authorities landscape policies for the catchment. The
Trust has strengthened its liaison and partnership with interest
groups, such as anglers and boat users, with a series of regular
The National Trust has good links with the Environment
Agency and is developing links with British Waterways. For example,
we are developing a partnership with British Waterways which looks
at the links between National Trust properties and the canal system.
This will provide opportunities to promote access to National
Trust properties from canals for boat users, walkers and cyclists.
This is seen by British Waterways as part of their rural regeneration
strategy. There is still more potential for promoting navigations
and access along towpaths.
6. THE STRUCTURE
The existing roles and responsibilities appear
to be satisfactory. There does seem to be an improved working
relationship between the Environment Agency and British Waterways.
The joint management/ regulatory functions are useful if undertaken
openly and in the best interests of the integrated management
of the navigations. The Trust is a member of the Association of
Inland Navigation Authorities and welcomes the opportunity to
contribute to that forum.
Thank you for the invitation to provide evidence
to the inquiry. The Trust looks forward to the Committee's deliberations