Memorandum by Thamesbank (IW 75)
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
Waterways for Tomorrow.
2. The following are views about how the Government's
policies might work in practice.
3. The information is based on experience of
the Thames. Further evidence can be provided.
4.1 Recent flooding has revealed rather
publicly the conflict of interests that exist between the Environment
Agency and local councils which accept plans to build on flood
plains although such building is known to lead to reduced flood
capacity and reduced drainage capacity. The consequence of the
local planning decisions is subsequently borne by other authorities,
the public and owners who have to plan, construct and pay for
flood defences that would not be necessary had the flood plain
4.2 Local councils make local arrangements
with developers which have implications for the whole river for
which councils neither have to pay nor take responsibility. For
example boat builders yards, river facilities and access points
are replaced by housing developments. Reducing the number of boat
builders and boat yards leads to a reduction in commercial and
leisure boating. Local authorities are under financial pressure
to support developments that increase council tax income.
4.2.1 Pressures on councils
18.104.22.168 Financial aspects
Local authorities are under financial pressure
to increase revenue. In return for negotiated, so-called planning
gains, and the potential for improved council tax revenue from
additional flats, councils approve developments that include multiple,
high-rise flat blocks on river foreshores where boathouses and
commercial river sites had previously stood. There is no evidence
to show that commercial interests would not continue to be viable.
There are very few boatyards and boat builders
left along the tidal Thames. The consequence is a continuing reduction
in commercial and recreational boating, a loss of local jobs,
a loss of river skills and hence a loss of the body of knowledge
that should be passed to future generations. (Tough's boatyard
operated for 100 years, was a source of local jobs, and was the
boatyard at which the little ships were assembled for the Dunkirk
rescue. The developer , St George, has replaced the boatyard with
three blocks of flats, each five to seven stories high.)
22.214.171.124 Government pressure
Councils claim to be under pressure from the
government to provide housing.
In practice, local needs are not being met.
Flats are being marketed to overseas buyers to the exclusion of
local purchasers and those locally employed. (Block C at Ferry
Quays at Brentford developed by Fairview and Rialto is, as reported
by the saleman, only being marketed in Hong Kong.) There is now
evidence that the lack of housing for key workers is an acute
economic problem for London.
New flat dwellers demand unnatural changes to
the river. Purchasers of high-priced river flats have demonstrated
a lack of river interest, other than for the river as providing
a view. Flat purchasers oppose the use of the river by children
who make a noise, they oppose the use of the river by party boats
that also make a noise, they oppose the use of the river by working
boats because they are unsightly, they oppose the use of the river
by geese because they make a noise outside the permitted hours
of 8-11 pm, they oppose the use of the river by large boats because
they block the view of the river. (Examples can be supplied from
along the Thames.)
126.96.36.199 Lack of development balance
The development of flats to the exclusion of
any other development is so pervasive along the Thames that residents
of every one of the riparian London boroughs can give many examples
of river sites lost to commercial, boating and community interests
in favour of developments of high-priced flats. It is the pervasive
development of flats to the exclusion of any balance that is the
Recreational sailing is increasingly difficult
for experienced sailors and dangerous for beginners because of
the wind tunnels created by multi-storey flat blocks lining the
river foreshores, river traffic is restricted because there are
fewer and fewer short-term moorings or wharves available to commercial
of recreational boats, education of future generations about the
river is increasingly restricted by lack of access to the river
with the removal of steps and public slipways along the river,
the green corridor for wild life is destroyed. Flat dwellers oppose
trees in front of their flats hence habitats and resting places
for birds are lost. The river is slowly being sterilised of wild
life, commercial activity, noisy youngsters and recreational parties
in favour of its becoming "a river view". This is happening
so quickly that within two years there may be no sites remaining
for commercial river life, work and regeneration. (Projection
of Thames Landscape Strategy.)
At Teddington Wharf, the developer St George
agreed to retain a public slipway. A new, shorter, steeper slipway
was built but it is now difficult to pull boats from the water
by hand. Boats that have stopped are sent away by the concierge.
There is a Section 106 agreement to provide access to the slipway
and to the water frontage but the slipway is chained off and although
a notice says that access will be available by contacting a concierge,
experience has demonstrated that this is made difficult and discouraged.
188.8.131.52 Designation of river land as brown-field
Councils, Developers designate river land as
brown-field sites. In many cases, the sites are reclaimed river
foreshores and subject to flooding. River industries are generally
built to take account of the needs of the river as well as the
industry, for example there are slipways and drainage in boatyards.
The natural drainage is removed when the site is developed for
The new building may be designed to prevent
flooding of its residents, however the consequences for other
residents is loss of flood capacity and hence increased risk of
184.108.40.206 Sustainable regeneration
There is no evidence that any of the flat blocks
use contemporary technology to conserve the world's scarce resources
or that there is a sustainable balance developed between the needs
of the river, eg ducks, birds, river transport, children, education,
recreation, and the wishes of flat dwellers who want a tidy river-scape
as a view.
The necessary biodiversity to support river
life is lost. Access and habitats are lost in the interests of
"cleaning up the foreshores". This includes removing
residential craft, many of which have been lifelong homes to the
residents. Generally these are river people whose skills and knowledge
are then lost permanently. Further, these river residents provide
the first-line, volunteer water safety and life boat crews: their
knowledge of the river keeps them alert to danger and they are
able quickly to cast off small craft to rescue those in trouble.
For instance, an island opposite Ferry Quays development at Brentford
(Developers Fairview and Rialto) which is at the moment a wildlife
retreat with residential craft, is according to the salesman to
be cleared of all boats and vegetation in order to install a swimming
pool. A foot bridge is to be built to the island swimming pool.
The loss of this wild-life site along with others already lost
means that the wildlife green corridor along the Thames is being
lost or permanently blocked by high rise buildings.
220.127.116.11 Legal requirements
Environmental Impact Assessments, including
Health Impact Assessments, are not being required by councils
or carried out by developers. The required Health Improvement
Programmes are not being implemented. There is no single authority
that is formally responsible for all aspects of the river and
for ensuring that all the river's needs are provided for along
the foreshores as they run from one riparian borough to the next.
Councils are entitled to overrule Environment Agency advice. Community
consultation can occur late in a scheme and becomes confrontation.
4.3 We wish to suggest that relevant planning
policy guidelines are embodied in law. This will prevent local
councils from coming under unnecessary pressure to accept plans
that are against Environment Agency advice, in conflict with sustainable
regeneration (Waterways for Tomorrow, 6.42), contrary to
commercial and leisure use of the waterways but financially attractive
to local councils. In particular, for the Thames, RPG3B/9B and
the Rio principles should be embodied in law.
5. ROLES AND
5.1 The remits of the bodies as described
appear too narrow fully to achieve the policy measures set out,
in particular 6.42. For instance, on the Thames, fish are managed
by the Environment Agency, but ducks and other birds are not;
steps leading to the water have, in general, divided responsibility
(PLA upto the mean high water line and local authorities above
that) and are now in disrepair; section 106 agreements to ensure
public access to the Thames are made with developers but not all
local councils have the funds to police and enforce the agreements.
5.2 We wish to suggest that a single, statutory
or regulatory Agency be established to set standards, discuss
targets for achievement with the various responsible bodies and
ensure that partnerships work to achieve the policies set out.
6.1 Funding for waterways has continually
proved to be inadequate. It is based on the premise that particular
users can fully fund the waterways. Interest-group funding already
leads to inadequate support for the policies given in the document.
Further, it does not take account of implications, intended or
otherwise, of local funding actions on other aspects of the waterways.
For example, piling along river banks in one area can lead to
erosion in another area.
6.2 The waterways should be treated as a
national resource and the funding should be mandatory. This might
be achieved by consolidating overlapping funding and saving funding
on planning challenges that do not support the sustainable regeneration
of the waterways.
1. The sustainable regeneration of the waterways
should be a matter of law and not guidance.
2. A single, statutory or regulatory body
should set universal standards and oversee partnerships and community
3. Waterways are a national and not local
asset, and should be mandatorily funded. Further, so that waterways
are considered holistically and along their length, waterway zones
along each bank (Blue Ribbon Zones) should be designated. The
following has been discussed by Thames communities.
4. Dark Blue 50 metres: legally protected
for waterways regeneration.
5. Light Blue 500 metres: implementation
of RPG3B/9B and the Rio principles.
Might the Committee require the Secretary of
State to use his present powers under Section 69(3) of the Planning
(Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act) 1990, Section 77(1)
of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Article 14(1) of the
Town and Country Planning Act (General Development Procedure)
Order 1995, Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Environment
1. To prevent any further domestic building
on flood plains.
2. To designate 50 metres on each foreshore
for river needs (wildlife, boats and boating needs, commercial
developments) European Habitats Directive 1992 Ref 92/43/EEC,
Birds Directive 1979 Ref 79/409/EEC.
3. To designate a further 500 metres as
mandatory application of RPG3B/9B. For ease of reference this
550 metres of river foreshore is being called the Blue Ribbon
Dido, Lady Berkeley
Co-ordinator and planning