Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by British Waterways Scotland (FCS 6)


  1.  British Waterways is a public corporation sponsored by the Scottish Executive in Scotland and by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in England and Wales. Scotland's 220 km canal network includes the Forth and Clyde, Union , Monkland, Crinan and Caledonian Canals.

  2.  More detail of our activities and our plans is in the documents that form Appendix 1.

  British Waterways' role is:

    —  to promote the sustainable development of the waterways;

    —  to take a commercial approach;

    —  to manage the waterways holistically, balancing economic, social and environmental interests and impacts.

  We work in partnership with the public, private and voluntary sectors to fulfil this role.


  3.  With partners we made a proposal in 1994 to restore coast to coast navigation by reopening the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals from Edinburgh to Glasgow. This was intended to create a vibrant and vital waterspace and so create a "corridor of opportunity". The canals would act as a catalyst and focus for regeneration. What was essential to long term sustainability was a secure and well managed infrastructure and the realisation of the economic goals. This will provide a firm basis for environmental and community enhancements.

  4.  The proposal aimed to:

    —  create development and jobs;

    —  conserve heritage and enhance the landscape;

    —  enhance communities;

    —  capture the spirit of the age; and

    —  provide enduring landmarks.

  More details of the anticipated job creation outputs from the project are in Appendix 2.

  5.  It is important to note that the proposal was not just about urban renewal and revitalising urban communities. The canals pass through fragile rural communities whose unique and complex challenges can also benefit from regeneration effects.

  6.  Partnership between a number of organisations was essential to make and deliver the proposal. Details of the partner organisations and their funding contribution at the inception of the project appear as Appendix 3.


  7.  British Waterways Scotland has delivered the first phase of the proposal. The innovative and high risk civil engineering works are nearing completion to time and cost. We have built 5.2km of new canal, constructed 28 new road bridges, removed 300,000 tonnes of dredgings and upgraded 83km of towpath. More detailed facts and figures are in Appendix 4. Providing the secure infrastructure is the start of the journey to unlock the full potential of Scotland's Lowland Canals.

  8.  British Waterways has a high commitment to see the project delivered to provide the foundation for jobs and growth in the central belt. To ensure the success of the project British Waterways has utilised its wide expertise and technical and staff resources from around the UK. We have the extent of our commitment exemplified by the fact that our actual financial contribution has been far in excess of that shown in Appendix 3.

  9.  The project supported over 700 construction jobs at its peak and has safeguarded 40 jobs within BW. This is in line with the anticipated targets.

  10.  In addition to the original scope of the project we have also invested in the construction of a dedicated, custom designed visitor centre at Falkirk. This centre will act as a magnet for new tourism activities at the wheel site and for the canals in general. It will employ about 30 full time equivalent permanent staff.

  11.  In addition to the civil engineering works we have also worked with partners to continually develop the ways to help get people involved with the project. This work includes:

    —  establishing and supporting the Lowland Canals Steering Committee and Advisory Group;

    —  community liaison;

    —  developing new networks in sport, leisure and international tourism;

    —  private partnerships.

  12.  An example of a successful Public—Private Partnership is British Waterways' joint initiative with Miller Construction. This will see new life breathed into a neglected inner city area of Edinburgh by a new £60 million mixed use development. These partnerships are essential to ensure BW is able to continue to operate and reinvest in the canals and the environs.

  13.  The project has also seen greater activity since the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal in May 2001 when a flotilla of 40 boats navigated the canal. Since then, over 100 boats have travelled through the Forth and Clyde Canal. Many of these boats returned following completion of the first coast-to-coast transit of the canal for four decades.

  14.  The effects are not just about boats. Boats are essential because they are one way of bringing life to the waterspace—and so attract more people. The reopening of the Forth and Clyde Canal illustrated the attractiveness of the water with over 50,000 people attending. Early indications are that towpath useage has already increased in certain areas In Wester Hailes, residents now talk of "our swans" when referring to the increased numbers of these birds that have settled there following our work. Also, through our work with voluntary groups and others we are providing increased access for people with disabilities.


  15.  British Waterways Scotland benefits from British Waterways long and successful involvement in urban and rural regeneration projects in the UK and internationally creating over 20,000 jobs in the last 10 years. This experience shows that in the context of the reopened Forth and Clyde and Union Canals the following factors are likely to be relevant.

  16.  All the partners need to have a shared vision of what can be delivered overall, which of their desired outcomes this will help them achieve and how they will make this happen. To do this each partner needs to include the development of the canals within their own strategic planning process. They also need to be clear about the optimum level of commitment of time and money to see the outcomes delivered. Of particular importance is the view and involvement of the Scottish Executive, Local Authorities and Scottish Enterprise.

  17.  All potential stakeholders should be made aware of the opportunities that now exist for them and how they can get involved. A co-ordinated communication campaign is essential to deliver this. Those who become involved need to work to the common vision. Other agencies need to take the lead to ensure that development activities are developed in areas of the greatest need.

  18.  All agencies need to manage their marketing and communications in a co-ordinated way to attract new visitors and customers to the canal corridor.

  19.  Public sector agencies need to have a willingness to facilitate commercial activities by the private sector that are viable and sustainable.

  20.  British Waterways Scotland needs to engage with all sectors—public, private and voluntary. We will use our partnership team to maximise community benefits. In addition The Waterways Trust has a valuable role to play in its charitable role to engage the voluntary sector. We welcome, support and develop sustainable commercial activities to generate the necessary funding to supplement government support. These will be in, for example: property, leisure and tourism developments and the sustainable use of natural resources.

  21.  British Waterways Scotland can only guarantee the future of the canals if other partners play their full part to realise the benefits of regeneration. Scotland will only gain full value from all our and our partners' hard work and investment if this happens.

  22.  British Waterways Scotland and our partners must work together to maximise the growth potential of the canals' corridor of opportunity in line with the vision and our values. We wish to see ourselves transform from the lead partner on the project to being a lead partner in the realisation of the vision.


  Appendix 1 Annual Report and Accounts 2000-2001

Our Plan for the Future 2001-2005[1]

  Appendix 2 Millennium Link Project—Anticipated job creation

  Appendix 3 Millennium Link Project

Funders and funding commitments at project inception

  Appendix 4 Forth and Clyde Canal and Union Canal

Re-opening project statistics

November 2001

1   Not published. Back

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