Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Environment Agency (PPG 21)


1.1  The Environment Agency

  1.1.1  The Environment Agency welcomes this further opportunity to comment on the draft PPG and to submit evidence to the Sub-Committee.

  1.1.2  The Environment Agency is a statutory body created by the 1995 Environment Act. Within its very broad remit, the Agency has specific recreation and navigation duties including the general duty to promote the recreational use of the water environment within the context of our overall remit for sustainable development.

  1.1.3  The Agency manages a number of waterside sites for formal and informal recreation and is the harbour authority for Rye Harbour and the navigation authority for 800 km of navigable river including the River Thames.

1.2  Government Report: Waterways for Tomorrow

  1.2.1  In the DETR report, Waterways for Tomorrow, the Government recognises the value of inland waterways and says that it wishes "to encourage people to make use of inland waterways for leisure and recreation, tourism and sport".

  1.2.2  The report also states that the Government will support such development of the inland waterways through the planning system. The Agency feels the draft PPG 17 has not met this objective and as such needs to be considerably strengthened.

2.  DRAFT PPG 17

2.1  The Water Environment

  2.1.1  In its consultation response to DEFRA, the Agency has already noted the recognition in the draft PPG 17 of the contribution rivers and canals may make in providing green links between areas of open space. The draft PPG should however recognise more fully the role of water and waterside land in providing open space and places for sport and recreation in urban and rural areas. This should be addressed at an early stage in the PPG and the full extent of the resource that is the water environment should be acknowledged.

  2.1.2  Linear waters such as canal and river navigations and non-navigable watercourses form part of this resource. Natural lakes, man-made reservoirs and water-filled mineral sites also provide opportunities for sport and recreation.

  2.1.3  Policy guidance should recognise that increased access and use of the water environment will have a potential impact on wildlife. The need to protect biodiversity must be taken into account and proposals should be assessed in the light of proper environmental appraisals.

2.2  Regionally Important Water Space

  2.2.1  The PPG should recognise that some water space will be of regional and even national significance for sport and recreation and as a tourism destination. The economic contribution made by these water features and associated land and facilities should be acknowledged and planning authorities encouraged to provide policies and guidance to protect and enhance these assets.

2.3  Water and Urban Regeneration

  2.3.1  There are many examples around the country where previously derelict and neglected watercourses and adjacent land and buildings have been restored and the water itself used for recreation. These sites have played a significant role in the urban regeneration of such areas and the potential for other similar regeneration initiatives involving open space on and near water should be highlighted in the PPG.

  2.3.2  Previously under-utilised water spaces are often rich in biodiversity and may be the habitat of Biodiversity Action Plan species. Policy guidance should indicate the need to take into account the protection of such species.

2.4  Water and Informal Recreation

  2.4.1  Rivers, canals and lakes act as magnets drawing people to the water's edge to watch boats go by or simply admire the view. This "open space" experience needs to be valued for the contribution it makes to a good quality of life for locals and visitors. Planning Policy Guidance should recognise and protect this experience through policies to preserve access to the waterside via riverside footpaths and informal open space adjacent to water. The visual contribution water makes to the landscape or townscape should be similarly protected through planning policy.

2.5  Sport and Formal Recreation on the Water

  2.5.1  The PPG should take full account of the existing and potential use of water for formal sport and recreational activities such as angling, boating, canoeing and windsurfing. These activities should be valued for the economic and quality of life contributions they make to an area and strongly protected from the detrimental impacts of any development.

  2.5.2  Formal sport and recreation frequently require the development of associated facilities. The PPG should recognise the significance of slipways and launching sites in providing access on to the water itself. Other facilities, from marinas and boatyards at one end of the scale to fishing pegs for angling at the other, are all vital components of a thriving recreational water environment, for which planning policy must make provision to protect existing facilities and allow appropriate new development, where it will be sustainable.

2.6  Sustainability and Managing Conflict

  2.6.1  The PPG needs to give more guidance on managing conflict between different recreational activities on land and water and between recreational uses and other interests. Planning authorities may be tempted to create policies to exclude "nuisance" sports and activities from their areas. The House of Commons Environment Committee report, The Environmental Impact of Leisure Activities (1995), notes that "the principle of sustainability in recreation involves the provision of facilities for all activities, not only for the aesthetically pleasing and non-intrusive ones".

  2.6.2  The Guidance should give consideration to zoning and other management techniques to avoid conflict between different interests. The Environment Agency has considerable experience in managing competing interests on the water and is able to advise planning authorities on management techniques and other measures.

2.7  Identification of Need and Opportunities

  2.7.1  The PPG makes reference to the need for local authorities to develop a full understanding of the available resources for sport, open space and recreation in their areas and also to assess demand for such resources. With regards to water and water based recreation, the Environment Agency is able to advise and guide local authorities on existing provision and opportunities for development. Reference to this could be made in a relevant section of the PPG.

  2.7.2  A Memorandum of Understanding exists between the Environment Agency, the Countryside Agency and Sport England to enable these organisations to work together more effectively to promote sustainable recreation in the water environment. These practices may also contribute to planning authorities' assessment of need and opportunity.

2.8  Environment Agency Strategies and Policies

  2.8.1  The Environment Agency produces strategies and policies relating to recreation in the water environment and its sustainability in the long term. These should be used to advise and inform local authority plans and strategies.

October 2001

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