Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council (IWAAC) (PPG 20)


  The draft PPG17 does not offer the planning and development framework for the recreational use of inland waterways promised in the Government's June 2000 report Waterways for Tomorrow and requires revision to help waterways to develop their full recreational potential.

IWAAC's remit and membership

  1.  The Council welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence to the Sub-Committee.

  2.  IWAAC is the statutory body (set up under the Transport Act 1968) to advise British Waterways (BW) and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (and in Scotland the Scottish Executive) on matters affecting the use of the Board's 3,200 km of waterways for amenity and recreation. Council Members are appointed by the Secretary of State for their individual experience and expertise rather than as representatives of particular bodies or interests. BW is responsible for funding the Council's work from its annual grant in aid.

  3.  In recent years the Council's scope has been widened by Ministerial request to include issues affecting non-BW waterways. The Council's work is now focused on the development of strategic policy for the waterways, with emphasis on leisure and tourism, widening the customer base, heritage and environment, and the waterways in their wider context.

  4.  IWAAC has good working relationships with the Environment Agency as a navigation authority and as guardian of the water environment (with a national duty to promote waterway recreation and access). The Council also advises the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA), the umbrella body for waterway authorities, set up with the support of the Government.


  5.  Recreation, leisure and tourism are now the prime activities across the whole of the historic inland waterway system. It has, of course, other important functions—as a heritage and environmental resource, as (in some parts) a freight and water supply system, as a focus for rural and urban regeneration and as a component of land drainage—but for at least the last 30 years its primary function has been as a recreation resource.

  6.  As such it offers a range of recreational opportunities—water-based and land-based—including recreation boat cruising (personal boats, hire boats and hotel boats), angling, cycling, canoeing, walking the towpath, and visiting the wildlife and built heritage features of individual waterways, which are accessible to, and are used and enjoyed by, millions.


  7.  Because they impact on such a wide range of policy areas, the Council has argued for the production by Government of a separate PPG for waterways. The Government produced in June 2000 its comprehensive report Waterways for Tomorrow which, inter alia, responded to earlier reports and recommendations made by the Council. The case for a separate PPG was not accepted but the Government did set out the coverage of waterways in extant PPGs and undertook to ensure that the role of inland waterways was promoted and enhanced as individual PPGs are revised and updated.


  8.  Against this background, the Council was disappointed with the PPG 17 consultation document published earlier this year. In its response to Government, the Council noted:

    —  the failure even to mention the word "water" in the opening chapter let alone the facilities and opportunities for recreation on canals, navigable rivers and lakes and the areas adjoining them. Also, waterspace whether navigable or not, is very valuable open space, especially in urban areas and must be protected and enhanced in its own right.

    —  the limited references in the document to water-related recreation in general, and the even sparser references to waterway-related recreation in particular. Only on page 25 is there a cursory reference to Waterways for Tomorrow. The formal and informal recreation role of waterways should be clearly recognised as an important contribution to good quality of life for both locals and tourists as well as their contribution to national policy objectives of social inclusion, sustainability, biodiversity, rural diversification and urban regeneration. Where the latter are concerned, visits are significant and often undervalued contributors to the local economy.

    —  the lack of reference in Chapter 2 on the Planning Framework to the need to ensure that adequate land and water resources are allocated in plans at both the regional and local level;

    —  the failure to mention in Annex 1 Useful Publications any document specifically concerned with water-based recreation, not even Waterways for Tomorrow;

    —  the failure to mention in Annex 2 Useful Addresses, British Waterways who manage one of the country's largest and most important water recreation resources, any organisation specifically concerned with angling, only one boating organisation (the Royal Yachting Association), and any national activity such as bird watching or rambling.

  9.  The Council concluded that the PPG17 consultation document failed to give the appropriate level of planning guidance on inland waterways which was promised by Government in Waterways for Tomorrow.


  10.  There was no recognition of the need for Local Planning Authorities to maintain and encourage the enjoyment of waterspace or to protect and develop the infrastructure which sustains waterways as recreational assets. Without marinas, boat yards, moorings, shipways, there is no access or facilities for those wishing to use our inland waterways.

  11.  The Council seeks a revision of the draft PPG 17 which will give due weight, in planning terms, to the existence of the inland waterways as a recreational resource, to the opportunities they offer for greater recreational use and to their potential to contribute to a wide range of national policies.

September 2001

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