Restoring the UK's waterways
Making the best commercial and recreational use of the UK’s canals has long been a keen topic of discussion for those with an interest in the canal network and the communities they connect.
Back in 2000, PBA staff were involved in developing Planning a Future for the Inland Waterways: Good Practice Guidance helping to explain the contribution canals can make to regeneration and other policies. This work looked at the value of waterways, and how value could be added in their restoration and improvement. This work was at the start of British Waterways’ involvement in area regeneration & improvement, promoting canal improvement to achieve wider change.
Since then, we’ve maintained a strong working presence across the canal networks in the UK, combining keen appreciation of the economics of waterside environments and local economies, The interaction of waterfront development, river and canal use and activity can improve environmental and community amenity , build value for development, and for promotional and place competitiveness, help put an area on the map.
Recent examples we’ve been involved in where waterway restoration has brought significant local economic and community benefit include the £25m HLF funded Kennet and Avon restoration – where we designed locks, gates and weirs on the canal and the River Thames; engineering assessment for the North Wiltshire canal and Weaver Navigation; introduction of cafes on Thames locks; development of marinas, use of water bodies to heat/cool buildings, bringing forward flood risk management proposals, enhancements in water quality and other improvements. We’re also working on restoring navigation to the centre of Maidenhead as part of the town’s regeneration.
Alongside our canal-related civil and engineering skills, our economics team leads in examining the effects of restoration and in developing strategies for canalside communities. We believe strongly that investment in canal infrastructure can have catalytic effects. Since 2004 when we developed the Scottish Canals Economic Monitoring Framework to track economic and social benefits, we’ve refined it to capture health and environmental benefits. We continue to provide regular updates of the canals’ contribution to wider objectives.
Last year, PBA’s economics team developed a Sustainability & Delivery Plan for the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, the basis of a successful bid to the Welsh Government earlier this year. We’re now developing a strategy for Grantham Canal for the Canal & River Trust (CRT) and working closely with CRT to develop an economic impact tool to assist Canal Societies, voluntary organisations and their partners to gauge the economic and wider benefits effects of different investment in canal infrastructure. – we’re hoping to launch the tool at this year’s World Canals Conference so look out for us there!
Nick Skelton, Phil Wright and the PBA team will be at the World Canals Conference 2016 in Inverness, 19th – 22nd September.