Place making and shaping
Waterways are a catalyst for urban and rural regeneration, supporting employment and creating green infrastructure, which improves the quality of our lives. The improvement in our rivers and canals can bring life back to deprived areas and create a new sense of pride in local communities.
Waterways provide opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Canals form part of the drainage infrastructure and can provide flood relief capacity and non-potable water for industry. Waterways also offer opportunities for city cooling and even small-scale renewable energy generation. Adaptation to climate change must become an important feature of waterways policy and planning.
The natural environment
The waterway network forms an important environmental and ecological resource, providing wildlife corridors and a diversity of aquatic and riparian habitats, but there are also challenges to waterways management from environmental pressures and legislative requirements which put pressure on resources and require close partnership working.
The river and canal network is a legacy of Britain’s past and provides a unique insight into our industrial and social history. The waterways are rich in historic buildings and structures which provide a major educational resource and a focus of regeneration and tourism.
Health, well-being, recreation and sport
Inland waterways provide recreational opportunities and sporting activities close to people’s homes. The waterways can be used to encourage active lifestyles and contribute to mental well-being.
There is scope for more freight and passengers to be carried on some inland waterways, particularly on estuarial waters. Greater potential is provided by waterside paths for off-road walking and cycle routes for school children, commuters and city dwellers who want to get out into the countryside.
Tourism and business development
Recreation and tourism activity on or beside waterways supports business development by the private sector in marine and visitor economy industries, and workforce training.
Fairer, stronger and more active communities
Waterways provide a range of activities suitable for all sections of the community, including an outdoor learning resource, out-of-school recreation for young people, and opportunities for volunteering. The waterways can aid social cohesion and host measures to combat social exclusion.
The way forward
Acting alone, waterway authorities cannot be expected to deliver the wide range of public benefits which waterways can offer, while maintaining the fabric of the waterway network upon which all such public benefits depend. Partnership working with the public, private and voluntary sectors is the best way forward.