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Making more use of Waterside Paths and their surrounding corridors

Published 2010

The purpose of this report 

The Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC) recognised that there was a gap in evidence based advice on how to make more use of waterway paths and their surrounding corridors in Great Britain in a manner which was sustainable for both the inland waterways and  the wider environment. They recognised that path activities could be for both recreational purposes and for more functional purposes, such as commuting to work or to access services, and considered that these should be carefully considered by policy makers at the national, regional and local level. Waterway paths have the potential to contribute to many of the policy objectives identified in sustainable development and green infrastructure policies. These include, in particular, contributing to:

• place-making and shaping (including the contribution of green infrastructure to neighbourhood renewal and ‘sense of place’);
• climate change mitigation and adaptation;
• environmental improvement;
• protection of cultural heritage;
• healthy lifestyles and improved wellbeing;
• sustainable transport;
• tourism and business development; and
• fairer, stronger and more active communities (including community cohesion and social inclusion).

This report was commissioned by IWAC who wished to provide evidence on the potential for sustainable expansion of the use in Great Britain of waterway paths and their surrounding corridors that could be used as the basis for advice to the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government, navigation authorities, local authorities, transport authorities, health authorities and tourism bodies.

IWAC wants to see waterway paths attract more commuting, tourism and leisure activities whilst at the same time potentially decreasing carbon footprints, reducing road congestion and improving the health of local communities.

The Key Conclusions

Waterway paths provide social, environmental and economic benefits through:

• enhancing green infrastructure in urban areas;
• their use as routes for sustainable transport;
• providing a recreational and tourism resource which encourages healthy exercise and contributes to wellbeing; and
• facilitating access by local communities to tranquil greenspace and the historic environment, which can also improve wellbeing.

The existing waterway path network has additional capacity, so action to increase sustainable use, and thus unlock greater benefits, should be taken immediately. A significant change can be achieved at little cost, simply through increasing awareness of the value of these paths among local communities and ensuring that people know how to, and are able to, access the resource.

Immediate action is also required to ensure that more ambitious actions for development of waterway paths (e.g. new bridges, major waterside development, extension of the network or creation of new destination attractions) are incorporated into the whole range of local development plan documents, and that appropriate developer contribution models are established to maximise contributions from development projects. Action now will assist greatly as the opportunity arises to implement such waterway path schemes.

Local communities and many official and voluntary bodies have an interest in the benefits of increased use of waterway paths. In some cases, there is potential for conflict between different users and consensus will need to be reached on solutions. All the evidence points towards the conclusion that local partnerships between community organisations, planning authorities, landowners, user bodies and local businesses provide the best mechanism for delivery of the benefits that waterway paths provide and their widespread establishment is recommended.