26 January 2021

The vital importance of the waterways to the Government’s aspirations for economic prosperity and the population’s physical and mental health was highlighted by three navigation authorities at the most recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways.

Canal & River Trust, the Broads Authority and the Avon Navigation Trust all reported dramatic increases in visitors to their waterways during 2020, with the restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic bringing many people to their local waterways for the first time. Visits to towpaths and riverside paths increased, along with the number of people using canoes and stand up paddleboards.

The navigation authorities also noted the impact of climate change and the role of waterways as a critical aspect of national infrastructure, particularly as a response to extreme weather events such as flooding. They urged the Government to take a long-term view to make waterways more resilient to future environmental pressures, as well as ensure funding for current ‘high-risk’ aspects of waterways infrastructure.

Underfunding continues to be the biggest threat facing our inland waterways. All three speakers stressed the importance of future funding to ensure ongoing access by the whole population to safely managed waterways. IWA will continue to push the government to make sure waterways are properly funded, by raising awareness of the issues and providing a platform for navigation authorities.

Find out more about how we lobby government through the APPG for the waterways.