A video meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Waterways on 21st July discussed Waterway Restoration as a catalyst for regeneration and economic recovery. MPs and Lords were joined virtually by representatives from over 60 waterway restoration groups, navigation authorities and other stakeholders for the discussion.
The meeting heard about three restoration projects in different parts of the country through presentations from Peter Buck of Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, John Dodwell of Montgomery Canal Partnership and Terry Cavender of Buckingham Canal Society. Common themes across the three presentations were the wider societal benefit of canal restoration, issues created by the Covid-19 pandemic including delays in making progress on the ground, and the positive partnerships with local authorities and other organisations that are assisting canal restoration.
They were followed by a presentation from Simon Harrow of OFWAT, who talked about the Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID) project, a cross-agency regulatory organisation set up to help deliver sustainability across the water industry. RAPID aims to identify and develop water resource solutions at a regional and national level and has identified a range of schemes to improve the transfer of water. Six water transfer options utilise rivers, canals and pipelines, two of which involve specific canals.
A question and answer session then saw questions asked about some of the national issues that are holding restoration back. Mike Palmer, Chairman of Waterway Recovery Group and IWA Trustee, highlighted IWA’s vision for waterway restoration to be regarded as a fully joined up restorable network rather than as individual projects. A national infrastructure project that includes hundreds of miles of towpaths and waterways restored to navigation would make a massive contribution to many of the issues that Government has stated it wishes to address as part of its post Covid recovery plan. This includes more miles of cycling and walking to work routes, investment in infrastructure and greater community engagement.
Paul Rodgers, IWA National Chairman, said that there was a key role for the APPG in raising awareness in Government of the contribution that restoration and waterway development schemes can bring, and the importance of raising standards and communications across a range of regulatory bodies.
The meeting closed with the Group Chair, Michael Fabricant MP, reaffirming the Group’s engagement with Government and confirming that he would invite a relevant Minister from DEFRA to a future meeting of the Group.