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Contributing to the country’s economic recovery

Explore the benefits highlighted in our Waterways for Today report

Waterway projects can contribute to the country’s economic recovery.

They can help to regenerate both rural and urban areas, and improve the lives of millions of people.

How Waterways Can Help

Transformational waterway projects will help national and devolved governments deliver their post-Brexit and Covid-19 recovery programmes. Incorporating waterway improvement projects into wider regeneration bids will also help local authorities improve rural and urban areas and the lives of millions of people.

A report commissioned by the National Trust shows unequal access to nature in many urban neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Improved access to regenerated waterways can be part of the solution. Canals have their origins in the Industrial Revolution. Some 75% of local authority districts with the highest proportion of deprived neighbourhoods are located on the inland waterways network, representing huge opportunities for waterways to contribute to many aspects of the country’s economic recovery.

Waterway restoration and regeneration projects can deliver government’s aspirations to create employment opportunities and high-quality skills training, improve transport connectivity in the form of active travel corridors, narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy, improve wellbeing and create more pride in the places where people live.


During our many years enjoying Britain’s waterways, we have seen first-hand how waterway regeneration can act as a catalyst for the wider transformation of a whole community. Once run-down and neglected, there are places on the canals today that have a vibrancy to rival many of the country’s top tourist destinations yet are freely accessible to everyone.

Sir David and Lady Sheila Suchet,
actors and waterway supporters

Case Study:
Montgomery Canal

The awarding in October 2021 of £13.9m from the Levelling Up Fund, as part of a wider £15.4m bid by Powys County Council, will see the restoration of four miles of the Montgomery Canal within Wales.

The funding will help remove some of the obstructions between Llanymynech and Maerdy and restore the length to full navigation, making a significant contribution to the final aim of connecting the Montgomery Canal to the national canal network.

Craig Williams, MP for Montgomeryshire, said:


The restoration of the canal will bring real investment, real growth and real jobs to Montgomeryshire’s communities.

This is estimated to be worth £62m over a 10-year period, including £23m from additional visitor spend. Work will include the creation of three water-based nature reserves, the rebuilding of two road bridges, dredging and bank protection and the development of a community cultural hub utilising historic
canalside buildings.

The bid, supported by the Canal & River Trust along with the Montgomery Canal Partnership and Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust (who have been working and campaigning on the project for decades), should also provide 40 new jobs in the visitor and tourism sector, along with 85 jobs during the restoration works.


Regeneration in Action

An example of the transformation that can be achieved by investing in urban waterways regeneration.

Birmingham Canal Navigations Mainline before and after regeneration.

Broad Street Bridge, 1970
© Stephen Desmond
Broad Street Bridge in recent times
© Graham & Marilyn Speechley

Facts & Stats

The leisure marine industry supports 133,000 FTE (full time equivalent) jobs across the inland waterways

Of the 124 local authorities designated as Category 1 for the 2022 Levelling Up Fund (the highest level of identified need), 87 (70%) are on the inland waterways.

The Falkirk Wheel, an innovative engineering solution connecting the Forth & Clyde and Union canals, has become one of Scotland’s most visited
tourist attractions. Over 60 direct and indirect jobs have been created, with the economic impact valued at over £3 million a year.

Every £1 spent on a project to create a navigable route under the M4 for the Wilts & Berks Canal will produce £1.79 in economic benefit to the local communities in Swindon and Royal Wootton Bassett.

Sustainable development on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in Caerphilly and Torfaen local authority areas is forecasted to create 2,129 net additional job. from canalside development, £93m net additional GVA, 3,590 new houses and 213,000 square metres of non-residential development.