pdf file - Inland Waterways Association



pdf file - Inland Waterways Association
Britain’s inland
Balancing the needs
of navigation and
aquatic wildlife
What is the Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC)?
IWAC is a public body which provides independent advice to
Government, navigation authorities and other interested
parties on matters it considers appropriate and relevant to
Britain’s inland waterways.
Created in April 2007 by the Natural Environment and
Rural Communities Act 2006, IWAC is supported by Defra
and the Scottish Government. It succeeded the former
Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, created
in 1968 to give advice on the amenity and recreational
use of canals and rivers managed by British Waterways.
In England and Wales, IWAC’s remit covers all of the
inland waterways such as:
• canals (including those managed by British Waterways,
canal companies, local authorities and smaller
independent bodies);
• rivers (including those the responsibility of the
Environment Agency, British Waterways and
port authorities);
• the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads, and
• the navigable drains of the Fens.
In Scotland, IWAC’s remit covers inland waterways that
are owned or managed by, or which receive technical
advice or assistance from, British Waterways.
What is IWAC’s role?
IWAC’s role is to ensure that the inland waterways are
sustainably developed to meet the needs of all who use
and enjoy them. Once used mainly for freight transport,
the waterways now have a strong recreational and
amenity use.
They act as an effective catalyst for the regeneration
of local economies, acting as a focus to bring economic,
social and environmental benefits to cities, towns and
rural communities.
IWAC has published reports which include: reducing
carbon dioxide emissions by moving more freight onto
inland waterways, the restoration priorities of disused
waterways, good practice guidance on promoting the
potential of the inland waterways through the planning
process, using the waterways to encourage social inclusion
and showing the contribution that waterways can make
to rural regeneration.
More about IWAC
For further information on IWAC and to see copies
of its reports, visit our website at www.iwac.org.uk
Understanding the Waterways
Importance of Waterways for Nature Conservation
Non-Navigation Factors that affect Waterway Nature Conservation Value
Influence of Navigation on Aquatic Wildlife
Case Studies
Improving the Balance between Navigation and Nature Conservation
Conclusions and Recommendations
Glossary and list of Abbreviations
Appendix 1
Summary of Main Legislation
Appendix 2
Important Protected Species & Habitats Associated with Navigable Waterways
Appendix 3
Guidance on Waterway Management for Important Species and Habitats
Appendix 4
Consensus Building Techniques - Supporting Information
Appendix 5
Case Studies:
- Ashby Canal
- The Broads
- Bude Canal
- Forth & Clyde Canal
- Grand Union Canal
- Great Ouse
- Lancaster Canal
- Montgomery Canal
- River Thames Navigation
- Rochdale Canal
UK Government policy is to promote the sustainable
use and development of all the inland waterways of
England and Wales and to maximise the contribution
they make to the needs of the nation and local
communities. The Scottish Government has a similar
policy for canals in Scotland.
The aim of this report is to help those involved with
non-tidal inland waterways to facilitate the use of the
waterways for sustainable navigation whilst protecting
and, where practicable, enhancing their biodiversity.
available resources on SSSIs where achievement of
favourable status is a realistic proposition. Conversely,
other sites may grow in importance and may justify
legal protection in future.
The Key Conclusions
As a whole, the inland waterways system in Britain makes
an important contribution to biodiversity and to aquatic
wildlife in particular. In the interests both of nature
conservation and of the continuing attractiveness of the
system to its users, this contribution needs to be
protected and, where practicable, enhanced.
Changes in wildlife value arise because a whole cocktail of
pressures, as well as navigation, affects waterway wildlife.
Physical alterations, such as the installation of weirs on
rivers and bank protection, affect habitat availability. Water
quality is important, especially nutrient pollution from both
point and diffuse sources. The Water Framework Directive
aims to address such issues by establishing programmes
of measures directed towards the achievement of
ecological quality targets in all surface water bodies and
should be a major stimulus to improving wildlife value
of the waterways system. Other factors affecting aquatic
wildlife value include hydrological impacts (e.g. water
diversion, abstraction and impoundment), fishery
management and invasive species.
The contribution of the system to wildlife conservation is
far from uniform: at one extreme there are internationally
and nationally important designated sites with legal
protection, notably the Broads and some peripheral
waterways (such as the Montgomery and Pocklington
Canals) undergoing, or with plans for, restoration of
navigation; at the other there are some stretches devoid
of much nature conservation interest.
The extremes constitute a small proportion of the whole
system. The vast majority of it is of modest conservation
interest and here the wildlife value and the attractiveness
for users can, and should, be affected directly by how
the waterways are managed and by other controls. With
appropriate management almost all waterways can deliver
some wildlife benefits compatible with other requirements
on them, including navigation, often without incurring
any significant additional costs. Clearly effort and any
additional expenditure must be balanced against the
wildlife benefits obtained and sustainability considerations
but, in many cases, improvements in wildlife conservation
value can be achieved at little or no additional cost by
ensuring that this aspect is considered at the planning
stage of waterway maintenance or restoration work.
The value of each part of the system for aquatic wildlife
conservation evolves over time and all nationally protected
sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest or SSSIs) are
subject to continuing re-assessment by the statutory
agencies. Whilst both UK and Scottish Government policy
is to maintain or restore SSSIs to favourable conservation
status, a few SSSIs on very busy waterways have never
reached and are unlikely ever to reach favourable
conservation status even with large expenditure and
resource input and the best efforts of the waterway
managers. In such cases, it may be best to focus limited
Many non-tidal navigable inland waterways are already
managed to serve navigation demands, as required by
statute in many cases, in an appropriate balance with
other requirements including those of aquatic wildlife.
Such a management approach, both sustainable and
by consensus, is supported by the Inland Waterways
Advisory Council (IWAC); it should continue and be
extended to all waterways.
There are a small number of waterways, both in use for
navigation and with plans for restoration, where their
importance for aquatic wildlife should be given extra
consideration in their design and management, even
as far as limitations on boat movements, boat speed
or the type of vessels allowed.
Achieving a sustainable balance between navigation and
aquatic wildlife conservation does not necessarily cost
more, but where it involves significant additional costs
these should be shared between those who benefit.
Across the system, navigation and wildlife bodies need
to be actively engaged at all levels of management and
consultation, to decide on shared objectives, to agree
on approaches to impact assessment, to ascertain the
optimum balance for future management, to develop
good practice methods and to monitor outcomes, if the
country is to get the best value out of its inland waterways.
The Key Recommendations
Navigation authorities/bodies should:
• develop consistent and appropriate procedures to assess
ecological impact in advance of works that may affect
aquatic wildlife, at a level of detail commensurate with
the risks to or benefits for wildlife in each case; for works
requiring consent from the environment agencies or other
bodies, these should be consistent with existing procedures
and guidance used by the consenting authorities;
• in consultation with wildlife bodies, develop waterway
based local biodiversity action plans tailored specifically
to contribute to decisions on waterway maintenance and
management; these may be very brief or more complex,
depending on the activities being undertaken;
• bring together engineers (civil or marine), the waterway
industry, environmental professionals (including ecologists)
and navigation experts, including those within statutory
agencies, to develop and implement appropriate mitigation
and enhancement measures for waterway wildlife, while
ensuring that essential works to the waterway are not
prevented by excessive mitigation costs;
• produce Waterway Conservation Management Plans (CMPs)
for the limited number of waterways (active navigations and
those under restoration or proposed for restoration) with
significant nature conservation interest and review existing
waterway CMPs;
• seek to engage local stakeholders and statutory
environment and nature conservation agencies, to foster
mutual understanding on matters relating to navigation
and wildlife and to work in partnership to develop and
implement good practice;
• be active partners (directly or through the Association of
Inland Navigation Authorities AINA) in contributing to the
development and implementation on their waterways of
the River Basin Management Plans required by the Water
Framework Directive, to ensure that navigational waterway
interests are taken fully into account.
AINA should provide a forum for, and actively encourage,
dissemination of the considerable experience of larger
navigation authorities on management of waterways for
navigation and wildlife to the smaller navigation authorities.
Development agencies, English regional bodies and all local
authorities throughout Britain should:
• take an interest in developing the full potential of inland
waterways in their areas for navigation users, wildlife
and for the community as a whole;
• engage with navigation authorities, statutory conservation
and environment agencies, landowners and the voluntary
sector to agree future development and conservation plans
for these waterways;
• ensure that appropriate protection and development
provisions are included in regional spatial strategies
and local development plans.
Voluntary sector organisations should:
• develop a more effective dialogue on navigation and nature
conservation issues to share experience, develop best
practice and to address issues such as coordinating the
use of volunteers.
There is a particular need for wildlife non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) to participate in the local and national
consultation and liaison arrangements of navigation
authorities, as well as responding positively to requests
for involvement in waterway restoration projects.
Government and regulatory bodies should:
• recognise fully the value of navigable inland waterways
in River Basin Management Plans established under the
Water Framework Directive, making full use of provisions
for the designation of artificial and heavily modified water
bodies and setting alternative objectives as appropriate,
thus ensuring that navigation authorities are not subjected
to disproportionate costs.
Waterway related businesses should:
• contribute to the protection of the waterway environment
by adopting good practices which avoid damage to wildlife
and minimise water pollution, and by encouraging their
customers to do the same.
IWAC will:
• keep this matter under regular review to identify changes
and, where possible, anticipate problems.
The non-tidal navigable inland waterways of Britain
are a valued resource receiving well over 350 million
visits by users of different kinds every year. The
navigable channels of these waterways are used
by pleasure craft and, to a limited extent, for carriage
of freight and can, with appropriate management,
also contribute to aquatic wildlife conservation.
This report identifies the wildlife potential of different
types of navigable waterway and how this can be affected
by a range of factors including the waterway’s management
and use for navigation.
The background to the study
The nature conservation value of our canals and navigable
rivers is increasingly important to the many waterway
users who enjoy the natural world and are interested
in wildlife. International and national law, regulatory
frameworks and planning policies recognise the
importance of biodiversity in sustainable development.
Regeneration of waterways relies on their environmental
quality and attractiveness, as well as on social and
economic factors.
Over the last five years our understanding of the
relationship between navigation and aquatic wildlife
conservation on non-tidal waterways has changed
significantly as a result of hydrodynamic and ecological
research. A broad portfolio of mitigation and enhancement
techniques has been developed, ranging from management
of navigation activity to soft bank protection, as well as
experimental methods such as creation of off-channel
reserves in an attempt to protect rare plant species in
formerly derelict canals restored for navigation.
Recent years have also seen a rise in the use of
consensus-building techniques which, by involving
stakeholders at all stages of waterway restoration,
have encouraged more open and positive dialogue
between parties involved in waterway management
and the definition and achievement of shared objectives.
Aims of the study
This study, funded by the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), aims to promote
understanding of the relationship between navigation
and aquatic wildlife and to recommend best practice
methods that will help encourage the sustainable use
of the waterways.
The report brings together engineering, social and
ecological expertise. It aims to be concise and readable,
give practical guidance and provide signposting to sources
of further information.
Our hope is that this report will encourage the
consideration of the needs of navigation and aquatic
wildlife in waterway planning and management and
the application of good practice so that:
• overall, the aquatic wildlife conservation value
of waterways is protected and, where practicable,
• navigation on currently navigable waterways is not
unreasonably limited by nature conservation constraints;
• restoration to navigation of currently un-navigable
waterways is facilitated while taking full account
of nature conservation and sustainability;
• bodies responsible for, or interested in, either navigation
or nature conservation are informed and empowered
to reach agreements rather than allowing conflict
to develop.
Maryhill Locks, Forth & Clyde Canal
Resolfen, Neath Canal
Scope of the report
The study:
Although important for nature conservation and sometimes
directly affected by waterway use, the following are also
not covered by the study:
1. summarises the biodiversity value of the waterway
channel and its current use by boat traffic;
2. examines the relationships between boat use and
aquatic wildlife;
• areas adjacent to waterways, such as river floodplains,
non-navigable canal feeders and reservoirs, towpaths
and hedgerows;
3. examines case studies of, and other evidence on,
ways of balancing the requirements of navigation
and aquatic wildlife;
• lakes, except where they are an integral part of the
waterway (e.g. Scottish lochs forming part of the
Caledonian canal), because they have a very
different ecology;
4. recommends best practice that can provide an
improved, more consensual, way ahead. However,
the study does not set out to provide a detailed
technical manual of good practice.
• disturbance of wildlife by activities on board moored
boats - these effects are similar to those arising from
recreational use of the waterway banks generally.
The study considers only the relationship between
navigation and aquatic wildlife in the main waterway
channel and waterbodies directly connected with it,
such as backwaters, weir streams and by-washes.
The main focus is on the impact of motorised vessels
and on ways in which they can best be accommodated.
Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC)
IWAC’s predecessor organisation, the Inland Waterways
Amenity Advisory Council, was a statutory body set up
by the 1968 Transport Act to advise UK Government and
British Waterways (BW) on strategic policy for the use
and development of the 2000 miles of inland waterways
managed by BW.
In terms of geographical coverage, the study covers
England, Wales and Scotland. It includes solely the canals
of Scotland, all non-tidal waterways of England and Wales
plus the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, which are partially
tidal. Other navigable tidal rivers and estuaries are also
an important component of the inland waterways network,
many with significant wildlife interest, but are outside
the scope of this report which considers only freshwater
or slightly brackish systems.
Under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities
Act 2006, the Council became the Inland Waterways
Advisory Council on 1 April 2007. Its remit in England
and Wales was widened to cover the strategic use of
all inland waterways; in Scotland it continues to cover
those waterways which BW manage or in which BW
has an interest.
Key web resources
Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA): www.aina.org.uk
British Waterways (BW): www.britishwaterways.co.uk
British Waterways Scotland (BWS): www.britishwaterways.co.uk/scotland/scot_home/index.html
Broads Authority (BA): www.broads-authority.gov.uk
Countryside Council for Wales (CCW): www.ccw.gov.uk
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra): www.defra.gov.uk
Environment Agency (EA): www.environment-agency.gov.uk
Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC): www.iwac.org.uk
Inland Waterways Association (IWA): www.waterways.org.uk
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC): www.jncc.gov.uk
Natural England (NE): www.naturalengland.org.uk
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA): www.sepa.org
Scottish Government: www.scotland.gov.uk
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH): www.snh.gov.uk
Sea and Water: www.seaandwater.org
The Waterways Trust: www.thewaterwaystrust.co.uk
The Wildlife Trusts: www.wildlifetrusts.org
Welsh Assembly Government: www.wales.gov.uk
The Target audience
The report will be of relevance to a wide range
of bodies, particularly:
• individual navigation authorities, the Association
of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA) and
The Waterways Trust;
• other waterway interest bodies, including the voluntary
sector (e.g. the Inland Waterways Association, other
national groups and individual waterway societies);
• UK Government departments such as the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),
Department for Transport (DfT), Department for
Communities and Local Government (DCLG),
Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS);
• statutory bodies such as Natural England (NE), Scottish
Natural Heritage (SNH), Countryside Council for Wales
(CCW), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC),
Environment Agency (EA), Scottish Environment
Protection Agency (SEPA);
• voluntary nature conservation organisations
(e.g. The Wildlife Trusts);
• landowners and others with rights over waterways
and related land.
We hope that the report will also prove of interest to
individual waterway users, particularly boaters, anglers,
walkers and naturalists, and to other stakeholders,
including waterway related businesses.
• the Scottish Government (SG) and Welsh Assembly
Government (WAG);
• local authority planning and countryside officers;
the waterways
The non-tidal inland waterway system of Britain is
extraordinarily diverse. It includes navigable rivers,
some with locks, and artificial waterways ranging
from the narrow canals of the English Midlands
to ship canals, as well as many navigable fenland
drains and broads.
Some have been important for navigation for many
centuries, while man-made waterways expanded rapidly
from the 17th century onwards, initially for agricultural
drainage purposes and then to satisfy the transport needs
of the industrial revolution. Each type of waterway has
its own special characteristics and historical background.
On most waterways, navigation authorities have a statutory
duty to maintain navigation.
UK Government policy promotes the sustainable
development of the navigable inland waterway system
and recognises its role in a number of fields, including
recreation, transport, regeneration, water management
and conservation of the built and natural heritage.
The Scottish Government has a similar policy for canals
in Scotland.
The inland waterways resource
There are over 6000km of currently navigable inland
waterways in England and Wales, about 1500km of which
are tidal. In addition, there are about 900km of managed,
un-navigable waterways and a further 2000km of
abandoned un-navigable waterways. There are some
225km of canals in Scotland, as well as navigable sea
lochs and tidal rivers. (Map 3.1).
‘cuts’ by-passing difficult river sections and later by
completely man-made canals, often crossing river basin
boundaries. Some channelised rivers and new water
bodies built primarily for land drainage purposes were
also used for navigation.
The legacy of this development is a wide variety
of waterway types (Map 3.1) including:
• narrow, broad and ship canals;
• navigable rivers (ranging from fairly natural to heavily
• the rivers and shallow lakes of the Norfolk and Suffolk
Broads (‘Broadland’), which are partially tidal;
• navigable drains, mainly in the Fens of eastern England;
• navigable lakes and lochs (e.g. Loch Lomond,
Loch Ness, Llyn Tegid and Windermere);
• tidal rivers and estuaries (not considered in this report
except for the Broads).
These waterway types each have their distinctive
environmental characteristics and often support different
types of wildlife (Chapter 4).
The development of inland waterway navigation in Britain
began with the use by vessels of naturally navigable
estuaries and rivers. Navigation was gradually improved
by installation of weirs and locks on rivers, by artificial
Vessels have used the River Ouse wharves such
as King’s Staith in York from Roman times
Some sections of river navigations were later
by-passed by canals, as on the Aire & Calder
Figure 3.1 Map of waterway types
Broad Canal (over 7ft wide)
Navigable lake
No longer navigable
Under restoration
Narrow Canal (max 7ft wide)
No longer navigable
Under restoration
River Navigation
No longer navigable
Under restoration
River Earn
Loch Lomond
Tidal River Navigation
No longer navigable
Forth & Clyde
Under restoration
River Clyde
Other Navigation
Canal with lock size unknown
Proposed navigation
Loch Ken
River Tyne
River Wear
River Derwent
Built-up area
Aberdeenshire Canal
Other river
River Derwent
National boundary
River Ouse
Leeds &
Broad Canal
Peak Forest
Trent &
Leominster Canal
StratfordRiver Severn
UponGrand Union
Herefordshire &
Upper Avon
100 Kilometres
Grand Western
Bude Canal
Stort Navigation
Chelmer &
Wiltshire &
Berkshire Canal
River Stour
Grand Union
River Thames
Dorset &
Glastonbury Canal
River Parrett
River Lark
Bedford Link
Gloucester &
Sharpness Canal
Thames &
Severn Canal
60 Miles
Bridgwater &
Taunton Canal
Old West
River Cam
Kennet & Avon Canal
Little Ouse
Middle Level
Great Ouse
The Broads
River Wissey
River Nene
River Nar
Leicestershire &
Union Canal
Lower Avon Worcester &
Navigation Birmingham
River Wye
Staffordshire &
Derby Canal
Monmouthshire &
Brecon Canal
Swansea Canal
Narrow Canal
St Helens
River Rother
Portsmouth &
Arundel Canal
River Medway
River Stour
Wey &
River Adur
River Ouse
Extent of each type of waterway as a
proportion of the total length of currently
navigable* inland waterway in Great Britain
Waterbody size and type
© GEOprojects 2003
Narrow canals
Broad and ship canals
Non-tidal natural or modified
rivers (including lochs on
linear waterways)
Land drainage channels
Broadland rivers and Broads
Tidal waterways
* - navigable by motorised craft
Weirs and locks were built on rivers such as the Thames
to improve navigation
Some canals, such as the Forth & Clyde, were built
to allow seagoing vessels to cross the country
Some Fenland drains have been made navigable;
this is Cowbridge Lock near Boston
Many canals in England were built to take
‘narrow boats’ only 2.13m (7 feet) wide
Figure 3.1
Shows typical river characteristics.
Figure 3.2
Shows typical canal characteristics.
Some rivers are naturally navigable but the
majority of non-tidal navigable rivers have been
regulated by the construction of locks and weirs.
In some cases substantial sections have been
by-passed by artificial cuts (canal sections).
Although some rivers have been heavily canalised
(e.g. the River Lee), most have few navigation
related engineering works between locks and
retain predominantly natural banks. Water supply
is usually based on the natural river flow. Water
flow velocities are usually higher than in canals
and flooding may occur frequently. Dredging may
be required to remove shallow spots in the
navigation but the need is usually quite localised.
Canals are man-made watercourses typically with
reservoirs and feeders to supply them with water.
They usually have a generally saucer-shaped
cross-section but often with deeper water on
the towpath side. Banks may be protected from
erosion, for example by the use of piling. Where
the water must be retained above the natural
water table, the canal is normally lined with
puddled clay. Water flow velocities are typically
low, water levels closely controlled and flooding
is rare.
Lakes and broads (shallow lakes of The Broads)
are natural or man-made waterbodies that vary
greatly in depth and rarely have any engineering
works carried out on their banks.
Sizes vary from the narrow canals of the English
Midlands, with channels typically 8-15m wide and
less than 2m deep and lock sizes limiting boat
widths to just over 2m, to ship canals over 50m
wide and up to 10m deep (e.g. Manchester Ship
Canal). Periodic dredging is usually required
to maintain navigable depth. The aquatic habitat
of canals often differs from that of surrounding
natural water bodies and their uniform crosssections offer lower habitat diversity than most
lowland rivers (see Chapter 4).
Some rivers in fenland areas were built for land
drainage but are also used for navigation. These
have some similarities to canals. Water flows
in summer may be very low but much higher
in winter. Managed water levels often vary greatly,
typically with high levels in summer to maintain
supplies to agriculture and low levels in winter
to assist land drainage.
Changes in level are accomplished by locks, which
are often grouped in ‘flights’ for ease of operation
and management.
Figure 3.1
Figure 3.2
Canal sites such as Stoke Bruerne are major visitor attractions,
as well as popular stops for boaters
Inland waterway marinas support a wide
range of small businesses
The origins, uses and value of the waterways
Rivers in Britain were used for navigation from the
earliest times. From the medieval period onwards, many
were substantially modified to make them better suited
to navigation. Between the 14th century and the start of
the main canal building era of the mid/late 18th century,
river engineering more than doubled the 1000km of nontidal British rivers which were navigable in their natural
state. The waterways system expanded rapidly from the
late 18th century with the construction of numerous
artificial canals reaching its zenith in the mid-19th
century, when over 6400 km of non-tidal canals and river
navigations, many interconnecting, were in use (Map 3.1).
The banks and towpaths of BW-managed waterways
receive over 300 million visits each year by walkers,
cyclists, anglers and sightseers. BW estimates that
visitor spend is at least £1.5 billion per year for its
own waterways.
The driving force for the construction and improvement
of most waterways, both rivers and canals, was the desire
of entrepreneurs and investors to create a more efficient
method of transport to facilitate trade and commerce.
In doing so they created a transport system which made
a vital contribution to the Industrial Revolution.
As rail and road transport came to dominate, the
original transport and communication function of the
inland waterways largely disappeared from all but a few
large waterways. Now, many of the non-tidal waterways
see relatively little freight traffic. Instead, they have become
a multi-functional resource of value both to the country
as a whole and to local communities.
The principal components of this value are:
The EA estimates that the non-tidal River Thames alone
generates 14 million day visits annually and 28 million
casual visits, contributing around £200 million to local
communities. Tens of millions more use the remaining
waterways in some way;
• support, in whole or in part, for a significant number
of businesses; including boat hire yards, marinas, boat
builders, equipment manufacturers, chandleries, angling
equipment suppliers; together with local shops, pubs,
restaurants, visitor centres and so on;
• freight use - around 50 million tonnes of freight are
carried on UK waterways annually of which about 7%
are entirely internal traffics, mainly on the larger inland
waterways based on the Thames, Humber, Mersey and
Severn river systems (the rest being seagoing traffic
that penetrates the larger, mainly tidal, waterways).
It is both UK and Scottish Government policy to increase
the use of the waterways for freight and appropriate
traffics in England and Wales have been identified
by UK Government sponsored working groups and
AINA reports;
• a leisure and tourism resource - the system is used
by over 60,000 licensed privately owned craft, together
with some 2,500 boats available for holidays through
hire, timeshare and hotel boat arrangements and
a further 200 boats offering day trips to the public.
Carriage of aggregates by barge can reduce road traffic
Many waterway structures are listed, including this cottage
and split lock bridge on the Stratford Canal
The former Clarence Dock in Leeds is the focus for major
waterside redevelopment
Community boats encourage access to waterways and
their wildlife by a wide range of social groups
• a focus for urban and rural regeneration schemes.
There are striking examples in cities, such as
Birmingham (Brindley Place), Glasgow (Port Dundas),
Manchester (Castlefield), Leeds (Clarence Dock) and
London Docklands, as well as in a range of smaller
towns (such as Market Harborough and Devizes) and
at rural sites. Much of the rural potential is still
largely unexploited;
• a community resource which helps to support national
policies for improving the quality of life, for example
through education and training, volunteering, health and
well-being, sustainable transport routes for walking and
cycling, and outdoor access for those with disabilities;
• a route for telecommunications - by use of canal
towpaths as routes for fibre-optic cables;
• a significant role in water management (and locally in
water transfer for public supply, as with the Llangollen
and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canals), as well as in
flood defence;
• a heritage resource - much of the canal system, in
particular, has outstanding heritage value with entire
canals or specific lengths and structures recognised as
being of national and international importance. BW is
the third largest owner of listed buildings and structures
in the country;
• an ecological resource - the waterways have long been
known for their nature conservation value. Nearly all
waterways have some value for wildlife and this
component is an important part of the attraction of
waterways to the public. As with the built heritage, some
lengths have been recognised as being of national or
international importance for wildlife. This is described
in more detail in the next chapter.
Thames sailing barges were very efficient, with over 300 square
metres of sail often operated by a crew of only two
Propeller driven vessels under power create turbulent
water flows at the stern
Vessels on the inland waterways
In the early days of the waterways, vessels were towed
from the bank by men or horses, propelled by use of a
barge pole (shaft or quant), or relied on natural elements
such as the wind or current. Steering was facilitated by
use of a large rudder and devices such as leeboards.
Waterway legislation
While some inland waterways are largely natural, most
non-tidal navigable waterways were constructed or
improved under powers granted by Acts of Parliament.
These allowed the promoters, usually private companies,
to construct and operate their waterways and to
charge tolls.
From late in the 19th Century, vessels driven by steam
engines via a propeller (or very occasionally paddles)
became widespread on larger waterways. These were
followed early in the 20th century by boats fitted with
internal combustion engines, which rapidly became
almost universal. Steering is achieved by a rudder onto
which the propeller jet is directed or by use of drive units
such as outboard motors or other omni-directional
drives, where the propeller shaft itself can be rotated
in a horizontal plane.
Devices such as bow-thrusters are sometimes used on
modern freight barges, allowing larger vessels to navigate
safely in confined waters. These have also become more
popular on smaller pleasure craft, particularly canal
narrow boats.
The change from early methods of propulsion to propeller
driven craft has greatly increased the interaction between
the vessel and the waterway channel environment
(Chapter 6).
Navigation authorities
Just over half of the navigable largely non-tidal system
(by length) is owned or managed by British Waterways
(BW), nearly a fifth by the Environment Agency (EA),
with the rest being the responsibility of over 20 other
navigation authorities and bodies. The largest of these is
the Broads Authority (BA); others include local authorities,
trusts and private sector companies (Map 3.2).
Many of these Acts still apply, making matters very complex
for navigation authorities; for example, there are over 370
Acts relating to waterways managed by British Waterways,
the earliest being the Lee Improvement Act passed in 1424
(and written in the court language of the time - Norman
French). These Acts often provide navigation authorities
with many of their operational powers and determine their
relationships with landowners and their powers to make
charges for uses of the waterway. On many waterways,
they place a duty upon the navigation authority to maintain
provision for navigation. In some cases, the complexity and
antiquity of the legislation creates barriers to efficient
management of waterways and there is a need for
modernisation and rationalisation.
The construction of canals and artificial sections of river
navigations, such as locks and lock cuts, usually involved
purchase of the land by the navigation company. Thus
these sections of waterway are generally still owned by
the navigation authority, giving them significant powers
to carry out works for the benefit of both navigation and
other requirements such as nature conservation.
Waterway restoration provides opportunities for volunteers
to learn practical skills and to provide benefits for the wider
Marginal wetland plants such as the yellow flag can add to the
attractiveness of a waterway and provide habitat for dragonflies
and juvenile fish
However, many sections of riverbed and most banks and
some weirs on navigable rivers remain the property of the
riparian landowners, although the navigation authority may
have powers to carry out certain management activities, such
as dredging. Thus, a partnership approach may be essential
to implement management measures for the benefit of wildlife.
UK and Scottish Government policies for the waterways
The UK and Scottish Governments have recognised the inland
waterways of England and Wales, and the canals of Scotland,
as a national asset that contributes to social and economic
success at a local, regional and national level.
Many of Britain’s waterways were nationalised in 1948,
becoming the responsibility of the British Transport
Commission. These waterways were eventually passed
in 1962 to British Waterways (see Map 3.2), whose principal
duties are set out in the 1962 and 1968 Transport Acts.
These include duties to maintain navigation for certain
types of vessel on different waterways.
Similarly, a number of important river navigations in England
and Wales which had come under the control of navigation
conservancy bodies or drainage commissioners were taken
over by water authorities in 1974. On privatisation of the water
industry in 1989, these became the responsibility of the
National Rivers Authority and later (in 1996) the Environment
Agency (see Map 3.2). The Agency is currently attempting
to rationalise the varied waterway legislation under which
they must operate.
There are still a significant number of waterways, both large
and small, which are the responsibility of private companies,
local authorities, drainage boards or charitable trusts,
operating under a very wide variety of legislation, much
of it anachronistic.
Both Governments have set out their proposals to encourage
a modern, integrated and sustainable approach to their use
and to enable them to fulfil their economic, social and
environmental potential. These policies are set out in
Waterways for Tomorrow (2000), which applies to the waterways
in England and Wales, and in Scotland’s Canals: An asset
For the Future (2002) which applies to BW’s canals in Scotland.
The Governments’ policies seek to protect, conserve and
enhance all of the inland waterways of England and Wales,
and the canals of Scotland, as an important part of the
national heritage (built and natural) while, at the same time,
to maximise the opportunities that they offer for:
• leisure, recreation, tourism and sport;
• urban and rural regeneration;
• education and social inclusion;
• freight transport;
• water transfer;
• innovative uses such as telecommunications routes.
These aims are to be achieved by:
The public navigation authorities have had statutory duties
to further wildlife conservation for some time. The Natural
Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 extended
to all public bodies a duty to conserve biodiversity in the
exercise of their functions, including restoring and
enhancing species populations and habitats.
• improving the quality of the infrastructure;
A summary of legislation relevant to inland navigation and
wildlife is given in Appendix 1.
• encouraging viable waterway restoration and development
projects to extend the navigable system;
• encouraging partnership with the public, private and
voluntary sectors, which can offer new skills and sources
of funding;
• encouraging cooperation between navigation authorities;
• integrating policy for the waterways more effectively
into other Government policies.
Key information sources
AINA (2004) Demonstrating the value of waterways: A good practice guide to the appraisal of restoration
and regeneration projects
AINA (2005) New Channels, New Challenges: Action Plan 2005/6 – 2007/8
British Waterways (2005) Our Plan for the Future 2005-2009
Broads Authority (2004) The Broads Plan 2004: A strategic plan to manage the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads
Defra (2000) Waterways for Tomorrow
Environment Agency (2005) Your Rivers for Life: a Strategy for the Development of Navigable Rivers 2004-2007
IWAAC (2001) Planning a Future for the Inland Waterways
IWAC (2007) The Inland Waterways of England and Wales in 2007
Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government) (2002) Scotland’s Canals: An asset for the Future
IWAC’s publication The Inland Waterways of England and Wales
in 2007 has also advised the UK Government that an update
to its policy for the inland waterways is needed, giving due
attention to climate change, environmental improvement,
public health and community cohesion.
Navigation remains central to national policies for the
waterways and both BW, via the UK and Scottish Governments,
and EA, via the UK Government, have received substantial
direct public investment over the years to help them tackle
their safety and asset maintenance backlogs. However, many
smaller navigation authorities struggle to make ends
meet financially.
This financial assistance underpins a buoyant recreation and
tourism market for leisure boating, which generates substantial
income for some navigation authorities and for associated
businesses. An actively used waterway is often the focus for
public and private sector interest in both the channel and the
towpath, as well as in developing waterside land. BW in
particular, but also privately owned waterways, has benefited
significantly from partnership development deals with local
authorities and the private sector. All of these projects are
focussed on a vibrant waterway channel used by boats.
The challenge, as the UK and Scottish Governments have
recognised, is to maximise the range of benefits which the
canals of Scotland and all the inland waterways of England
and Wales can offer without damaging their inherent value.
The protection of their nature conservation interest contributes
to this value. Protecting and enhancing wildlife is therefore
an integral part of the national policy framework for the
waterways and wildlife needs to be considered as part
of the whole range of benefits which waterways can deliver.
Identifying this contribution and balancing the demands
of navigation and nature conservation are the central
themes of this report.
Figure 3.2 Map of waterway authorities
Aberdeenshire Canal
Managed by British Waterways
Managed by Environment Agency
Managed by Broads Authority
Other Navigations
Waterway restoration & construction
under planning or consideration
River Earn
Loch Lomond
Other river
Built-up area
Forth & Clyde
River Clyde
National boundary
Loch Ken
River Tyne
River Derwent
River Derwent
River Wear
River Derwent
River Ouse
Leeds &
Broad Canal
St Helens
Peak Forest
Trent &
Leominster Canal
StratfordRiver Severn
UponGrand Union
Herefordshire &
Upper Avon
60 Miles
Bridgwater &
Taunton Canal
Grand Western
100 Kilometres
Bude Canal
Old West
River Cam
Stort Navigation
Chelmer &
Wiltshire &
Berkshire Canal
River Stour
Grand Union
River Thames
Dorset &
Glastonbury Canal
River Parrett
River Lark
Bedford Link
Gloucester &
Sharpness Canal
Thames &
Severn Canal
Kennet & Avon Canal
Little Ouse
Middle Level
Great Ouse
The Broads
River Wissey
River Nene
River Nar
Leicestershire &
Union Canal
Lower Avon Worcester &
Navigation Birmingham
River Wye
Staffordshire &
Derby Canal
Monmouthshire &
Brecon Canal
Swansea Canal
Narrow Canal
River Rother
Portsmouth &
Arundel Canal
River Medway
River Stour
Wey &
River Adur
River Ouse
Importance of waterways
for nature conservation
As agricultural, industrial and urban development
has proceeded apace over the last century or so,
the natural environment and its wildlife have come
under increasing pressure.
Agricultural drainage, urban flood defence measures and
sewage, agricultural and industrial pollution have contributed
greatly to a steep decline in the extent and quality of natural
wetland habitats in Britain since the early 20th Century.
Meanwhile, man-made developments have also created
new habitats; the canal system is a prime example. With
sensitive management, most navigable inland waterways
can deliver some wildlife value while fulfilling their
function as a recreational boating or transport resource;
a small proportion have become sufficiently important
for wildlife to warrant formal protection.
The River Wye navigation retains many natural features and
is of international wildlife value
Box 4.1
What is nature conservation value?
This is the value society places on wildlife and the
natural environment. Rare species and habitats are
especially highly regarded. Sites that are unusually
species-rich are also valued, because human
influences such as pollution and habitat destruction
typically result in species loss – making highly
biodiverse sites a rare occurrence. The naturalness
of a site is also a criterion used in evaluating
its wildlife value. The exceptional value placed
on critically threatened species and on the best
wildlife sites is recognised by giving them special
protection under national and international policy
or legislation.
Nature conservation value at a local level is also
recognised in local biodiversity action plans
(LBAPs), county wildlife sites and local nature
The waterways and nature conservation
The non-tidal navigable inland waterway system is home
to a wide range of valued wildlife, from native crayfish and
water voles to kingfishers and rare water plants. Individual
waterways differ widely in their conservation value
(Box 4.1).
While some waterways are of low wildlife conservation
value, dominated by a few common pollution-tolerant
species and with little opportunity for this to be changed,
most are of moderate value and present opportunities
for wildlife conservation and enhancement.
A small proportion (less than 10% by channel length) of the
national non-tidal inland waterway system comprises
waterways where the channel is so rich in plants and
animals, or supports species that may be so uncommon
or rare, that it is included in a site designated as being
of national or international importance for nature
conservation (Map 4.1).
Nature conservation value includes more than
just formally protected sites and species however.
Even on waterways of low or moderate value,
common species such as mute swan and heron,
or widespread groups such as dragonflies and
kingfishers, can be a significant attraction for
leisure users and give them much pleasure.
The Basingstoke Canal showing
a diverse marginal plant community
Hickling Broad is an internationally important wildlife site
and is also a navigation resource (Photo: Shorebase)
There are four key factors that both influence the value
of any waterway for wildlife and determine why some
sections are of particular importance. These are:
1. the natural habitat type;
2. water chemistry and quantity;
3. bank and channel structure;
4. boat pressure.
The first of these factors is reviewed briefly below. A more
detailed analysis of the others is given in Chapter 5 and
Chapter 6.
Waterway habitats
Many large navigable rivers of Britain retain their
importance for wildlife, despite construction of headwater
reservoirs and flood defences, as well as alterations in
their catchment run-off characteristics due to agricultural
and urban development.
But, in reality, whether a waterbody is valuable as a wildlife
habitat is little affected by its origin.
Canals, for example, are man-made channels, most no
more than a few hundred years old. For wildlife, however,
their value is that they help recreate an ancient habitat
now largely lost from lowland Britain. In the past, 2000
years and more ago, Britain’s lowland rivers were often
multi-threaded, sprawling across their floodplains to
provide a maze of slowly flowing channels with partly
connected backwaters and cut-off pools. Despite being
artificially constructed clay-lined channels, modern canals,
especially those that are abandoned or little used by boats,
happen to recreate this now uncommon slow-flowing river
habitat type very closely, even to the extent that canal
dredging mimics the natural, periodic channel scouring
of river floods.
Otters benefit from waterway connectivity
This explains why canals with good water quality can be
so important for freshwater plants and animals. Drainage,
modern agricultural practices and flood prevention
measures have changed flood plains in much of Britain
beyond recognition. Most lowland rivers are now deeper,
faster-flowing and confined to a single channel; their wide
range of floodplain channels, backwaters and pools have
been irrevocably lost. As these habitats have disappeared,
the plants and animals that evolved to use them have
become rare. This is exacerbated by the pervasive spread
of water pollution, particularly inputs of plant nutrients.
The narrow canal system, built mainly in the 18th and
19th Centuries, was probably at its richest ecologically
in the early 20th Century, after the decline of heavy
freight traffic and before the more recent increase
in use by pleasure craft.
There is a paradox then, that when man created canals
he created a refuge for species orphaned from the range
of wild river habitats that we have all but destroyed in
many parts of Britain.
Sometimes even habitats that have long been thought
of as quintessentially natural have turned out to be far
from it. Until the 1950s it was assumed that the Norfolk
Broads were natural lakes but it is now known that they
too are man-made, created by medieval peat digging
in the 12th-14th centuries and flooded at the end of that
time. Today, despite their artificial origin and modern day
problems with nutrient enrichment, these sometimes
navigable shallow lakes are unique with some supporting
a range of uncommon water plants of international
importance seen nowhere else in Britain.
The wildlife of waterway channels is reviewed in Box 4.2.
Without management, open water and eventually
all aquatic habitat may progressively be lost
in disused canals
The waterways as wildlife corridors
The waterways are wet corridors along which many
species move, sometimes aided inadvertently by boats
and anglers or even deliberately introduced.
In most river navigations, even those no longer used
by boats, the process of colonisation by reeds is limited
by flow velocities and no specific management is needed
to maintain open water habitat.
Some effects of this connectivity are positive: dredged
sections of river and canal re-colonise quickly with plants
and animals; species affected by pollution or loss of
habitat can spread easily into new areas as water and
habitat quality improves.
However, canals, drainage channels and shallow lakes
often have low flow velocities and boat movement. This
means that weed cutting or dredging may be needed to
prevent loss of open water habitat through encroachment
of emergent plants, such as reeds, across the whole
channel width. Such management may be necessary
to maintain navigation but may also be important for
maintenance of biodiversity.
It does, however, have a negative side, as it provides a rapid
dispersal route for less desirable non-native invasive
species, such as signal crayfish and floating pennywort,
which can pose real threats to native wildlife. Invasive plant
species, such as floating pennywort, can also interfere with
boat traffic by fouling propellers or even physically blocking
the waterway.
A shallow body of standing water left to its own devices will
become colonised by submerged and emergent vegetation.
With time, emergent species such as reeds and rushes
will extend across the whole water body; in the absence
of a continuing supply of water, over a longer period,
silt and decaying vegetation may replace the open water,
sometimes leading to the creation of valued habitats of fen
and wet woodland, often dominated by alder. Other trees
can eventually take over and the wet habitat may ultimately
be lost. This process is known as succession.
Canals are generally artificially lined, with artificially
constructed water feeders, so they are isolated to a large
degree from the surrounding hydrology. Therefore, on
derelict canals where water supply is not maintained,
succession often does result in loss of all aquatic and
wetland habitat, with the canal bed ending up full of trees.
Active management of canals is therefore often necessary
to maintain the aquatic and associated wetland wildlife
interest, even on disused waterways.
Box 4.2 - Waterways are important for a wide range of plants, invertebrate animals and fish, as well as water dependant mammals
Wetland plants
For convenience, plants that grow in wet
places are usually divided into three groups
that describe their preferred position in the
water: submerged, floating-leaved and
Emergent plants often dominate waterbody
edges. They include rushes, reeds, sedges,
reed grasses and the many flowering
plants that thrive in wet ground.
Submerged plants grow mainly under
water. They include pondweeds, stoneworts,
water-buttercups and water-milfoil species.
Floating plants like duckweeds and waterlilies have leaves that float on the surface.
The last two of these categories are often
combined to create a fourth: aquatic plants.
Aquatic plants
There are about 70 aquatic plant species
found on the inland waterways. Because
these plants mostly grow submerged, many
need clear water conditions to give them
enough light to survive, although floating
leaved plants are more tolerant.
On navigable waterways, one of the most
important groups is the true pondweeds
(Potamogeton species). A few high quality
canal sections are particularly important
for these plants and some pondweeds
would be very rare indeed were it not for
canals such as the Rochdale, Montgomery
and Pocklington.
Another important group is the stoneworts,
or charophytes. These are very ancient
plants, part way between algae and higher
plants. They are particularly sensitive to
nutrient pollution, so many species are
rare. Norfolk Broads such as Hickling
and Martham are critical for these plants,
which can also be found in canals.
Stoneworts often occur in the early stages
of succession after waterbody creation
or in undisturbed waters.
One plant, floating water plantain, is
protected by European legislation on three
canals – the Montgomery, Rochdale and
Cannock Extension.
Protection of rare submerged plants can
conflict with pressures for greater boat
traffic but areas of friction are uncommon.
Many waterways, especially smaller canals,
support few submerged plant species,
as the water is too polluted or disturbed
by boats. Here only a few tolerant species
may survive, including floating leaved
plants such as water lily and aliens such
as Nuttall’s pondweed.
On waterways which are wide and deep
compared with the size of boats using
them, as on many river navigations,
or where boat traffic is light, waterway
sections sometimes occur with clear water.
Here, if pollution levels are low and the
water is not too overgrown by emergent
plants, submerged species often thrive,
giving communities that are sometimes
of exceptional value. Such waterways
include some of the navigable Norfolk
Broads, some river navigations (e.g. the
Wye, Ure, Derwent) and a number of littleor non-navigated canals, often located
around the periphery of the canal system,
such as the Basingstoke Canal, which,
in the early 1990s supported almost half
the UK’s native aquatic plant species.
However, while the effects of organic
pollution have been reduced over recent
years in many of our navigable rivers, most
are still affected by excessively high levels
of plant nutrients derived from treated
sewage discharges and agricultural runoff. This tends to lead to dominance by a
few tolerant plant species, including algae,
which limits the development of diverse
aquatic plant communities.
Emergent plants
Fortunately, most marginal wetland plants
such as reeds, rushes and sedges are
more tolerant of water pollution than their
submerged cousins. Some tall mat-forming
species like reed sweet-grass are also
robust enough to withstand considerable
boat wash.
But the natural earth banks of rivers, lakes
and many canals, and even decaying stonereinforced banks, can provide a foothold for
these edge-loving species. In higher quality
sections of canals more uncommon
marginal plants are sometimes found,
such as tubular water-dropwort, tasteless
water-pepper and narrow small-reed.
There are few protected marginal plants
particularly associated with navigable
waterways. The main exception is cut
grass, a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
priority species1 that grows locally along
canals such as the Bridgwater and
Taunton Canal.
Aquatic invertebrates
Aquatic invertebrates include water
beetles, water bugs, larvae and nymphs
of dragonflies, mayflies, caddis flies,
stoneflies, alderflies, true flies, leeches,
flatworms, snails, mussels, shrimps,
crayfish, and many more.
Aquatic invertebrates of waterways
Canals and navigable rivers contrast in
the habitats they provide for invertebrates.
In still or very slowly flowing canals the
greatest variety of invertebrates is usually
found at the channel margin and amongst
submerged or marginal plants.
Few animals live in the fine, easily
disturbed sediments of the channel centre
of a typical clay lined canal. In contrast,
areas of pebbles, sand and gravel in the
bottom sediments of navigable rivers are
an important invertebrate habitat, although
even here more species live near the
channel margin than in the centre.
In both types of waterway, plants are
important for many different kinds of
invertebrates, providing shelter or food;
so waterways with abundant and diverse
vegetation are also likely to be rich in
But even for marginal plants, the bank type
is important. Waterway edges with vertical
steel piling obviously have reduced
potential for marginal plant development.
Protected species and habitats - The principal protected species and habitats associated with navigable waterways are listed in Appendix 2.
and birds.
Invertebrates of river navigations
The large navigable rivers, such as the
Thames, Severn and Nene, support rich
invertebrate communities, often including
species found only in the biggest rivers.
Special animals like the club-tail dragonfly
and rare species of mayfly, snail and caddis
fly live in the silts and fine sands and
among tree roots on the channel margin.
Of the navigable rivers, the Wye is rather
unusual: faster flowing with shingle bars.
Its special invertebrate community is
associated with exposed pebbles and
shingle along its margins, especially
craneflies and water beetles.
Canal invertebrates
The central areas of canals are usually
poor for invertebrates and, unless there
are aquatic plants there to provide shelter,
most have few animals except fly larvae
and worms. The margins are usually richer,
and their value increases for aquatic species
(particularly dragonflies, waterbugs, beetles,
snails and caddis-flies) as banks become
more natural and more vegetated. The damp
edges are also important for terrestrial
and semi-terrestrial animals. Along the
Basingstoke Canal alone about eighty-five
species of hoverfly have been recorded
and here and elsewhere a wide range of
uncommon beetles, bugs and flying insects
live in or use the damp ground and plants
on the waterway edge. Some canals also
support populations of protected species,
such as the native freshwater crayfish
(Austropotamobius pallipes) and the
depressed river mussel (Pseudanadonta
Invertebrates of navigable lakes
and broads
The navigable lakes and broads resemble
canals in having rich invertebrate
assemblages on the lake margins and
where water plants are abundant, with
generally fewer species amongst the fine
bottom sediments. In the open water,
microscopic water fleas and other
Crustacea (zooplankton) often play
an important role in keeping the water
clear by filtering algae from the water.
Protected invertebrates
Most sections of protected waterways are
notified for a range of components of the
habitat, often focussing on aquatic plants,
rather than their invertebrate communities
specifically. However, in some canal SSSIs,
invertebrates make a significant contribution
to their interest. For example, the SSSI
notifications of the Ashby and Pocklington
canals refer specifically to invertebrate
Navigable rivers, lakes, broads and canals
also support a number of invertebrate
species that are sufficiently endangered
to be protected under legislation or policy.
Most of the navigable waterway system
supports fish populations. Some river
navigations, such as the River Wye, River
Severn and River Dee, are good salmon
and trout fisheries and support rare
species such as lampreys and, in the
Wye and Severn, twaite shad.
In many river navigations, including fen
drains, non-migratory coarse fish dominate.
Species commonly found include barbel,
bream, carp, chub, gudgeon, perch, roach
tench and stickleback, with some rivers also
supporting eels, pike, grayling and brown
trout. Less common fish such as bleak,
bullhead and ruffe also occur, while the
protected spined loach is present in a few
fenland navigations.
Most canals also support coarse fish
populations, including the same coarse
fish species as the river navigations, with
the general exception of barbel. A few
canals also support populations of spined
loach. The Caledonian Canal and some
other upland canals support thriving
salmonid fish populations.
Overall, coarse fish populations have been
increasing in the rivers of England and
Wales as water quality has improved;
it is not known whether there has been
a similar general trend in the canals.
In urban areas, fish populations in the
rivers and canals are often poor, limited
by a lack of physical habitats, and
sometimes by pollution incidents.
In the waterway system, most protected
fish species are found only in a few
navigable rivers. However, eels, which
are probably quite widespread across
all the navigable waterways, were
designated a Biodiversity Action Plan
species in 2007, reflecting the large
decline that has occurred in eel
populations over recent years.
The navigable waterways are an important
part of the habitat of two protected aquatic
mammals, otters and water voles.
In addition, many bats (all of which are
protected) feed over water, including the
navigable waterways.
Other widespread mammals using the
navigable waterways include the water
shrew and, less welcome, the American
mink, an escapee from fur farms, which
has helped to decimate water vole
populations in many areas of Britain.
Birds are some of the most visible animals
on the waterway system. The most commonly
seen are waterbirds such as herons, mute
swans, mallards, coots and moorhens,
while sedge warblers and the elusive
kingfisher are also widespread on the
navigable waterways in England. However,
a variety of other species breed in some
locations including little and great-crested
grebes and grey wagtails.
The Broads are particularly important
for over-wintering waterfowl, several
of its shallow lakes being designated
under national or European legislation.
With the exception of game birds and some
waterfowl outside the closed season, and
species covered by open general licences
issued for control of nuisance species,
British birds are protected under national
legislation. In addition, the kingfisher
is specially protected under Schedule
1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act,
making it an offence to disturb this
species during the breeding season.
More information on their status, ecology and management requirements is given in Appendix 3.
Table 4.1
Wildlife site designations
Designation under/by
Relevance to waterway management
Ramsar site
The Convention on Wetlands of International
Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat
(Ramsar, Iran, 1971, as amended). Sites
are listed by UK Government to protect
valued wetlands.
These sites are protected under the Habitats Regulations (S.I.
1994:2716, as amended). This means that before permitting
any plan or project which is likely to have a significant effect
on the site and is not directly connected with or necessary
to the management of the site, the competent authority must
carry out an ‘appropriate assessment’ of the implications for
the site. Plans or projects which will have an adverse effect
on the conservation objectives may only be allowed where
there is no alternative and there are ‘imperative reasons
of overriding public interest (IROPI).
Special Area for
EU Habitats Directive (79/409/EEC). Sites
are recommended by the UK Government
and designated by the EC to protect habitats
and (non-bird) species listed in Annex I and
Annex II of the Directive.
Special Protection
EU Birds Directive (92/43/EEC as amended).
Sites are classified by UK Government on
the basis of agreed criteria on their bird
Site of Special
Scientific Interest
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
(as amended by the Countryside and Rights
of Way (CROW) Act 2000 (in England and
Wales) and the Nature Conservation
(Scotland) Act 2004 (in Scotland)). Sites are
notified by Natural England, Scottish Natural
Heritage or the Countryside Council for
Wales on the basis of published criteria
(NCC, 1989), using county-level areas
of search.
Sites (based on biological or geological interest) are notified
by the statutory nature conservation agency (Natural England,
CCW, and SNH). Protection is mainly through a requirement
to obtain consent for any of the ‘operations likely to damage’
(OLD) listed in the citation. Certain statutory bodies do not
require consent but must consult the conservation agency
and request assent.
National Park
National Parks and Access to the
Countryside Act 1949, National Parks
(Scotland) Act 2000. National Parks are
designated by the UK and Scottish
National Parks are designated for the conservation and
enhancement of the natural beauty and cultural heritage
and promotion of public enjoyment of the area, while having
regard for the social and economic wellbeing of the local
population. This is reflected in the application of planning
policies. Several waterways run through National Parks.
National Nature
National Parks and Access to the
Countryside Act 1949 or Wildlife and
Countryside Act 1981. Declared by the UK
and Scottish Governments, where SSSI are
regarded as being of national importance.
NNRs are managed primarily for nature conservation,
usually by the statutory nature conservation agency
(NE, CCW, and SNH). A few canals and a number
or river navigations lie within NNRs.
Areas of Outstanding
Scenic Areas
National Parks and Access to the
Countryside Act 1949 (in England and
Wales) (as amended by the Environment
Act 1995 and the CROW Act 2000). Scottish
Development Department Circular 20/1980
(in Scotland).
AONB and NSA are designated on account of their
outstanding natural beauty and this is protected through
policy and the planning system. Where an AONB has
a Conservation Board, the Board has an additional purpose
to increase public understanding and enjoyment of the
special qualities of the area. Several waterways run
through AONB but there is little interaction with NSA.
Local Nature Reserve
National Parks and Access to the
Countryside Act 1949. Sites are designated
by local authorities after consultation with
the statutory nature conservation agency.
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are places with wildlife
or geological features that are of special interest locally.
A key feature is that they offer people special opportunities
to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it.
County Wildlife Site
Various CWS, SINC,
Local planning authority Local Plan policies.
Sites are identified by local authorities,
often on the advice of local wildlife trusts.
Many waterways are identified as County Wildlife Sites;
the protection of the wildlife interest of these sites must be
taken into account by planning authorities in their decisions.
Note that these inland sites are all also sites of special
scientific interest (SSSIs) and also receive the protection
detailed below.
Nature conservation: policies and legislation
Sections of waterways which support critically important
habitats, communities or species can be protected by
statutory and non-statutory designations as described
in Table 4.1. Waterways may receive this protection for
the nature conservation value of the channel itself, or for
associated features including the floodplain of navigable
rivers and, for the canal system, feeder reservoirs and
bat roosts.
Overall, only a very small proportion (about 8.5%, of which
1.5% relates to the River Wye alone) of the navigable
channels of the currently navigable non-tidal or partially
tidal waterway system is included in sites designated as
being of national or international importance for wildlife.
However, this is not a constant picture. Occasionally,
waterway SSSIs lose their special interest, for example
reed warblers on the River Avon (Warwickshire), and
are recommended for denotification.
UK and Scottish Government policy is to maintain or,
where necessary, restore SSSIs to favourable conservation
status. However, a few SSSIs on very busy waterways have
never reached and are unlikely ever to reach favourable
conservation status for all their cited features, having been
notified before this concept was formalised. IWAC supports
the continuing review of such sites by the conservation
agencies and exploration of all options for achieving the
intended nature conservation benefits, with denotification
if there is no realistic prospect of realising such benefits.
In Britain, the navigable (or partially navigable) waterway
system currently has (Map 4.1):
• 26 sites of international importance (SAC, SPA and
Ramsar), which include the navigable channel; and
• about 48 biological sites of special scientific interest
(SSSIs) which are notified at least partly because of the
value of the navigable channel or its wet margins.
Sites may also have quasi-legal protection if they are
identified by local planning authorities as being of local
nature conservation importance (e.g. County Wildlife Sites),
and this may be material to decisions on individual
planning applications. A range of non-statutory nature
reserves is also established and managed by nongovernmental organisations such as The Wildlife Trusts.
Further detail on legislation is given in Appendix 1.
Statutory obligations and policy
As part of their statutory obligations all public bodies,
including the EA, Broads Authority and BW, have a
responsibility to further nature conservation in carrying
out their own functions. For waterway-associated bodies,
these duties need, however, to be balanced with duties
relating to navigation.
The ratification by the UK of the Convention on Biological
Diversity in 1994 placed a duty on the UK Government
to promote sustainable development and encouraged
the development of national biodiversity action plans.
This led to the development of national species and habitat
action plans under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, as well
as local Biodiversity Action Plans. In line with this aim,
BW is currently aiming to develop Biodiversity and Heritage
Action Plans for all their waterways, to help evaluate and
manage the natural and cultural resources of their inland
waterways in a consistent manner. For the navigable rivers,
the relevant national and local habitat and species action
plans (HAPs and SAPs) are applied.
The recently published Planning Policy Statement 9:
Biodiversity and Geological Conservation (PPS9) in England
takes this one step further by recognising the importance
of biodiversity in sustainable development and in the
context of rural renewal and urban renaissance. PPS9
is particularly relevant to waterway restoration.
There are many additional sites notified as SSSIs alongside
waterways, some managed by navigation authorities, which
are not considered here because they do not include the
waterway channel or are notified solely for their geological
Built-up area
National boundary
Internationally designated
Nationally designated
site - SSSI
South Laggan Fen
Branch Canal
Narrow Canal
River Hull
Pocklington Canal
Leven Canal
Melbourne &
Thornton Ings
Map 4.1 Internationally and nationally protected sites of the inland waterways
River Dee &
Bala Lake
Montgomery Canal,
Aston LocksKeeper's Bridge
River Dee
Cromford Canal
Prees Branch
Grantham Canal
Marsh & Canal
The Broads
Stallode Wash
Cam Wash
Old River Severn,
Upper Lode
River Wye / Afon Gwy
Ashby Canal
Nene Washes
Kilby-Foxton Canal
Extension Alvecote
a. Broad Fen, Dilham
(North Walsham & Dilham Canal)
b. Ant Broads and Marshes
c. Upper Thurne Broads and Marshes
d. Bure Broads and Marshes
e. Yare Broads and Marshes
f. Breydon Water
Coombe Hill
60 Miles
100 Kilometres
River Kennet
Reed Beds
Dunsdon Farm
Exe Estuary
© GEOprojects 2003
Biological SSSIs which include the navigation
channel (or a section of it) of a non-tidal or
partially tidal inland waterway
(Ashton Canal)
(Wyrley & Essington Canal)
Chesterfield Canal SSSI
Dullatur Marsh SSSI
(Forth & Clyde Canal)
River Dee SSSI
Alvecote Pools SSSI
(Coventry Canal)
Pocklington Canal SSSI
Melbourne & Thornton Ings SSSI (Pocklington
Cromford Canal SSSI
Prees Branch Canal SSSI
(Ellesmere (Llangollen) Canal)
Derwent Ings SSSI
(Pocklington Canal and River Derwent)
Fenn’s, Whixall, Bettisfield, Wem and Cadney
(Ellesmere (Llangollen) Canal)
River Derwent SSSI
(River Derwent and Pocklington Canal)
Montgomery Canal Aston Locks to Keeper’s
Bridge SSSI
River Hull Headwaters SSSI
(Driffield Navigation)
Montgomery Canal SSSI
Stallode Wash, Lakenheath SSSI
(River Little Ouse0
Cam Washes SSSI
Ashby Canal SSSI
Wicken Fen SSSI (Wicken Lode)
Kilby to Foxton Canal SSSI
(Grand Union Canal)
Cattawade Marshes SSSI
(River Stour)
Broad Fen, Dilham SSSI
(North Walsham & Dilham Canal)
River Wye SSSI
Ant Broads and Marshes SSSI
Upper Thurne Broads and Marshes SSSI
Bure Broads and Marshes SSSI
Old River Severn Upper Lode SSSI
Coombe Hill Canal SSSI
River Kennet SSSI
Yare Broads and Marshes SSSI
Thatcham Reed Beds SSSI
(Kennet & Avon Canal)
Leven Canal SSSI
Newport Canal SSSI (Shropshire Union
Newport Branch Canal)
Breydon Water SSSI
Basingstoke Canal SSSI
Leeds& Liverpool Canal SSSI
Grantham Canal SSSI
Wadenhoe Marsh & Achurch Meadow SSSI
(River Nene)
Walland Marsh SSSI
(Royal Military Canal)
Rochdale Canal SSSI
Kinoulton Marsh & Canal SSSI (Grantham
Huddersfield Narrow Canal SSSI (Huddersfield
Narrow and Ashton Canals)
Nene Washes Whittlesey SSSI
(River Nene)
Dunsdon Farm SSSI
(Bude Canal)
Cannock Extension Canal SSSI
Hollinwood Branch Canal SSSI
Chasewater Heaths SSSI
Ouse Washes SSSI
(Old Bedford River)
Exe Estuary SSSI
(Exeter Ship Canal)
Non-tidal or partially tidal inland waterways
where the navigation channel (or a section of
it) is part of one or more European Wildlife
Pocklington Canal (SAC, SPA/Ramsar)
River Derwent (Yorkshire) (SAC, SPA/Ramsar)
Rochdale Canal (SAC)
River Dee (Cheshire) (SAC)
SUC Welsh Branch (Llangollen Canal) (SAC,
Montgomery Canal (Wales) (SAC)
Cannock Extension Canal (SAC)
Rivers Wye and Lugg (SAC)
River Ant and Broads
(The Broads SAC, Broadland SPA/Ramsar)
Broads associated with Rivers Yare, Bure,
(The Broads SAC, Broadland SPA/Ramsar)
Breydon Water (River Yare) (SPA/Ramsar)
River Nene (SPA/Ramsar)
Old Bedford River (SAC, SPA/Ramsar)
Wicken Lode (SAC, Ramsar)
River Stour (Essex) (SPA/Ramsar)
Bude Canal (SAC)
Nature conservation in the context of waterway
restoration and development
Reviews of major waterway restoration projects in England,
Scotland and Wales were carried out by IWAAC in 1998
and 2001 and a further update was published in 2007.
In total, more than 100 waterways restoration and
development projects were identified as in progress
or recently completed in Britain, ranging from the repair
of specific heritage structures such as the Anderton
Boat Lift (Cheshire) to the restoration of major lengths
of derelict canals and the development of wholly new
Conflicts with nature conservation are often most acute
in restoration schemes, both as a result of the restoration
works and the subsequent use of the waterway, as many
derelict waterways have developed valued aquatic
biological communities. Mitigation measures aimed
at reducing adverse impacts on wildlife can sometimes
limit the use of the waterway for recreation and amenity
purposes. In other cases, restoration projects may benefit
both navigation and wildlife, as in the restoration and
agreed management of Barton Broad.
As with most types of development, the recent strengthening
of nature conservation and water environment legislation
has had major implications for waterway restoration and
development. This is particularly so for those waterways
designated under national and EU legislation and for
undesignated lengths which support protected species,
where the need to comply with wildlife legislation may
impose additional requirements on restoration or
management proposals.
Examples of waterways where nature conservation has
been or is a key consideration for restoration or waterway
management include:
• Basingstoke Canal (SSSI);
• Montgomery Canal (SAC and SSSI);
• Rochdale Canal (SAC and SSSI);
• The Broads (Ramsar, SAC, SPA and SSSIs);
(see Appendix 5, Case Studies, for more details).
The development of local Biodiversity Action Plans,
Biodiversity and Heritage Action Plans and of web based
information on species and habitats (e.g. NBN Gateway
and FreshwaterLife websites), together with the availability
of more general information on how to develop restoration
projects in partnership with local wildlife organisations,
now provides a good framework for future waterway
project promoters.
The increased level of protection for wildlife and the
recognition of the wider benefits of creating a waterway
that supports a diverse ecology mean that it is more
important now that waterway restoration scheme
promoters should:
• include environmental and biodiversity issues from
the start of project planning;
• consult widely at an early stage with statutory and
non-statutory nature conservation organisations
and stakeholders.
Non-navigation factors
that affect waterway
nature conservation value
The influence of navigation on the nature conservation
value of waterways is considered in the next chapter.
However, boat use and waterway management for
navigation are not the only factors that can affect
this value.
Hydrology, channel characteristics, water quality, fish
stocking, tree shade and the presence of alien species
are all important, and may be dominant in shaping aquatic
wildlife communities. These factors must be taken into
account in determining how best to balance the needs
of navigation and wildlife on a particular waterway.
The wider context
It can be difficult to determine any causal relationships
between navigation and wildlife on a waterway without
first understanding the wider context of the waterway’s
geography, its hydrological catchment and other uses
for which it is managed. Many other factors, natural and
anthropogenic (man-made), can affect the aquatic biological
communities that are supported and their nature
conservation value, including the physical and hydrological
characteristics of the waterway, the quality of the water,
fisheries management and presence of invasive plants.
In many cases, the influence on wildlife of these factors
may be similar to the effects of boat use and this must be
recognised when determining the main factors influencing
the waterway’s ecological status.
The natural hydrology of rivers and lakes determines the
type of plant and animal communities they support. Faster
flowing water supports species with higher demands for
oxygen, a need for substrates with a high proportion of sand,
gravel and boulders, and a natural tolerance of physical
disturbance from floods.
Flooding on some rivers is important for maintenance of
nature conservation interest in floodplain water meadows
and some riverside pits, a number of which are SSSIs.
However, these areas are not usually affected by navigation,
so are not considered further in this report.
Canals are hydrologically similar to natural slow flowing
floodplain river channels. A major difference is that such
river channels are part of the same hydrological system
as the main river, being linked through surface connections
or through shallow groundwaters in gravels or chalk.
In contrast, canals are usually lined with clay and supplied
with water from specific (sometimes remote) sources,
although most do receive local drainage inputs as well.
In canals, plants and animals present depend less on high
oxygen concentrations but need still or slowly moving water
through their main growing seasons.
Lakes lie somewhere between these two hydrological
extremes for rivers and canals. Wind and wave action create
well-oxygenated water and wave effects on shorelines which
may produce clean sands and gravels at the lake margin,
whilst silty substrates dominate in deeper areas.
Changes to hydrology which alter natural patterns, such
as over-abstraction or impoundment of rivers, may change
the nature conservation value of rivers.
Flood flows can be an important part of the natural annual
cycle in river navigations, sweeping away much of the aquatic
vegetation each winter. Floods scour soft sediment from
the river bed, tending to restore a more natural channel.
This is a process which may be beneficial to navigation and
wildlife, although heavy rain also washes soil into rivers.
However, flood flows also erode banks, which may not
be so welcome to navigation users or riparian landowners;
floods can also leave sand and silt bars across the exits
from lock cuts, which may hinder navigation.
Flood flows in rivers can result in transport of large quantities of silt, as evidenced by the high levels
of turbidity seen here in the River Avon at Warwick
Successful waterway management which maximises benefits
to wildlife depends on a good hydrological understanding of
the waterway and, in the case of a canal, its water feeders.
Maintaining a sufficient supply of water for navigation and
wildlife is a problem on some waterways, particularly canals.
Under the Water Act 2003 and the Water Environment and
Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003, some water abstractions
for waterways are now covered by the licensing regimes
operated by EA and SEPA; stricter regulation may ensue
in areas where natural rivers are deemed to be
Physical habitat modifications
A range of activities not related to navigation affects the
physical habitat quality of rivers, canals and lakes. Some
of these activities reduce their nature conservation value.
On rivers, the most significant early influence was typically
impoundment by weirs to power mills. On navigable
waterways, most such impoundments became part of the
waterway infrastructure and this aspect is dealt with in the
next chapter.
Many rivers have also been physically modified by drainage
works and flood defence engineering, undertaken to drain
agricultural land and protect property from flooding. The
effect has been to turn some rivers into drains: straightened,
over-deepened channels, in which natural blockages such
as debris dams (which help diversify the shape and
hydrodynamics of natural channels) are rigorously
removed. In urban areas, river-banks are often almost
entirely artificial, with little natural vegetation.
Canals are, of course, man-made waterways, with their
physical characteristics largely determined during their
construction. The typical canal pattern with a towpath
bordering one margin often leaves a more natural off-side
bank which may be reed-fringed, cattle poached or
occasionally graded into wet woodland. In urban areas,
canal edges are often reinforced by less sympathetic
vertical stone or brick walls and the offside is often
bordered directly by buildings.
Navigable lakes, because of their size, generally suffer
fewer physical manipulations than other waterways.
However, where they border urban areas, these too often
have bank areas that are highly modified and sometimes
artificially reinforced.
Water and sediment quality
Natural waters exhibit a variety of water chemistry ranging
from the ‘hard’ waters of chalk and limestone catchments
to the softer waters of igneous, sandstone and organic
catchments. The water quality of rivers is largely a function
of the geology of the natural catchment, on which is
superimposed the influence of pollutants, mainly of human
In contrast, the basic water chemistry of canals is
determined by the sources and the amount of feed water
taken, which may be from outside the surrounding natural
catchment or via pumped groundwater. Thus canal water
quality can be influenced by the way its water resources
are managed, so the water quality in a canal may be
markedly different from the water quality in surrounding
natural watercourses, although it can also be affected
significantly by land drainage inputs. Again the effects
of pollution entering the canal are superimposed on other
factors which determine the basic water quality.
Sediments, particularly fine organic silts typical of canals
and slow flowing waterways, can act as a sink for
pollutants. These can have direct effects on animals
living in the sediment and, if conditions change, may
be re-released into the water column.
Along with hydrological, physical and climatic factors, the
basic water chemistry is highly important in determining
the type of ecological communities expected to be present
in a waterway in the absence of pollution or disturbance
by boats.
Table 5.1
Major pollutant types impacting navigable waterways
Biological Impact
Nutrients (especially
nitrogen and phosphorus)
Agriculture (livestock,
inorganic fertilisers),
treated sewage effluent,
septic tanks, detergents,
industrial discharges.
High levels of nutrients in water can lead to eutrophication, a condition
where a few tolerant species of plant produce excessive growth and
reach nuisance proportions but where species diversity is greatly reduced.
Ultimately higher (flowering) aquatic plants are lost completely with
knock-on effects for the many animal species that depend on them
for food and habitat. As these plants are lost, algae begin to dominate
waterways (typically filamentous species in flowing water and planktonic
species in still water). This can create water quality problems for fish
and other animals if algal blooms deoxygenate the water and cause
fluctuations in its pH. In general, annual mean phosphorus levels in the
waterways should not exceed 100 μgl-1 total phosphorus (TP) for naturally
eutrophic systems and 35 μgl-1 TP for mesotrophic systems. Above these
levels, biological damage becomes progressively more likely.
Heavy metals and other
toxic chemical
Urban: industrial effluent,
urban run-off, sewage
Rural: mining and farming
including agricultural runoff, pesticides and
veterinary medicines.
Such toxins produce a wide range of lethal and chronic effects on fish,
invertebrates and, in some cases, plants. These include death of sensitive
species, adverse behavioural changes, deformity, loss of reproductive
ability and reduced viability of young.
Organic matter
Sewage works, septic tanks,
livestock waste, sediments
from agriculture and urban
areas, algal blooms from
eutrophicated waters.
Reduction in oxygen levels and an increase in ammonia concentrations
can cause fish deaths and reduce the diversity and abundance of fish and
invertebrate communities, particularly in running waters, where biological
communities have a requirement for higher natural oxygen levels.
Agriculture (e.g. ploughing,
over grazing), channel bank
Increased water turbidity can cause declines in aquatic plants.
Sedimentation can swamp fish spawning grounds and habitats for
juveniles along lake edges and in river gravels. Sediments can also
carry nutrients, especially phosphorus.
Oils, petroleum
Urban, road and industrial
run-off, boat fuel spills and
bilge water discharge.
Oils can be harmful to fish and some invertebrates. This is most likely
to be an issue in enclosed marinas and on urban canals.
The ecological quality of much of the waterway system is
degraded by pollutants. Boat movements can add to these
water quality problems (see below), but if boat traffic were
to cease, all but a small minority of waterways would still
show some evidence of ecological damage as a result of
poor water quality. Waterway pollutants derive from many
sources and have a wide range of biological effects which
are summarised, in very general terms, in Table 5.1.
The adverse effects of nutrient pollution (eutrophication)
are particularly pervasive across the waterway system
contributing, for example, to widespread loss of submerged
plant communities in navigable lakes such as the Norfolk
Broads. Eutrophication is rarely mentioned as an issue
in large navigable rivers but historic records for nutrientintolerant plant species in rivers, such as the Thames, and
results of routine nutrient monitoring by the Environment
Agency suggest that most large navigable rivers in England
are widely degraded as a result of nutrient enrichment.
It is estimated that over two thirds of lowland streams and
rivers have phosphate levels above the thresholds likely
to cause ecological damage (Defra 2003,
Table 5.1).
While there are currently no comprehensive data that describe
the extent of eutrophication effects in British canals, reference
to phosphate monitoring by the environment agencies (EA and
SEPA) shows that canals exhibit a wide range of nutrient levels.
While a few canals which receive treated sewage effluent are
categorised as having excessively high phosphorus levels, many
are categorised as having low concentrations. In lowland and
urban areas, canals are often less polluted by nutrients than
the surrounding natural watercourses.
The sources of nutrient pollution are relatively well known with
approximately 50% of phosphorus and 70% of nitrogen derived
from farming and the remainder from industry and human and
household wastes, mainly the treated effluents from sewage
works. Overall, both phosphorus and nitrogen levels in water
have continued to increase over the last 30 years (Eaton 1989
et al, Defra 2003). In some locations, such as the Broads,
the introduction of phosphate stripping at sewage works and
other measures has helped to reduce input levels.
A second major contaminant of navigable rivers, canals and
lakes is organic matter derived mainly from treated domestic
sewage and some industrial effluents. As it decomposes in the
water, organic matter uses up oxygen and produces ammonia.
In extreme situations this can result in fish and invertebrate
kills. At lower levels it reduces invertebrate diversity, particularly
in rivers where the invertebrate and fish fauna are adapted
to naturally higher levels of oxygen.
Urban waterways often have highly reinforced banks and some are
impacted by a cocktail of pollutants. Both reduce their ability to
support rich wildlife communities
The alien floating pennywort can out-compete other species
and almost block waterways, as here on the Chelmer and
Blackwater Navigation
Roughly 25% of the river system as a whole has levels of
organic matter (sanitary) pollution likely to cause harm to
aquatic life (Defra 2003). Navigable rivers in England and
Wales range in organic water quality from very good (for
example, in the Rivers Wye, Ure and Derwent) to poor in several
fenland waterways, according to the Environment Agency’s
general quality assessment. Canals show a slightly worse
range of quality from good to poor, although the Caledonian
Canal and its lakes show excellent quality throughout.
The Water Framework Directive, currently being implemented,
will for the first time set ecological quality targets for all
surface water bodies and will define programmes of measures
to achieve these. A partnership approach will be essential
for successful delivery. Implementation will require greater
consideration of ecological quality and collection of better
data than hitherto. While there are still issues to be resolved
regarding setting objectives on navigable waterways and
concerns about implications for waterway restoration,
the Directive should contribute towards reduction of adverse
effects of nutrient pollution and other factors on the wildlife
conservation value of our waterways, and will deliver benefits
for all.
Urban waterways have long been subject to particular pollution
pressures. Before the 20th century this was principally from
untreated sewage and industrial sources, followed over the last
200 years by a vast range of chemicals associated with modern
living. Today, with better pollution control, these waterways
are slowly improving in quality. But many still receive inputs
that range from the controlled discharges of industrial waste
products to the everyday water that runs off the streets. These
carry a cocktail of materials from our urban and transport
infrastructure: metals, nutrients, pesticides, oils, organic
matter and pathogens, a mixture that together can be as
polluting as untreated sewage (Table 5.1).
Water quality is therefore a major factor influencing the wildlife
value of waterways. Nutrient pollution is probably the most
important issue. On canals, there are sometimes opportunities
to improve water quality by better management of the water
sources used, although availability of alternative sources is
often very limited.
It is therefore essential to ensure that adequate data are
available on water quality and that this information is taken into
account in developing management prescriptions to achieve the
best balance between navigation and wildlife interests.
Fishery management
As well as effects from water pollution and physical changes
to habitat, such as weirs blocking the movement of migratory
fish, natural fish populations are sometimes heavily modified
by artificial stocking for angling purposes. Increased
populations of fish, particularly non-indigenous species, can
have a significant impact on other elements of the ecosystem
by increases in the predation on other fish and invertebrates,
the grazing of aquatic plants and bed disturbance. The
introduction of bottom-feeding fish such as carp can result
in increases in suspended silt and uprooting of vegetation.
The practice of angling can also result in direct effects on flora
and fauna as a result of pike removal, ground baiting and
clearing of swims and bankside vegetation for ease of access.
Invasive species
A number of invasive alien plant and animal species can
cause problems for native wildlife on navigated waterways.
Amongst the most easily visible are floating plants such
as least duckweed, floating pennywort, parrot’s feather
and water fern. These surface-covering plants can spread
over the water, shading out the submerged plants beneath
and reducing the waterway value for invertebrates, fish
and birds and sometimes almost blocking the waterway
to navigation. Other alien plants such as New Zealand
pygmyweed (Crassula helmsii) cause problems by
squeezing-out native plants both along damp edges
and in the water.
Trees can be a mixed blessing: they can create cool areas
for fish and habitats for white-clawed crayfish but they can
also shade out water plants
Once established, all these nuisance plants can be difficult
to eradicate and British Waterways and others have spent
much time and effort seeking to reduce their abundance.
With other alien species the negative impact may be less
visible to the naked eye but can be just as pervasive. On all
but a few waterways our native white-clawed crayfish has
now been eliminated by the spread of non-native crayfish particularly signal crayfish which carry a highly virulent
fungal disease, crayfish plague. Mink have helped to
sharply reduce native water vole populations, whilst on
turbid, heavily trafficked canals the highly predaceous
zander (pike-perch) can have a significant negative impact
on the populations of small fish, such as roach and
The interconnectivity of the waterway system provides
routes by which alien species can spread, either naturally
or assisted by operational use such as water transfer and
boat movement. For example, the spread of the zebra
mussel, which is a major nuisance in water supply
systems, has been linked to boat movements. Other
invasive and harmful animal species on our waterways
include red-eared terrapins, which take waterfowl eggs
and are a nuisance locally, and the Chinese mitten crab,
which migrates into freshwater areas and damages banks.
In rivers, and some navigable lakes, trees are generally
viewed more positively. Their shade usually only extends
across a small proportion of the channel width and again
creates shelter for fish and a source of leaf detritus food
for many invertebrate species and their fish predators;
however, it can cause the decline of marginal plants.
Trees also provide a means of increasing bank stability
in floods through the binding power of tree roots and,
in some cases, a source of wood for natural debris
dams in the channel, providing an important habitat
for invertebrates and a refuge and food resource for fish
(Gregory et al. 2003). However, tree growth in engineered
structures such as embankments and masonry may also
cause damage and potentially failure of the structure.
Overhanging trees can represent a serious hazard for boat
users and can reduce the value of waterways used for
sailing by blocking the wind.
Responsibility for management of trees overhanging
waterways usually lies with the riparian owner, which
may not be the navigation authority. This sometimes
imposes a limitation on the deliverability of wildlife
or navigation benefits.
Trees and shade
Current attitudes to trees and shade from both trees and
buildings) often differ between canal and river managers.
On canals and some lowland rivers, tree shade is often
viewed as a problem. In high quality canals like the
Basingstoke Canal, trees have shaded-out the margins
and central water areas, leading to the decline of
important aquatic and marginal plant communities and
their associated invertebrate fauna. The loss of marginal
reeds by over-shading can also reduce the potential for
these plant fringes to give natural bank protection from
boat traffic, thus adding to overall levels of stress on the
aquatic biota. Although it is recognised that trees are
a valued part of the landscape and offer refuge and shade
for fish in hot weather, the accumulation of dead leaves
may also partly deoxygenate the water column and add
to siltation rates (Eaton 1996).
Key information sources
EA website (What's in my backyard?):
SEPA website:
WFD website:
Floating water plantain spread eastwards through the canal
system in the 19th Century from its 'core' natural habitat
in the lakes of Snowdonia and mid-Wales
Waterbody location and history
It is worth noting that the conservation value of artificial
waterways in particular depends, in part, on accidents
of location. The best-known example of this is the
Basingstoke Canal, which partly owes its exceptional
biological diversity to the occurrence of an unusual pH
gradient along the canal, from alkaline to acid as it flows
downstream, giving water conditions suitable for a wide
range of species.
The potential for colonisation from other wetlands can also
be fundamental to waterway value. The Basingstoke Canal,
for example, has benefited from the proximity of both the
acid pools and wetlands of the Surrey and Hampshire
heaths and the lime rich springs emerging from below
the chalk in the Greywell area. Similarly, genetic studies
suggest that populations of the rare floating water plantain
spread eastwards though the canal system in the
nineteenth century from its ‘core’ natural habitat in the
lakes of Snowdonia and mid-Wales. The Norfolk Broads,
created by peat digging in the 12th to 14th centuries, owe
much of their exceptional value to their location within the
ancient coastal wetland expanses of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Floating water plantain spread eastwards though the canal
system in the 19th Century from its ‘core’ natural habitat
in the lakes of Snowdonia and mid-Wales
Climate change
There are clear indications that the climate is changing,
with temperatures increasing, sea levels rising and a trend
towards greater storminess and higher winter rainfall all
leading to more frequent floods. Drier summers, combined
with an increasing demand for water generally, may reduce
summer flows in navigable rivers, especially in the south
and east. This can affect aquatic ecology through lowering
of water levels, where these are not retained by weirs, by
reducing water velocities and by reducing dilution available
for effluent discharges. Lower river flows may also result
in less water being available to supply canals.
Sea level rise is a particular concern in relation to The
Broads, as increased inland penetration of saline water
may threaten sites of international nature conservation
value and any breach of coastal defences could similarly
damage the upper reaches of some river catchments and
their associated broads.
Influence of navigation
on aquatic wildlife
Broadly, the effects of navigation on aquatic waterway
wildlife can be divided into adverse or beneficial impacts
that result:
• directly from the movement of boats (e.g. physical
damage to plants, the creation of high turbidity,
the maintenance of open water habitat), or
• indirectly from the design and maintenance of navigation
infrastructure (e.g. dredging, bank protection).
This chapter aims to explain the ways in which the use of
boats and waterway design and maintenance can influence
aquatic nature conservation value.
We have established above how wildlife value of navigable
waterways can be affected by a range of factors other than
navigation. However, this report is mainly concerned with
balancing navigation activity and nature conservation.
We need therefore to understand the mechanisms by
which navigation use can affect nature conservation
value, so we can select the most appropriate management
regime to ensure navigation is sustainable.
Use of waterways by motorised boats, in particular, can
lead to significant effects on aquatic wildlife. For a given
boat and boat speed, the larger the channel cross-section
the lower will be the physical interaction between boat
movement and wildlife receptors on the bed and at the
edge of the channel. Thus the effects of boat movement
on aquatic wildlife vary in magnitude according to the type
of waterway and the types of boat in use, with the greatest
potential for effects on narrow canals of the English
midlands and a much reduced potential on larger
waterways, especially the navigable rivers (Box 6.1).
There is considerable evidence which shows that powered
boats can have a wide range of undesirable impacts on the
wildlife of some navigable waterways. Depending on other
stress factors present, these effects may begin at low
traffic densities particularly on small waterways where
the channel is very restricted for the boats typically in use.
Some navigation related activities have a positive effect
on waterway wildlife, provided they are carried out
appropriately. Dredging, for example, is sometimes
essential to arrest succession and help maintain high
quality submerged plant communities in canals.
Box 6.1 Canals and rivers
Narrow canal (English midlands):
Typical channel cross-section is around 11.5m2
(Willby & Eaton, 2004). Wetted cross-section
of a typical narrow boat using the canal is about
1.6m2. This gives a ratio of 7 to1 between channel
and boat cross-sections. Also the depth below the
propeller may be less than 0.5m.
Mid-reaches of the non-tidal Thames:
Typical channel cross-section is 350m2. Many boats
using the river are from the narrow canal system
but even larger river cruisers are typically of no
more than 5m2 wetted cross-section amidships.
Thus the minimum ratio in this case is about 70
to 1 between channel and boat cross-sections.
Depth below the propeller is typically greater
than 3m.
Note that effects also depend on boat speeds,
which are higher on the Thames than on a narrow
canal (typically by a factor of 1.5 to 2 times), and
on the fact that plant growth in deeper water
is limited by attenuation of light through the
water column.
Effects of motorised boat movement
Boat movements influence the biota of navigable
channels by:
• hydrodynamic impacts, including currents and waves;
• the re-suspension of bottom sediments;
• physical contact and entrainment (e.g. propellers
cutting plants).
These forms of impact are well studied but hydrodynamic
effects, in particular, are complex (Box 6.2) (Verheij, 2006)
and effects depend on many variables including channel
size and profile, boat dimensions, stability of bed materials,
bank type, vessel speed and the design of the craft. This
said, a number of generalisations can be made about the
type and magnitude of impacts, which are summarised
in Tables 6.1 and 6.2.
Box 6.2
Mechanisms by which boat movement can affect wildlife in waterways.
Boat movement on the River Avon does not result
in high turbidity
A boat moving in a channel causes a primary
wave in the direction of travel, with the
surface water level raised in front of the
bow, pulled down somewhere in the middle
of the boat and raised behind the stern,
resulting in temporary drawdown of water
level at the bank.
It also causes secondary waves, similar
to wind waves, which start at the bow and
stern and travel towards the bank. These
too cause undulating water levels at the
bank and can cause significant erosion
and even bank failure if they are big enough
to form a breaking wave at the bank. Fine
eroded material is then distributed across
the river bed. Wave generation is a function
of the boat size, shape and speed and
channel size (cross-section).
Waves put stress on underwater vegetation
and breaking waves can uproot marginal
The shape and amplitude of waves are
very dependent on boat size and shape:
for boats of the same beam moving at the
same speed, shorter craft will often create
greater breaking wave wash at the bank.
Return currents
The water displaced by a boat as it moves
forwards has to move to fill in the ‘hole’
in the water left behind the boat, resulting
in ‘return’ or ‘reverse’ currents running
in the opposite direction to movement
of the boat. The smaller the gap around
the boat, the faster are these currents.
The Worcester and Birmingham Canal (a narrow canal)
is very turbid due to boat movements in a narrow,
shallow channel
Thus the speed of return currents depends
mainly on the ratio between the boat
cross-section and the waterway crosssection and the boat speed. Average
return currents for typical recreational
craft on a narrow canal will be typically
5 to 7 times higher than on a larger river
navigation (Box 6.1). For a particular
navigation, and boat speed, larger and
deeper draughted boats result in higher
return currents.
Propeller jets
Propellers produce a conical jet of turbulent
water behind the vessel when it is under
power, which can be the major cause
of re-suspension of bed sediments. The
impact is largely a function of waterway
depth, power applied, boat speed and
stern gear design. Impacts are greatly
reduced where there is a greater depth
of water below the bottom of the boat
hull. The effects are exacerbated by the
drawdown of the stern of a boat under
power (stern squat), bringing the propeller
closer to the bed.
Direct effects
Physical contact between boat hulls and,
particularly, propellers and submerged
or emergent vegetation can clearly cause
physical damage to vegetation. Again the
magnitude of the effect depends in
general on the size of the boat in relation
to the size of the channel.
Waves, return currents, contact with the
bed and propeller jets can all cause
suspension of bed sediments into the
water column, loosening roots of plants
and causing the water to become very
turbid. This turbidity and deposition of
sediment on plant leaves restricts light
penetration, thus reducing or eliminating
submerged plant growth. Nutrients and
toxic contaminants may also be released
to the water column.
As well as the characteristics of the boat,
its speed and channel dimensions, the
nature of the waterway bed is an
important factor in determining the
amount of sediment re-suspended.
This is clearly greater, for example,
in a shallow waterway with a silty or clay
bed than in a deeper river with a sand
and gravel bed.
Re-suspension of clay can form stable
colloidal suspensions. Fine material
eroded from waterway banks by wave
wash can accumulate in the navigation
channel, providing a source of readily
suspended particles which can be
mobilised by subsequent boat passage.
Table 6.1
Factors that influence vessel impacts on waterway wildlife
Waterbody type and size
Vessel impacts are greatest in narrow, shallow, still or slow-flowing waterways (i.e. canals). Here the
propeller is very close to the bottom sediments and the channel base and sides receive the full force
of all hull generated currents and bank reflected cross-currents, as well as the propeller jet. The
magnitude of the environmental impact of the hydraulic forces decreases progressively with
increasing distance from the bank, with increasing width of the waterway and with increasing depth
relative to boat draught. In broader river navigations turbidity also decreases as background current
speeds increase. Effects, per boat, are smallest in deep lakes and larger rivers where impacts are
generally limited to wake wash on the shoreline.
Number of vessels
Vessel impacts increase with the number of boats moving along a waterway. Boat numbers affect the
frequency with which boat induced currents and wash act to erode banks. As bottom sediments are
stirred-up more frequently, larger particles are suspended in the water column for a longer period,
increasing water turbidity.
Vessel speed and size
Boat speed and size act separately and together to influence boat impacts. In general, increased
speed and larger boats (the increase in cross-section being the critical issue) have proportionally
greater impacts on waterways. However there are critical thresholds when the two interact to cause
greater, and sometimes lower, levels of damage.
Vessel design
Impacts on the channel sides and bed can be strongly influenced by the shape of the boat’s hull and
by the design of propellers and stern gear. There are numerous historic examples of boats designed
for speed that created little wash, which provide examples of good hull design.
Clear water habitat protected from boat wash within emergent vegetation on the navigable Thames
In Britain, most research has been undertaken in smaller
canals and Broadland rivers. There have also been many
studies in continental Europe and North America,
describing the effects of navigation by large vessels
on larger channels and lakes.
Effects on plants
Aquatic plants are a vital and integral part of freshwater
ecosystems. Submerged aquatic plants are the most
susceptible to impacts from boats. Many uncommon
species are found in waterways, with some protected
by policy and legislation or by statutory designation
of their sites. Effects can arise from all the mechanisms
described in Box 6.2.
Emergent plants and, to a lesser extent, floating leaved
plants growing at the edges of waterways are generally
more tolerant of boat traffic than submerged aquatic
plants. They can form areas of linear habitat, protected
to some extent from boat wash, that are of particular value
to juvenile stages of fish, some nesting birds (e.g. moorhen
and coot) and invertebrates such as water beetles and
Larger emergent and submerged plants form an important
part of the habitat structure on which invertebrates and
many fish depend. Thus the presence or absence of such
plants can affect the whole biological community.
Effects of boat movement on plants are dealt with in some
detail in Box 6.3.
Box 6.3
Effects of boat movement on waterway plants
Canal vegetation fringe
at 7000 bmy
Vegetation fringe on fenland
river at 4000 bmy
Canal vegetation fringe
at 500 bmy
Navigable river vegetation
fringe at 8000 bmy
Effects on submerged plants
Smaller canals
In Britain, boat impacts on submerged plants have been most studied
in smaller canals, where the ratio between boat cross-section and
channel cross-section is at a maximum, so that effects are likely
to be greatest. This has focussed particularly on traffic levels that
cause damage to uncommon and protected species such as floating
water plantain and rare pondweeds. Key work in this area has been
undertaken by researchers at Liverpool and Stirling Universities
(John Eaton, Nigel Willby and colleagues), who have used plant data
from over 500 sites across the canal system to model boat impacts
on plants in a 10m wide canal with a standard profile. This model
shows that on these smaller waterways, some impact of boats on
aquatic plants can be detected at very low levels of vessel activity,
although results vary between species and on many canals diversity
reaches a peak typically at around 1000 boat movements per year
(bmy), with a decline and a move towards more tolerant species
at higher traffic levels. Effects are reduced on canals with larger
A few waterways are of recognised importance for floating waterplantain and the rarer pondweeds. In some cases, these appear to
thrive best in waterways that either have no boats and are maintained
by periodic dredging or have very low levels of boat movement. In
general up to about 500 boat movements per year (bmy) in a narrow
canal will cause little or no damage to these plants. Recent findings
suggest that the very few nutrient poor, high conservation value canals
(i.e. the Welsh part of the Montgomery Canal and potentially the top
of the Rochdale Canal and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal), are
particularly sensitive to damage to rare plants (Wilby et al. 2001,
Willby & Eaton, 2002). This appears to be because plant species grow,
and therefore recover from boat damage, much more slowly in these
low nutrient status canals. In other cases, however, rare species such
as floating water-plantain maintain significant populations with much
higher levels of boat traffic (greater than 1500 bmy), which appear
to benefit rare species by limiting competition by more robust species.
Effects can result from direct contact with the boat and from effects
of currents and waves (Box 6.2), resulting in plants becoming damaged
and uprooted. In narrow canals, above traffic densities of 2000-3000
bmy, levels of suspended solids increase rapidly, largely stirred up
by boat propeller jets. This makes the water increasingly turbid, giving
insufficient light to allow significant submerged plant growth, although
floating leaved species can survive.
Rivers, drains and lakes
In rivers, lakes and broads the general trend of declines in aquatic
plants with greater levels of boat traffic are similar in principle to
those `seen in canals (e.g. Vermaat & Debruyne, 1993, Garrad and
Hey, 1988, Schutten & Davey, 2000), although it has been difficult
to quantify these trends in relation to UK waterways, as most
research has focussed on larger freight waterways in continental
Europe and the USA.
Drawing conclusions from direct observation of aquatic plant
communities present on these larger navigations is also difficult,
as many waterways are affected by nutrient enrichment, which
can limit the diversity of aquatic plant communities. However,
effects from boat movement are expected to be much lower than
on a narrow canal, as return currents are reduced (Box 6.1) and
propeller jet effects at the bed are usually lower due to greater
water depths. This is borne out by the lower turbidity seen on most
river navigations compared with that observed in smaller canals.
However, wave wash can still have significant effects on rivers,
causing erosion of banks and turbidity and restricting development
of healthy marginal emergent and submerged plant communities.
This is a particular issue on some Broadland rivers where erosion
rates may reach 0.3m per year (Murphy et al, 1995).
Effects on marginal plants
In canals, it is possible to retain a marginal vegetation fringe up
to quite high traffic levels, although its width will decline as traffic
increases. The fringe width will depend on many factors, including
the bed gradient near to the canal edge. For a narrow canal with
a natural bank with a gradient of 30°, for example, sweet reed
grass will root out to nearly 2m from the bank with no boat traffic,
reducing to 0.5m at 2500 bmy and 0.17m at 5000 bmy. Little change
occurs in the number of species present as boat traffic increases,
although the most tolerant species become more dominant and
stands of plants become fragmented (Willby & Eaton (2002).
Where hard bank protection has been installed on a narrow channel
with high levels of traffic, emergent vegetation may be eliminated
entirely (see photo below), although there are examples of busy
canals with extensive stands of emergent vegetation, even in front
of steel piled banks.
On larger waterways, especially river sections without engineered
banks, extensive fringes of reeds, reedgrasses and rushes up to
several metres wide are common, even on waterways with traffic
levels of 10000 bmy.
In general, impacts of boat movement on marginal plants are
of less concern than effects on submerged plants, as techniques
are readily available for encouraging rooting of marginal aquatic
vegetation even where boat traffic
levels are high (see Chapter 7).
Narrow canal with hard bank
protection and 10000 bmy
showing absence of marginal
emergent vegetation
From Wilby & Eaton, 2002
Only a few types of animal live in open water. Like this dragonfly
larva, most prefer the protection, food and resting places they find
amongst plants
Gudgeon find suitable habitat in many turbid canals
Effects on invertebrates
Surprisingly few studies have looked directly at the effects
of boat traffic on invertebrates, so understanding has been
inferred from knowledge of invertebrate life-histories.
Effects on fish
There is an extensive literature documenting the direct and
indirect impacts of navigation on fish. Key impacts are
shown in Table 6.2.
Generally, it is believed that the most significant boat traffic
effects on invertebrates are likely to be through loss of their
habitats. The underwater structure provided by aquatic and
marginal plants is particularly important. Plants provide
a refuge from predators, protection from water movement,
egg-laying and emergence sites, and an indirect source
of food (many invertebrates graze algal films on the surface
of higher plants).
The specific effects of these impacts vary considerably both
between individual fish species, the size of the waterway
and the propulsion types and speed of the craft. Canoes,
for example, probably cause no more than minor localised
impacts, whereas single large ships cause major current,
turbidity and wave wash effects in large navigable canals
(Hendry & Tree 2000, Arlinghaus et al. 2002).
Thus the greatest effects will occur on smaller canals,
where boat traffic is sufficient to thin-out or remove the
submerged and marginal plant stands, since these create
the richest invertebrate habitat in most waterways.
However, there are indications that some species decline
before traffic densities build up to these levels (Murphy
& Eaton 1983).
The sediment stirred up by boats in narrow and shallow
waterways can smother invertebrate communities, for
example by clogging invertebrate breathing structures.
This can cause starvation in freshwater mussels by reducing
their feeding ability. It is possible that the physical stress
of boat induced currents may also affect many still water
bottom living species in canals and drains. Effects on rivers
are less pronounced and need to be set in the context of the
effects of natural currents and wind induced waves.
Overall, the net result of increasing motorised boat traffic
on smaller UK canals is to create a shift in fish community
composition and structure (Pygott et al, 1990; Hodgson
& Eaton, 2000). For example, lightly trafficked waters
with an abundance of vegetation are dominated by roach
and perch with bream, weed-associated tench and sight
hunting pike. Heavily trafficked canals have a lower diversity
and biomass of fish, with the community dominated
by small roach and the bottom feeding gudgeon, as well
as sometimes very large carp.
Use of typical recreational craft on larger UK waterways,
such as rivers, appears to have less effect on fish. Based
on Environment Agency data, many navigable waterways
support the same coarse fish species as similar nonnavigable rivers.
Table 6.2
Effects of vessel movement on fish
Vessel impact
Effect on fish
Direct effect of currents
Causes dislodgement of eggs and young from favourable habitats and creates higher energy
costs for feeding.
Shoreline waves & drawdown
Strands or destroys eggs and vulnerable newly hatched fry.
Indirect effect from
loss of aquatic plants
Reduces the abundance of invertebrate food, which sustains the growth of larger fish. In addition
plants provide substrates for egg laying and cover from predation.
Increased suspended
sediments in the water
Can clog the gills of very young fish and reduce breeding success by depositing silt over the egg
masses or smothering gravel spawning areas.
Increased turbidity
Can make it difficult for fish to find food and disrupt courtship and egg laying behaviours.
Noise and disturbance
Can adversely affect fish behaviour and, therefore, survival.
Direct entrainment in
May be rare in adult fish (that avoid the passage of large boats), but may be significant for eggs and
Effects on birds and mammals
As with invertebrates and fish, some of the main impacts
of boat traffic on birds are associated with loss of
vegetation. At moderate levels of boat traffic, progressive
loss of submerged plants and consequential loss of
invertebrates and fish reduces food availability for species
such as coot, grebe, heron and kingfisher. At very high boat
densities, progressive loss of the marginal fringe reduces
availability of nesting sites and protective cover. Water
voles are also impacted because marginal wetland plants
form a significant part of their diet. Otters depend in part
on the presence of varied vegetated lake and river
shorelines, whilst bat species, which feed on invertebrates
emerging from the water surface, may also find less food
as invertebrate biomass declines.
Table 6.3
Direct effects on burrowing animals such as water vole and
kingfisher can arise from excessive wave wash at the bank.
Disturbance may also be a factor, although boat movement
forms only a small part of human disturbance on many
waterways and many species become habituated to the
presence of human activity.
Table 6.3 gives a summary of aquatic wildlife in a typical
UK narrow canal, assuming mesotrophic-eutrophic water
with low levels of pollution. This represents the waterway
type where wildlife is most sensitive to boat movement and
should not be taken as representative of larger waterways.
Summary of aquatic wildlife in a narrow canal at different levels of boat traffic
Boat Traffic Physical effect
on ecosystem
Birds &
Largely clear stillwater system, with
sediments and
shallower water.
Progressive domination by floatingleaved species such as duckweeds, tall
emergent plants and fast growing
willows. Moderately rich in species,
but loss of many aquatic plants over
time. Very shallow sites may
sometimes support uncommon
Can support
communities in
Declining fish
population as
channel becomes
Habitat for some
waterbirds and
0 - 500
Only periodic
mechanical and
damage to plants
from propeller and
Plant species diversity high.
Uncommon submerged plant species
community in
marginal and
Mixed population
with tench, pike,
stickleback and
Good range of
habitats for water
birds and
500 - 2000
Increasing channel
disturbance from
boat currents
causes damage
and uprooting of
sensitive aquatic
Some key uncommon aquatic plant
species decline and are lost. Good
marginal fringe still retained. Overall
plant richness high, maximising at
roughly 1000 bmy.
community in
Mixed population
with tench, pike,
perch, roach,
rudd and eel.
Good range of
habitats for most
water birds and
2000 - 5000
Regular channel
disturbance. Rapidly
increasing water
turbidity through this
boat movement range,
from suspension of
bottom sediments by
water currents.
Progressive narrowing of marginal
reed fringe. Few aquatic species,
which are mainly those with
submerged or floating leaves, though
precise impact depends on channel
profile and bank material. Best where
banks are soft and not steep sided.
Variable species
richness and
depending largely
on the availability
of marginal plant
Roach, tench,
pike bream,
Loss of habitat,
nesting areas and
food sources for
waterside birds
and mammals
e.g. water vole.
High water
turbidity from
water disturbance.
High wave wash,
bank erosion, high
Vegetation fringe patchy or absent in
many canals. Aquatic species absent
or mainly limited to those with
submerged or floating leaves.
Few invertebrate
species and
usually few
roach, gudgeon,
few perch. Carp
where stocked.
Limited range of
permanent water
birds and
Pollution from boats and boatyards
Minimising pollution from boats and boatyards is essential
for the protection of aquatic wildlife. Principal causes for
concern are antifouling paints and spillages of fuel and
lubricating oils, as well as black water in inland marinas
used by seagoing vessels. Of minor concern are also
polluting materials in ‘grey’ water and engine exhaust
emissions (Table 6.4).
Pollution effects from boats are potentially greater in mooring
areas and marinas.
Table 6.4
Antifouling paints
Water pollution from boats
Tributyl tin, banned for use on small boats in 1987 and completely banned in the UK since 2003,
was previously a common antifouling used on seagoing boats. It has been partially implicated in the
loss of exceptionally high value plant communities on the broads and high levels remain in sediments
around Broadland and around boatyards used by marine vessels.
Modern antifoulants use copper and a suite of 'booster biocides' instead, some of which are known to be
extremely damaging to freshwater organisms, including emergent and aquatic plants. There are particular
concerns in the Broads where rare and protected stoneworts occur in navigable broads (Chapter 3)
(Lambert et al, in press).
Inland steel vessels tend to use bitumen paints for hulls rather than anti-fouling preparations.
Earlier coal derived formulations released pollutants such as PAH to the water but modern oil
derived paints are less toxic.
Such toxins accumulate in sediments and affect wildlife, particularly where craft are moored for long
periods, or dry docked for scraping and re-painting, especially in enclosed marinas (Willby 1994).
Fuel and
lubricating oils
Hydrocarbon pollution arises mainly from fuel and lubricating oil spillages, direct fuel leakage from engines
and, particularly, from pumping out of oily bilge water. In general, however, effects are mainly limited
to enclosed areas with a high density of boats and levels of activity, e.g. marinas and boat yards
(G. Newman pers. comm.).
Black water
Black water (from sea toilets) is still a concern on some inland waterways frequented by seagoing vessels,
particularly The Broads.
Grey water
Grey water (water from sinks, showers etc.) is of concern particularly in relation to local effects of use of
bleach or other toxic cleaning products, especially in areas with a high density of boats and levels of activity.
There may be a risk to fish and potentially other organisms from the exhaust emissions of outboard engines
and inboard engines with wet exhaust systems - these types being prevalent mainly on river navigations.
(Most craft on the canals have dry exhausts discharging directly to the air.)
Emissions from recreational craft wet exhausts which remain in the water are largely a mixture of unburned
and partially oxidised hydrocarbons including benzene, xylene, toluene, phenols, carbonyls and polynuclear
aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), as well as carbon dioxide. It has been estimated that approximately 40%
of the hydrocarbons emitted from a wet exhaust are initially captured in the water phase, while the
remaining 60% escape immediately to the air in exhaust gas bubbles (TNO, 2004). About 35% of the
carbon dioxide dissolves in the water and may contribute to plant growth.
Many of the organic components are volatile and of low solubility and therefore rapidly evaporate.
Some hydrocarbons can form surface films on the water, while PAH tend to become bound to sediments.
Research reported by TNO (2004) indicates that effects are small and that water quality standards based
on maximum admissible concentrations of these compounds are generally not exceeded, although the
situation regarding sediment contaminants is less clear.
Development and maintenance of waterways
Some of the most significant influences of navigation
on aquatic wildlife come from the activities that surround
navigation and enable it to function effectively. This includes
both the historic legacy of waterway creation, maintenance
engineering and ongoing development and operational
management practices such as dredging.
Waterway infrastructure
River navigations have, over many centuries, experienced
a wide range of impacts through modification of the natural
river environment to provide power for mills and to support
navigation. Typically these have involved deepening,
removing shallow gravel shoals, the steepening of banks,
the creation of cuts through meandering channels,
blocking or abandoning side channels and maintaining
navigable depths by the impoundment by weirs provided
with locks.
Bank protection has also been installed in some areas
but the majority of banks on navigable rivers and drains
are reasonably natural. The presence of weirs has
fundamentally changed the character of many rivers,
replacing biological communities typical of faster flowing
water containing riffle stretches by communities more
typical of slower flowing deeper waters. Superimposed
on these effects are the effects of boat movement
described above.
Canals are totally artificial channels but many have
changed considerably from their early days, as the advent
of motorised boating and increases in traffic have led
to increased pressure for banks to be protected from
erosion and to provide hard edges for boat mooring. In the
past this has typically been done using piling, creating
a hard edge; this severely restricts emergent vegetation,
burrowing by animals such as water voles and access
by otters. Such banks reflect rather than absorb boat
generated currents, amplifying wash, scour, turbulence
and turbidity with knock-on effects for aquatic wildlife.
Softer, more ecologically-friendly bank protection methods
are now available (see Chapter 8).
In general, dredging is essential to maintain sufficient
water depth for safe vessel movement in canals, which
have no natural periodic scouring from floods to keep
their channel open. In rivers the navigational need varies
between waterways. On faster-flowing rivers, which
maintain a naturally deep channel, dredging may only
be needed on a very local basis, typically to remove
accumulated silt in artificial lock cuts and to remove sand
bars that develop below locks. In fenland drains, lightly
used canals or other slow flowing waterways, weed cutting
may be necessary to maintain land drainage or navigation.
In the case of invasive species such as floating pennywort,
removal of the plant material is essential to limit the rate
of re-colonisation. Dredging and weed cutting are also
undertaken for flood management on many rivers and
Canals are usually dredged every 15-30 years, though
they may be spot-dredged more regularly, sometimes
annually, where, for example, there is an inflow from
a river. Restoration of derelict waterways often involves
significant dredging.
Further detail on dredging and its impacts on wildlife
is given in Box 6.3.
Benefits of navigation for aquatic life
In contrast to the evidence of ecological damage caused
by boat traffic, there are a more limited number of
attributable benefits. Thus although the trend is for a loss
of species diversity with increasing boat traffic, a small
number of species benefit. Gudgeon, for example, usually
a turbid river fish, find a suitable habitat in many turbid
In canals, some physical disturbance is necessary to
sustain open water habitats and prevent complete
encroachment of marginal plants or dominance by invasive
aquatic species. This disturbance can be achieved either
by dredging and/or by boat movement at an appropriate
level, which will vary according to the waterway concerned.
Waterway development can restore or create new aquatic
habitat. For example, while there is concern in some cases
that restoration of disused canals to navigation may
adversely affect aquatic habitat in sections still in water,
this is balanced by the fact that many derelict canals no
longer hold water and restoration provides opportunities
for the creation of new aquatic habitat. The net value for
wildlife will depend on channel design features, traffic
levels and water quality in the restored canal and the value
of the damp or dry habitat of the derelict waterway that is
lost during restoration. Thus it is important to be realistic
about such benefits for biodiversity.
However some works may be mutually beneficial. For
example, clearance of native plants at nuisance levels
or invasive aliens not only facilitates navigation and
improves a waterway’s visual appearance but helps to
improve its biodiversity. Similarly, restoration of silted and
nutrient enriched lakes in Broadland has benefited both
navigation and wildlife.
Extension of water space on currently navigable waterways
by providing new off-line marinas can, with good design,
provide valuable additional still water and marginal
habitats, especially for fish.
In a wider context, improving access to water habitats
through navigation helps to educate the community to
value wildlife, which in turn has positive implications for
nature conservation. In this respect, applications for funds
for works required to maintain and enhance wildlife value
on derelict waterways are likely to be more successful if
these form part of integrated proposals to provide wider
socio-economic benefits, such as restoration of navigation,
access for other recreation, encouragement of social
inclusion and interpretation and education facilities.
How wildlife legislation affects navigation
There are no reliable data describing the extent to which
recreational and commercial use of the inland waterways
are currently restricted by environmental considerations.
However some stakeholders are concerned that changes
to the designation process arising from the Habitats
Directive and changes in legislation regarding the
notification of SSSIs, introduced in England and Wales
by the Countryside and Right of Way Act (2000) and in
Scotland by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004),
may mean that some resources will no longer be available
for sport and recreation activities (University of Brighton
Box 6.3
Effects of waterway development and maintenance on aquatic wildlife
Vertical banks and deep
water limit marginal
wildlife communities
Making rivers navigable
often involves impoundment
by weirs
Waterway infrastructure
Waterway wildlife on rivers is affected by impoundment for
navigation and often by fundamental permanent changes
to the physical nature of the channel. On canals the nature
of the artificial channel is largely defined by the initial
construction profile and the channel lining. However,
the value of a waterway for wildlife can be greatly affected
by the way the infrastructure is managed locally, particularly
in relation to bank protection (hard edging generally having
a deleterious effect) and the near-bank bed profile.
Alternative methods of bank protection are described
in Chapter 7.
For major waterway engineering restoration projects and for
maintenance, short-term dewatering of a section of waterway
may be required. The impacts of such work have been little
assessed but are likely to be localised and temporary.
Their significance will depend on whether there are
particularly sensitive species present (e.g. water vole, native
crayfish, and long-lived species, such as swan mussels).
If so, population loss may be significant unless appropriate
mitigation measures are implemented and the species may
find it difficult to re-colonise after re-flooding.
The creation of off-line marinas is known significantly to
benefit fish populations (Pinder 1997) but their value for other
wildlife has been little studied. However given the sometimes
elevated levels of pollutants, and shading from boats, they
may be of relatively little value for groups such as plants and
invertebrates (Vermaat & DeBruyne 1993) unless suitable
habitat is a design component. The opportunity to incorporate
new wildlife habitat is however becoming a more common
feature in the design of inland marinas.
Restoration of derelict canals, while often creating new
aquatic habitat, may also disturb or remove valued biological
communities that have developed over many years. Even
when only a shallow water body remains, this can support
uncommon plants, such as six-stamened waterwort, and
many invertebrates associated with emergent plants and
wet scrub. Restoration to navigation is a major engineering
endeavour that brings impacts related to:
• the temporary and permanent engineering works;
• the effects of boat use after restoration.
In practice, the implications of such developments for wildlife
depend on whether:
• existing habitats would, in any case, be rapidly lost
by further canal decay;
• recreation of new canal habitats will compensate for loss
of existing habitats;
Dredging can be
beneficial for wildlife if
carefully managed
Marinas can provide
an off-line refuge
for fish
Dredging can have positive effects on wildlife value,
particularly in canals, as it:
• enlarges the channel, reducing the intensity of boat
• limits succession by restoring open water conditions on
disused or little used canals, in the same way that flooding
does on rivers, thus maintaining habitat for submerged
• often benefits some of the rarest species which are
typically early succession plants that decline and are lost,
as canals fill with silt and floating-leaved and marginal
plants fill-in the channel;
• removes fine sediments, which may leave a firmer base for
plant and invertebrate colonisation, increasing their chance
to withstand buffeting from boat traffic;
• removes polluted sediments, where these have
• removes sediment-bound nutrients, particularly
Typically silt and plants from the centre of the channel are
removed, usually in the winter months, and current good
practice stipulates that bank angles are designed so that any
vegetation fringe on either bank edge, or at least the off-side
on a canal, is largely retained.
The impact of dredging on ecosystems is always disruptive in
the short term. Submerged plants are lost, together with the
invertebrates living amongst them and on the waterway bed.
Loss may be particularly significant for long-lived invertebrate
species, such as freshwater mussels, and for uncommon and
protected species, such as spined loach, which live amongst
the plant stands (Perrow pers. comm.). However, in the
medium and long-term the positive effects are realised.
Weed control
Plant cutting, as opposed to dredging, has been found to
reduce plant diversity and encourage unwanted plant species
like the alien Nuttall’s pondweed (Baattrup-Pendersen,
Larsen & Riis 2002). For invertebrates there is rapid recovery
after both cutting and herbicide treatment of aquatic
vegetation, with apparently no significant impact on fish
(Monahan and Caffrey 1996).
However it should be noted that use of herbicides in or near
water is often limited by water quality considerations and the
relevant environment agency (EA or SEPA) must be consulted
in advance.
• measures can be undertaken to ensure that key species
and communities can be maintained, in the long term,
either within the new channel or in compensatory wetlands
(see Chapter 8), although re-creation of the many factors
that determine the characteristics of an existing habitat
may be difficult to achieve in practice.
Key information
information sources
English Nature, 1995. Canal SSSIs
management and planning issues.
English Nature Freshwater Series No. 2.
PIANC WG 10, 2006.
Environmental risk assessment of dredging
PIANC WG 27 (in press)
Guidelines on the environmental impact of vessels.
Verheij H. (2006)
Hydraulic aspects of the Montgomery Canal
Restoration. Report by Delft Hydraulics for BW.
PIANC WG 12, 2002.
Recreational navigation and nature.
There are greater potential impacts for navigation interests
in cases of:
• new waterway development (e.g. re-opening abandoned
canals for navigation, extending river navigations,
the creation of new canals);
• use of the very few navigable canals, such as the
Basingstoke, which are both of exceptional ecological
value and where powered boat use is regarded as a
threat to conservation value by regulators and some
other users.
Where waterways are re-opened or developed for navigation,
solutions have generally been found which seek to protect
conservation value whilst allowing navigation (see Chapter 7).
On the few existing waterways where statutory protection
may favour the rights of conservation over those of navigation,
there may be a need for restrictions in use such as more
stringent speed limits or limits on the number of boats.
Limiting boat numbers will inevitably be unpopular with
recreational users and the service industry that supports
them and should be minimised by appropriate design of other
mitigation measures.
Amongst the most significant impacts of wildlife conservation
on navigable waterways is the cost to navigation authorities
of managing the natural environment. For example,
environmental impact assessments, the use of wildlife friendly
bank protection, conservation dredging, the use of ecological
enhancement or mitigation techniques and the curtailment
of income-generating developments can all have significant
economic and social implications which must be balanced
against the wildlife benefits.
It is largely modern engine-driven boating on canals and
infrastructure modifications to support this that can cause
significant damage to nature conservation if not properly
It is evident from the wealth of plant records and herbarium
specimens from Victorian times that the commercial decline
of the canals in the latter half of the 19th Century allowed
colonisation by aquatic biota on a scale which their previous
heavy traffic did not permit, especially where that traffic
had already switched from the original horse-drawn craft
to propeller driven craft. As already noted, the richest period
ecologically was probably the mid 20th Century, after which
the rise of pleasure cruising started to reduce quantities and
qualities of channel vegetation and their associated faunas
(Murphy & Eaton 1982; Willby, 1994).
Most boats using British river navigations are small compared
with the size of the waterway channel, so the effects of boat
movement are less pronounced than on the smaller canals.
However, there are still issues to be addressed regarding the
effects of wave wash and the opportunities for improved bank
management to protect and enhance wildlife.
Motorised boat traffic is increasing, with national targets
set to encourage greater use, so the issues of modern
navigation’s effect on nature conservation, particularly
on smaller canals, are likely to remain a challenge for
navigation managers.
Many of the adverse effects of navigation can be mitigated
with good practice and Chapter 8 describes some methods for
achieving this. However, it must be recognised that navigation
is only one pressure affecting the ecological status of waterways
and management should aim to address all these relevant
factors in a co-ordinated and cost-effective way.
Case studies
This chapter summarises the overall conclusions
to the findings from the ten case studies described
in Appendix 5; these have been collated in co-operation
with navigation interests to show how the relationship
between nature conservation and navigation has been
managed on different waterways.
The examples cover situations where reconciling the interests
of navigation and nature conservation has been particularly
difficult, as well as those where nature conservation benefits
have been achieved without significant conflict with
navigation interests.
• on some waterways, wildlife value could be improved while
maintaining navigation, contributing to the attraction of the
waterway for visitors and to the maintenance of biodiversity
- there are plenty of technical measures to do this;
The case studies
The focus of the case studies was on:
• even on very busy waterways some wildlife benefit can
be readily achieved, principally in the emergent vegetation
and associated fauna;
• the navigational use of the waterway and its nature
conservation value;
• some waterways need special consideration for wildlife these are often on the periphery of system;
• the effectiveness of communication and consensus
building methods;
• ongoing research is needed on new measures and on the
cost-effectiveness of all measures;
• the effectiveness of technical measures which facilitate
navigation and maintain or enhance the nature conservation
• best outcomes are achieved when navigation and wildlife
interests establish a good rapport;
Ten case study summaries are given in Appendix 5. It should
be noted that case study authors were not prompted with
a list of possible techniques and asked “which did you use?”
Instead, the reports provide unprompted answers and thus
give greater insight to what factors the authors felt were
The case studies deal with a range of waterway types
• river navigations (the Thames, the Great Ouse system);
• the Broads;
• narrow boat canals (Montgomery, Ashby and Grand Union
[Warwick & Napton section]);
• larger canals (Bude (part), Forth & Clyde, Lancaster
& Rochdale);
• tub boat canals (Bude (part)).
The studies include fully navigable waterways and waterways
which are the subject of current restoration or extension
The conclusions distilled from the case studies, which have
been taken into account in developing the guidance in the next
chapter, are:
• most waterways serve both navigation and wildlife and
the key issue is agreeing where the balance should be
in each case;
• in any restoration or major works project, it is very
important that planning involves both navigation, wildlife
and other interests from an early stage and that adequate
time is allowed for building consensus on the way forward
and developing a project plan which has wide support;
• where wildlife is of particular value, preparation
of a Conservation Management Plan or Strategy
may be the best way forward;
• there is a need to be realistic as to what can be achieved
and discuss issues openly;
• funding is a key issue, especially for front end feasibility
or Environmental Impact Assessment studies in projects
being promoted by small navigation authorities or waterway
interest groups;
• misinformation is a major issue with new schemes, many
responsible for wildlife do not understand navigation issues
and vice versa;
• where wildlife is legally protected, navigation interests
need to be aware of the proper procedures for obtaining
the necessary permissions for their activities - in the end
this is the same message that communication must
be established early.
• where there is a statutory duty to maintain navigation,
conservation interests need to be aware of the requirements
and take these into account - aquatic interest can usually
be maintained but in some cases it is likely to rely on fauna
and emergent species rather than submerged aquatic flora.
Improving the balance
between navigation and
nature conservation
While opportunities for protecting or developing wildlife value
may be very limited on a few stretches of waterway, in the
majority of cases good planning, design and management
practice will provide tangible wildlife benefits, increasing
their attractiveness for many users and contributing towards
realising their full potential as a multifunctional resource.
For the few inland waterways that are designated as being
of exceptional wildlife value, complying with legislation and
achieving the right balance with navigation will require
detailed investigation and consultation.
A key to the adoption of best practice on the ground in any
particular waterway situation is to ensure that all interested
parties believe in it. Achieving this will require time and
effort but will pay dividends in the medium and long term.
This chapter outlines good practice in terms of organisational
issues and consensus building, as well as identifying
practical management measures. Comprehensive manuals
for environmentally-friendly waterway engineering design
|and maintenance are being developed elsewhere and this
aspect is covered only briefly here.
Approaches considered
For any activity associated with navigation on the inland
waterways, there will be potential interactions with their
aquatic wildlife. The wildlife of the waterway environment
is itself a significant attraction for many boaters and other
visitors, as well as contributing to wider objectives for the
protection of biodiversity.
Some activities can contribute both to navigation and wildlife
interests, but with others it will be necessary to strike an
appropriate balance in the approach taken.
Ways of achieving such a balance are varied, as described
in this chapter. They can range from the education and
persuasion of users to follow best practice through to the
regulation of use, and from the modification of engineering
practices through to habitat creation. Measures have been
organised for convenience under the following main headings:
• advance planning;
• stakeholder engagement and consensus building;
• management of navigation activity;
• waterway infrastructure design and management;
• compensation for habitat loss or degradation;
• difficulties with the adoption of preferred solutions;
• summary of good practice recommendations.
Advance planning
Waterways fulfil many different functions. They are an
important tourism, leisure and social resource and a pivotal
focus for waterside regeneration, as well as providing
an important contribution to the conservation of wildlife
and the built heritage. These are not independent attributes.
Abundant and varied wildlife adds to the attraction of
waterways to users (bankside and afloat) and to their value
as an educational resource; users in turn can affect the
wildlife value that attracts them. Effective planning and
management are essential to obtain the maximum benefits
from the waterway across all its functions.
Planning for wildlife should form part of this process,
alongside the protection of other waterway attributes and
satisfying the needs of users. This is essential if wildlife and
navigation benefits are to be maximised and any negative
effects of navigation mitigated. The key message is that,
whether considering the management of a navigation,
the restoration of a derelict canal or a specific task such
as dredging, then planning for wildlife should be considered
right from the start and should continue throughout the
Planning works on different scales. Design and technical
considerations will be important for local, site-specific
works. In contrast, business planning for waterway
networks will involve prioritisation of expenditure and
trade-offs. For example it may be best to focus expenditure
on SSSIs where wildlife benefit to cost ratios are high and
the achievement of favourable status is a realistic proposition,
at the expense of highly stressed sites where even a large
expenditure would not result in the restoration of favourable
For the few inland waterways where the aquatic habitat
forms part of a statutorily protected national or international
wildlife site, consultation with the relevant conservation
agency is obligatory and time needs to be set aside to
undertake surveys and obtain any necessary consents.
Similarly, licenses may be required for work that may
affect protected species, wherever it takes place.
For many navigation authorities, protection and
enhancement of wildlife is also a legal duty.
It is important that feedback of views and practical
experience is built in to the process, to advise future
decision making.
Approaches available are summarised in Table 8.1 and
described in more detail in the following parts of this chapter.
For routine work, advance planning may simply involve
specifying adherence to published guidance. In some cases,
particularly if consent is required for specific work that needs
to be undertaken regularly, it is often most convenient to include
all likely operations into a management plan which can be
agreed in advance with regulators and other interested parties,
rather than adopting a piecemeal approach.
For a major project, such as a waterway restoration scheme,
it will be helpful to produce a formal ecological impact
assessment report. This should establish the ecological
baseline, evaluate potential impacts (positive and negative)
of the project and identify enhancement, mitigation or
compensation measures to be incorporated into the project,
as appropriate. Further guidance is provided by the Institute
of Ecology and Environmental Management’s Guidelines for
Ecological Impact Assessment in the United Kingdom
In these cases, it may be necessary to take expert, independent
multidisciplinary advice (e.g. from ecologists, engineers,
economists and navigation experts) to obtain best solutions for
balancing the interests of navigation and wildlife, particularly
where methods are new or little tested. The agreed
environmental measures should be set out as part of an overall
conservation management plan, or as a separate project-based
environmental management plan, which should include
ecological objectives and targets along with procedures for
monitoring and auditing success in achieving them.
Stakeholder engagement and consensus building
The best results for the sustainable management of waterways
will be achieved by the early engagement of all environmental
and user interests to agree shared objectives and appropriate
actions. Such user interests include those interested in social
issues, economic development, cultural heritage, navigation,
recreation and the natural environment. This is essential if the
maximum benefits that a waterway can offer to navigation,
wildlife and other interests are to be realised.
Establishing a rapport between navigation and wildlife interests
will also assist in avoiding or resolving conflicts, should these
arise. Navigation interests should aim fully to involve the
statutory nature conservation body (NE, SNH or CCW) in
significant projects. The environment agencies (EA, SEPA) and
perhaps local authorities should also be included where issues
such as water quality or flood risk management are important.
It is also important that the voluntary sector, particularly local
waterway societies and wildlife trusts, is brought on board.
In this way, consensus on good practice can be reached and
promoted, with adherence to it increased. Promoting
responsible behaviour by all users will minimise adverse effects
on wildlife.
While this approach will help to avoid conflicts developing,
difficulties will arise from time to time and success will depend
on the commitment to a genuine partnership approach.
Thus consensus building is akin to negotiation, about which
research is voluminous. Some pointers to key aspects are
given in Box 8.1 and Appendix 4.
Waterway developments
A priority in promoting any major new waterway proposal will
be the establishment of shared objectives and agreed actions.
This should typically include the following steps.
• Form strategic partnerships with representatives of all
interested parties.
• Develop a network of contacts with other stakeholders.
• Make sure outline plans are made known early, before there
is a chance for rumours or misinformation to gain credibility
with stakeholders.
• Provide detailed plans packaged into an evidence-based
project plan, in which environmental protection and
enhancement are an integral part of the initial works and
future maintenance - not just bolt-on extras.
• Use the project plan as a basis for wider consultation and
to expose plans to public scrutiny such as in meetings or
other public events - techniques need to vary with different
audiences and different proposals; there is no single type
of public scrutiny process.
• Be open, honest and inclusive throughout. If there are
uncertainties or it is likely that the plans will result in some
damage to wildlife, recognise this and show what has been
done to mitigate it.
• Where uncertainties arise from a lack of objective data,
consider setting out proposals for data gathering.
Although the focus here is on navigation and wildlife conservation,
steps such as these are typically applicable across a wide range
of types of partnership.
Involving local and regional nature conservation organisations
from the beginning will enable them to provide an early warning
of projects which may prove contentious, increasing the
likelihood of finding agreed solutions and reducing the potential
for costly, time consuming and destructive conflicts at a later
Waterway restoration and development may take a long time
to implement, so procedures should be set up for maintaining
dialogue with key partners and stakeholders. This may mean
formally constituted forums and/or occasional public meetings
to report progress and raise issues.
Table 8.1
Source of effect
(see Chapter 6)
Motorised boat use
Approaches for balancing the needs of navigation and wildlife
Category of measure
Potential measures
Advance planning
Development and
maintenance of
Impact assessment: effects on wildlife should be considered right from the start of any waterway
project; this can range from a very simple ecological assessment following a standard checklist
to production of a formal environmental statement to support an application for necessary
permissions. For European wildlife sites 'appropriate assessment' may be required under the
Habitats Regulations.
Management agreements: may be negotiated with the statutory nature conservation agency
(NE, CCW, and SNH) to cover routine or other planned operations within waterway SSSI, avoiding
the need for repeated consultation and applications for consent for such work.
Waterway conservation management plans: development of such plans can provide a valuable
stimulus for stakeholders to work in partnership towards an agreed vision for the waterway and
to commit themselves to the actions required to implement this vision. Such plans should include
all aspects of conservation of the waterway, including built heritage, landscape, hydromorphology,
water quality and wildlife, as well as navigation and other socio-economic aspects such as angling,
setting out a programme of agreed measures over several years. They should include an account
of options considered and an assessment of each option in terms of how it will meet (or not)
environmental and socio-economic needs/criteria.
Motorised boat use
Stakeholder engagement
Development and
maintenance of
Form partnerships: early establishment of working partnerships with key stakeholders, including
navigation, wildlife and fisheries interests, helps to avoid the development of conflicts and allows
different interests to be taken into account from the beginning, thus avoiding a waste of time and
money in reworking plans to mitigate problems at a later stage. Emphasis on common concerns,
such as curbing invasives that impact on navigation and biodiversity, can increase the strength
of partnerships.
Education: many conflicts are generated through dissemination of misinformation and a lack
of technical understanding of issues of interest to other stakeholders. A pro-active approach to
mutual education of different interest groups, through discussion, workshops, presentations and
information boards on-site, can help to avoid such problems. Raising awareness about the links
between boat movement and bank erosion, sediment re-suspension and aquatic plants is
particularly important.
User groups: these are an established and, if there is commitment to problem solving on both
sides, an effective and valuable means of communication between waterway managers and users.
Motorised boat use
Management of navigation
Engineering solutions to boat design: environmentally friendly boat design may include propeller
and sterngear modification, wider adoption of hulls designed to minimise wash, use of lighter
material, use of different type of propulsion (e.g. water jets, towing from the bank), where
commercially viable.
Local speed limits: to protect sensitive areas; may require boat handling training, education
and information, enforcement.
Zoning boat movement in space: for example concentrating boat traffic in a defined channel
and protecting areas near banks, appropriate mooring management and good practice, definition
of areas available only for non-motorised access, education and information.
Mooring management: appropriate location and good management of moorings and hire boat
bases, advice on boat handling at moorings, education and information, enforcement.
Zoning boat movements in time: will usually involve seasonal restrictions.
Restriction of the number of boat movements: may include controls on access, boat numbers
as trigger for other actions, restriction of licence numbers.
Pollution reduction: good practice guidelines for boat cleaning, painting, bilge water management,
disposal of black water and better management of grey water (e.g. Green Blue initiative), good
practice for and regulation of boatyard activities, education and information.
Development and
maintenance of
Design and management
Channel design modifications: may include channel bed stabilisation, increasing water depth,
channel cross-section profile designed to provide for both navigation and maximum diversity
of wildlife habitats (see Table 8.3).
Environmentally sensitive bank protection: use 'soft' as well as 'hard' materials (singly or
in conjunction), design to provide habitat for otters, water voles, native crayfish and marginal
vegetation, which will support other fauna, replace hard by soft banks as the opportunity arises
in suitable locations.
Vegetation control: remove invasive species, ensure appropriate timing and use of selective
methods for aquatic weed control where required.
Mooring design: design marinas and other mooring areas to maximise wildlife benefit, for example
by including refuge areas for fish and water voles, soft bank protection and space for marginal
vegetation between pontoons and bank.
Dredging mitigations: dredging should be part of a clear sediment management strategy; aim to
minimise disturbance, avoid the spread of turbidity and encourage re-colonisation; deep-dredging
rather than surface skimming is generally recommended.
Dewatering mitigations: phase in space and time to minimise loss of wildlife; rescue fish and
crayfish; consider off-site maintenance of rare plants for later replanting.
Weirs and fish passes: weirs should be designed or modified to allow passage by otters;
fish passes may be appropriate to reduce the effects of navigation structures on fish migration
in river navigations.
Restoring derelict canals to water: maximise opportunities for a net gain for wildlife by creating
new aquatic wildlife habitat in ways compatible with the restoration of navigation.
Motorised boat use
Development and
maintenance of
Provision of compensatory
habitat/ restoration of
On-line habitat: for example, installation of barriers of various kinds within the navigable channel
to provide habitat that is protected from the physical effects of boat movement, bank modification
to create improved marginal habitat, biomanipulation as part of habitat restoration (as, for example,
on Barton Broad).
Off-line habitat: modification of existing off-line habitats (e.g. backwaters, adjacent gravel pits),
reconnection of historic aquatic habitat or creation of completely new aquatic habitat (linked
to the navigation channel or isolated).
Developing Codes of Good Practice for waterway users
It is generally helpful to demonstrate that participants in
a potentially damaging recreational activity will adhere to
an approved Code of Good Practice. It is now common for
national governing bodies of recreational groups to produce
such codes. A diagrammatic representation of an approach
for developing such codes and a list of examples is given
in Appendix 4.
Promoting Codes of Good Practice
Whilst it is very laudable to produce Codes of Good Practice,
this is no guarantee that participants in the activity will
adhere to them. The need to achieve ‘buy-in’ was a key
feature of the British Marine Federation (BMF) and Royal
Yachting Association (RYA) “Green Blue” Initiative. For
a code to be effective it has to:
• be practical and do “what it says on the box”;
• be credible and promote best practice;
• promote the idea of freedom;
• be aspirational and look to the future;
• be innovative and inspiring;
• engender excitement and appeal to the individual;
• empower the audience;
• promote serious messages in a light way.
In essence, the aim appears to be that anyone straying
outside these Codes of Good Practice is regarded as
a ‘bad sailor’. Another key feature of the Green Blue
initiative is the detailed analysis done to decide how best
to raise awareness amongst BMF members, the plethora
of RYA individual members and affiliated clubs, as well as
other inland navigation users. The methods being employed
include demonstration projects, the production of CDs,
leaflets, promotion at regattas and so on.
Box 8.1
Consensus building
Key principles
Bishop (1996) and others suggest that the key
principles underpinning successful consensus
building are:
• commitment to abide by the outcomes of the
• openness, honesty, trust and inclusiveness;
• sharing of credit for successes, outcomes and
• common information base/sharing of
• mutual education and sharing of each other’s
ideas and principles;
• multiple options are identified;
• decisions arrived at through consent.
Methods available
A number of methods can be employed as a
means of consulting stakeholders, including:
• face to face interviews;
• written consultations;
• group consultations;
• parish questionnaires and newsletters;
• direct public consultation;
• user questionnaires;
• using maps to show who wants what and where;
• organisations’ questionnaires.
Strategic partnerships
There is merit in entering into strategic
partnerships (see, for example, Crowe and Mulder
2005) and perhaps underlining these with
Memoranda of Understanding (MoU). For example,
English Nature’s MoU with the British Canoe Union
and Canoe England “seeks to establish and
promote a framework for co-operation between
English Nature and the British Canoe Union at all
levels”. British Waterways advocates a partnership
approach (with respect to social inclusion) in its
“Waterways for People” (BW 2002) and also has
a MoU with English Nature.
On-the-ground measures
A range of measures is commonly used in situ to manage
recreation in a way that serves to minimise adverse
environmental effects. The most commonly used measures are:
• awareness-raising through information provision and
• zoning of activity;
• ‘steering’ users towards particular behaviours;
• maintaining a presence;
• formal agreements.
These measures are described in more detail in Appendix 4.
Zoning and steering are considered in further detail in the
next section.
Management of navigation activity
There are a range of proposed mitigation measures that focus
on boat design or use, with the aim of reducing the physical
footprint arising from boat movement and achieving a satisfactory
balance between navigation and wildlife. Note that not all are yet
proven or commercially available.
In some cases, a successful outcome will depend on actions
by boat users themselves. Therefore, a key requirement is that
they are fully informed as to how they can contribute to wildlife
protection and be educated as to the reasons why they should
do so. In other words, it is essential to achieve ‘buy-in’ by the
boating community for a Code of Good Practice, as discussed
Speed limitation
Vessel speed has long been recognised as a key determinant of
navigation impacts; speed limits are already imposed on most
waterways for safety and environmental reasons.
Non-tidal river navigations and larger canals in Britain typically
operate speed limits in the range 8 to 13kph (5 to 8mph), except
for specific areas designated for water-ski users. On narrow
canals the speed limit is 6.4kph (4mph).
For larger river navigations the principal mechanism by which
boats affect nature conservation interest tends to be breaking
wave wash at the bank: speed limits aim to avoid this. Where
a waterway reach is particularly sensitive, due for example
to a restricted channel size or special wildlife receptor, locally
reduced speed limits may be an appropriate mitigation measure.
Similar principles can be applied to canals, where return
currents and propeller jet effects become more important.
Again, speed limitation will reduce the effects. Boaters are urged
by navigation authorities and user organisations not to create
a breaking wash. On parts of the narrow canal system with
particularly restricted channels, responsible boaters typically
need to travel more slowly than the maximum permitted speed
to achieve this. Even on these smaller waterways, boat speeds
of less than 3kph (about 2mph) cause little damage to banks
and vegetation; further reducing the speed limit to this level
has the potential significantly to reduce the effects of boat use
on wildlife in key areas without an unacceptable effect on journey
times, if applied selectively (see Montgomery Canal case study
in Appendix 5).
Mitigating boat impacts by reducing speed limits over long
distances can, however, reduce boaters’ enjoyment of the
navigation experience. The propulsion systems of some boats
are not well designed to cope with prolonged running at very
low speeds. In some circumstances, such as strong crosswinds
or fast water flows, proper control of the boat will be jeopardised
if speed is reduced too much. This can compromise safety and
increase the likelihood that the boat will be driven off-course
into more sensitive wildlife habitat.
Another difficulty is that speed limits are generally difficult
to police. Boats do not usually have accurate speedometers,
although the use of GPS is increasing, and many navigation
authorities do not monitor boat speed, with only blatant offences
being dealt with. Speed monitoring is possible, however. In the
Broads and on the River Thames, for example, boat speeds are
tracked with hand-held radar guns; on the Broads, limits are
enforced by Rangers.
Another approach available on isolated sections of a canal
is to limit the power of engines. For example, on the Grand
Western Canal, power is limited to 2.5 horsepower per metre
length of boat.
Nevertheless, achieving protection of aquatic wildlife through
speed limitation is perhaps the most practicable mitigation
measure available. Successful application will always depend
to a large extent on buy-in from the boating community. This will
require effective communication and education, backed up by
enforcement where necessary. Acceptance will be more likely
if additional restrictions are applied only to particularly sensitive
locations where the need can be clearly explained.
Zoning boat movement in space: access restrictions
The impact of boat movement on aquatic ecology can also be
managed by restricting access to sensitive areas. For example by:
• limiting the area available to boats in wide waterways and
lakes, either by the creation of navigation lanes or by marking
protected areas with buoys or signs;
• the creation of linear bankside habitat that is physically
protected by underwater walls or other barriers;
• prohibiting access to, or use of propellers in, sensitive areas.
The first approach has been applied in the Broads in consultation
with a liaison group comprising a wide range of stakeholders;
for example, the wintering waterfowl refuges at Hickling Broad
and non-intervention areas at Barton Broad provide undisturbed
areas for wildlife.
Examples of the second approach are the underwater protective
walls and benching which have been used successfully on a
number of canals, for example the Kennet and Avon and the
Rochdale Canals.
The last approach is only likely to be applicable in a very limited
number of locations. For example, towing boats from the bank,
which was clearly associated with low environmental impacts at
relatively high traffic densities in the 19th century, is sometimes
proposed as a local solution to impacts related to propeller
driven craft (see Montgomery Canal case study in Appendix 5).
However, there are practical implementation limitations
associated with towing motorised boats, including towpath
safety issues associated with use of the towline and the fact
that motorised boats are not usually provided with large enough
rudders to give effective steerage when being towed.
Mooring management
As the habitat at the waterway margin is often the most valuable
part of a linear waterway for wildlife, boat mooring can be a
significant factor that may affect wildlife.
Protection can be achieved by allocating areas of the bank for
marginal wildlife development and discouraging mooring in
these locations. Encouraging boating practice that minimises
adverse effects where moorings are situated in sensitive
stretches of waterway may also provide help.
Mooring in sensitive areas can be discouraged by warning signs
or by using features such as leaving uncut vegetation on the
towpath to discourage mooring which could damage vulnerable
bank areas. This approach is used by many navigation
authorities to reduce mooring impacts, such as BW on the
Oxford Canal. However, for this approach to be effective there
must also be enough acceptable mooring places available to
satisfy demand.
As water is often shallow at the waterway margin, the propeller
jet effects of boats leaving moorings under power are
accentuated. Disturbance of the waterway bed can be reduced
by first pushing the stern of the boat out into deeper water
before reversing out slowly from the mooring. Again the success
of this approach will depend on persuading boaters to adopt the
practice; this may be more likely if it is promoted specifically
in relation to particularly sensitive waterways where the need
can be clearly explained.
Zoning boat movement in time: seasonal restrictions
The most intense use of the waterways is between May and
September when about 90% of leisure boat movements occur.
This coincides with the main growth and activity periods of
aquatic plants; it is probably less critical for aquatic animals,
most of which are either present all year (e.g. fish, water snails)
or are present from autumn to spring in the water, then
emerging as adults in the summer (e.g. dragonflies, mayflies).
In the case of breeding birds, the most sensitive time will be
the nesting season in spring.
There may, therefore, be specific times of the year when
restricting boat movement could reduce biological impacts
during critical phases of the life cycle of plants or animals.
However, as seasonal navigation restrictions would usually need
to be applied during the peak boating season, this approach
is often not compatible with the aim of achieving a balance
between navigation and nature conservation. Again it may have
limited applicability for off-line areas, for example Hickling
Broad, where navigation is limited to protect wintering
wildfowl refuges.
Restriction of the number of boat movements
Restricting boat movements may be an effective method for
mitigating navigation impacts where sensitive species and
communities are present. Where legislation allows, it can
be achieved directly by limiting traffic through control points,
such as locks, or through a requirement for boaters to pre-book
accompanied passages.
Boat users also have a major part to play in ensuring that
pollution from their activities is minimised. On inland waters,
the key issues are the:
• avoidance of oil pollution from bilge water discharge by use
of separate bilge compartments under engines, where oil
from leaks can be collected and disposed of ashore, and use
of oil removal filters on bilge water outlets;
Boat traffic density can also be reduced indirectly by limiting
the numbers and types of boats licensed, or by controlling
the locations and sizes of mooring facilities, hire-boat bases
and the siting of trip boat operations. This is preferable to the
imposition of limits.
• good design of fuel filler pipes to avoid blowback of fuel
while refuelling;
Limitations on boat numbers are currently used on the
Basingstoke Canal and the Montgomery Canal.
Restricting the level of boat movements will, however, usually
be unpopular amongst boaters and navigation support
businesses and may amount to a breach of statutory duties
to maintain navigation. It should be used only as a last resort,
possibly as part of a balanced package of measures for protecting
the most valuable wildlife sites after other approaches, including
speed limits and infrastructure measures, have been examined
and deemed to be insufficient.
To be effective, the need for restrictions should be assessed
on the basis of good ecological and boat traffic data. Proposals
should be developed in discussion with stakeholder groups.
Reduction of pollution from navigation use
There is a range of pollutants associated with navigation,
including antifouling paints, grey and black water and oils
(Table 6.4 in Chapter 6).
The Green Blue initiative, set up by the British Marine
Federation and the Royal Yachting Association in association
with the Environment Agency, published an Environmental
Code of Practice in April 2006. This very comprehensive guide
identifies environmental legislation relevant to the marine
industry; it sets out the business case for developing
environmental management systems that ensure compliance
with legislative requirements and embody voluntary good
practice to address pollution and sustainability issues.
This document is aimed principally at boatyard activities relating
to sea-going vessels but much of its content is equally relevant
to inland boating, particularly the Broads.
• containment and proper disposal of paint and sanding
residues when boats are washed down, cleaned and
• avoidance of use of cleaning products containing high
chlorine concentrations or other toxic chemicals, which
may then be discharged to the waterway in ‘grey’ water;
• control of toilet waste (black water), which should not be
discharged overboard from sea toilets when on inland waters.
Some of these are covered in the Boat Safety Scheme; the Green
Blue initiative has produced a number of guidance leaflets and
posters along these lines. The messages need to be reinforced
by the boating industry, navigation authorities and voluntary
Engineering solutions to boat design
In recent years, much engineering design effort has been
directed towards modifying or re-designing craft so that they
re-suspend less bottom sediment and create less wash (Verheij,
2006). Table 8.2 outlines some techniques that have been
suggested for this purpose.
Some designs could be retro-fitted to certain types of existing
boats. Deflector plates, for example, could be fitted below the
propeller on a typical steel narrow boat to re-direct propeller
jets away from the bed. Most new design ideas are, however,
only practicable in the long-term as most boats have a long life,
so renewal of the boat fleet is generally slow. Some new boat
designs aim not only to reduce damage to wildlife but to cause
lower environmental impacts in terms of energy use, carbon
emissions and use of recyclable materials. Current research
on boat design includes the Ecoboat in the Broads (Box 8.2).
The use of low impact boats may be encouraged through
licensing. For example, BW already has a 25% discount
on its licence for electric motor boats.
Box 8.2
The Ecoboat: for a sustainable future on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads
The Ecoboat project aims to develop a design brief for sustainable boats, incorporating features intended to
reduce both global environmental impacts and local waterway nature conservation impacts (e.g. low wash hulls).
The Ecoboat project is an initiative of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boatbuilders Association, which acts as a forum for
those involved in boatbuilding and allied trades and aims to increase awareness of the importance of sustainable
and eco-friendly tourism.
The main aim of the Ecoboat project
is to review sustainable technologies
(e.g. reduced carbon emissions, alternative
power sources, novel materials) and
environmental best practices (e.g. waste
handling, boat dismantling, recycling)
that can be applied to navigation in the
Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and use this
to develop a brief for the construction
of a boat that can be used for
demonstration and evaluation.
The overall vision for the new design
is that the boat should be constructed
from sustainable materials, powered by
renewable fuel sources, operated in a way
that does not damage the environment,
and that its components and structure
should be capable of being recycled
at the end of its life. (See Landamore
et al, 2005 and 2006)
Table 8.2
Modification of boat power systems, design and engineering
Type of measure
Potential modifications
Modifications to propellers
Reduced propeller jet velocities, which can be achieved without loss of power by larger, lower speed
propellers which have similar power output to small, high speed propellers.
Redirecting propeller jets by, for example, retro-fitting a horizontal plate below the propeller.
Hull design and material
Refining hull designs by, for example, the use of tunnel sterns which give more control over the
propeller. Hull shape can also be an important factor.
Use of lighter hull materials creating boats with shallower drafts that displace less water when
moving, reducing return currents (but not necessarily wash effects).
Use of different types of drive
Water jets, which are generally less disruptive to the channel, and new approaches, such as a whaletail wheels, which produce power with far less disturbance. Electric boats produce less pollution
locally, although overall benefit depends on the amount of pollution produced in generating the
electricity. At present there is little information about the ecological effectiveness of these alternative
In the longer term, environmental requirements could be
incorporated into the boat safety certificate system used by BW,
the EA and other navigations, subject to suitable provision for
the continued operation of heritage vessels.
In the short-term, this approach is only really applicable
to an extremely limited number of circumstances where boat
access to a particular area of waterway is restricted to a few
specified vessels.
Waterway infrastructure design and management
A number of measures involving manipulation of the waterway
habitat are currently used, or are being investigated, which aim
to assist navigation and wildlife to co-exist successfully. These are
related to:
• channel design modification;
• environmentally sensitive bank protection;
• dredging;
• fish passes;
• mitigation of dewatering;
• restoring navigation to derelict canals.
Enhancement and mitigation measures need to be tailored
to each site and to the specific species and habitats of interest.
They should also be designed so that they harmonise with and
promote national, regional and local biodiversity objectives (e.g.
LBAPs, adjacent SSSIs).
Proposals should also consider the wider context, including the
surrounding areas and not just the immediate length, seeking
to enhance connectivity between habitats; for example, linking
water vole habitats to prevent population isolation.
The long term sustainability of mitigation measures should be
considered when assessing which to use: what works now might
not work for very long and there may be long-term maintenance
Where relationships between navigation use and wildlife
tolerances are uncertain, design should incorporate flexibility
for later modification or extension, should the need for this
be indicated by experience following implementation. In this
way the best protection should be achieved for key species
and communities from any adverse effects of navigation use.
Channel design modification
Channel design modifications can increase the potential for
the development of aquatic plant and animal communities
by reducing boat-related impacts and increasing habitat
heterogeneity. Examples are given in Table 8.3.
The effectiveness of these methods is currently difficult to assess
due to lack of ‘before and after’ monitoring and the importance
of local circumstances and design. A research project to test
the efficiency of a range of techniques is being set up on the
Montgomery Canal. The results will be available over the next
few years and should help develop best practice.
Environmentally sensitive bank protection
Boat movements generally increase the rate of erosion of
waterway banks. Significant bank erosion by boat wash can
reduce the nature conservation value of marginal habitats and
add sediment to the water, contributing to turbidity and bed
siltation. However, it should be remembered that erosion by flood
flows is a natural feature of some rivers and can be important
for maintaining vertical banks, which are of value as nesting
sites for bird species such as kingfisher and sand martin.
To improve bank stability, a wide range of techniques has been
developed (Table 8.4). Although bank protection can reduce
sediment re-suspension, such works are generally only of
significant benefit to wildlife if they improve the bank habitats
by providing protection from disturbance, increasing habitat
heterogeneity and providing refuges. Specific provision can
be made for water voles or crayfish, for example.
Traditionally, hard materials have been used to maintain the
structural integrity of banks because their behaviour is well
understood and they are relatively cost-effective. In some cases,
such as on embankments, this may be the only realistic option.
Such materials are not entirely negative for wildlife (Table 8.4).
Bioengineering options create a (usually) softer bank that
absorbs waves and currents and allows marginal plants to
develop. These plants then provide a natural barrier against
erosion. Such ecologically friendly techniques tend to be a
cheaper option in the short term, though some may not be
as long-lasting as sheet piling, for example, and may require
more maintenance.
Table 8.3
Design of the waterway channel to benefit wildlife
Type of measure Potential modifications
Wildlife benefits
Increased depth
Increasing water cross-sectional area reduces return
currents and wash, as well as lowering the risk of
direct contact with plants by boat hulls and propellers.
In most cases, the only practicable approach is to
increase depth, which also reduces re-suspension of
bed sediments by return currents and propeller jet
effects. On canals, there may be limits to this approach
due to the need to maintain the integrity of the lining
and the stability of the side slopes (batters).
Maximizing channel cross-section and depth reduces direct
physical effects of boat movement on both marginal and
aquatic plants, while the reduction in turbidity benefits
submerged plants. However, in natural rivers the potential
adverse effects on valued shallow water habitats also need
to be considered.
Bed stabilisation
Laying stones or other suitable material on the channel
bed can reduce re-suspension of sediments and
provide a firmer rooting medium for aquatic plants.
Work on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union
Canal showed that stones provided a firmer growing medium
for aquatic plants, increased the abundance of invertebrates
by providing refuges and increased prey abundance,
benefiting fish populations. Reduced turbidity increases the
amount of light reaching the plants encouraging growth.
Channel profile
Modifications to the waterway channel profile to benefit
wildlife may include provision of a variety of marginal
characteristics, including both steep and shallow
slopes, shelves at different depths and use of chippings
to stabilise bed sediments.
Table 8.4
Bank protection and wildlife
Type of measure Materials used
Hard bank
A steep marginal profile will maximise the area for aquatic
plant growth, and minimise areas available for emergent
plant colonisation. Shelves or ledges at shallow depths can
provide good habitat for emergent species, while deeper
shelf areas will encourage aquatic plants. Use of chippings
may assist plant rooting in mid-shelf areas.
Wildlife value
Interlocking sheet steel piling is often used as
a cost effective, long-lasting method of bank
protection and can also provide a suitable bank
for boat mooring.
Sheet steel piling, generally the material which mitigation often seeks
to replace, can offer some benefit by reducing water column sediment
loads and can create deep water which prevents marginal plants
growing out into the habitats of uncommon aquatic plants. However,
piling generally limits marginal vegetation development and reflects
boat wash.
Concrete walls and piling create a uniform,
impenetrable surface but concrete walls can
be readily shaped.
As for sheet steel piling but can be used to create underwater shelves
to increase the potential for wetland plant establishment (e.g. Kennet
and Avon Canal in the Bath valley).
Sand/weak mortar/concrete bags can be used
for bank protection or repairs and can be
shaped to provide slopes.
Can promote plant establishment and provide habitat for invertebrates,
including crayfish.
Stones and stone products, including gabions Stone reinforced banks, depending on the size of the gaps between
units, can absorb wave energy and provide a good habitat for plants
and rip-rap.
and animals, although rip-rap comprising large stones is of little
habitat value.
Soft bank
Coir rolls, made from coconut fibre.
Coir has good properties for rhizome and root establishment. Rolls can
be pre-planted prior to being laid along the banks. However, coir can
degrade rapidly (5 years in some cases), at which time it needs to be
replaced; it can also be undermined by boat wash and can become
snagged in boats' propellers.
Willow walls or spiling (may be expensive if
willows are not available locally).
For narrow channels (e.g. canals), shade management once the willow
is growing may be an issue but the technique can be effective in larger
Hazel faggots/bundles.
These can be set just below the water level and kept in place by
geotextiles (see below) to trap silt to create a growing medium for
marginal plants. However, they can become ineffective after about 5
years as the silt can be washed out.
Geotextiles, in the form of open weave
fabrics that can withstand wash and
currents (e.g. nylon meshes) and which may
be designed to allow plant growth.
Used successfully on a range of canals and rivers with high boat
movements over the last 20 years. Cheaper and less disruptive to
install than sheet-steel piling; the reed fringe it can help to create
and/or maintain absorbs the energy from boat wash which reduces
bank erosion. Can be effective in many situations up to c10.000 bmy in
maintaining important marginal habitats for some invertebrate, fish
and birds. Aesthetically more pleasing to many users.
Reed fringes.
In some cases, particularly in wider sections of waterway, reed fringes
can be established and maintained without any artificial bank
protection to form a good defence against boat wash.
Table 8.5
Mitigation measures to minimise adverse impacts of dredging activities
Minimise disturbance
to the existing plant
and animal community.
Dredge outside the bird nesting and fish spawning seasons; thus consider avoiding late March to July.
Avoid the spread of
turbidity (and potentially
other contaminants)
during and after the
Lower water level to prevent overflow to watercourses and other connected waterbodies.
This can be particularly difficult after heavy rain.
Leave reed beds and other emergent vegetation where practical, i.e. when the channel is wide enough
to maintain navigation without having to dredge the whole width of the canal. After 1 year following
dredging using this technique, reed warblers had re-colonised a stretch of the Grand Western Canal.
Set up a filter with coir or geotextiles to prevent overflow to particularly sensitive watercourses.
Limit the movement of very turbid water beyond the immediate dredged area by using straw bales
(e.g. Union Canal) and/or closed dredging buckets.
Dredge deep in the main channel.
Encourage recolonisation of dredged
sections by plants and
Dredge in short non-consecutive lengths.
Dredge some marginal areas to shallow depths to maintain the seed bank.
Create shelves if there is room and keep them shallow to improve vegetation development.
In some cases, a combination of hard and soft methods can be
used effectively, for example stones coupled with geotextiles.
The effectiveness of geotextiles has been proven and they are
widely used, for example in the Broads to reintroduce reedbeds
along the eroded banks of rivers. Other bioengineering materials,
for example coir rolls, have also been widely used on the
waterways. These have often been locally successful, although,
on balance, they have been found to degrade more quickly and
to be less effective than geotextiles, particularly at high levels
of boat traffic (John Eaton, pers. comm.).
Dredging can have a range of effects on the wildlife of inland
waterways, depending on the waterway type and characteristics.
Deep dredging and suitable profiling can benefit wildlife
(see Table 8.3).
However, dredging can cause temporary adverse effects,
which should be minimised by the type of mitigation measure
detailed in Table 8.5. These aim to:
Methods listed in Table 8.5 are based mostly on practical
experience and few published data are available on their
ecological effectiveness. Further research is needed to determine
the most effective dredging mitigation measures, particularly
on waterways with high conservation value. The results of current
work on the Grand Western Canal, where the effectiveness
of dredging in short lengths is being investigated, should
be available over the next two years.
Fish passes
In order to sustain migratory fish populations (e.g. salmon),
unrestricted access to spawning grounds is required.
Obstructions such as locks and weirs, which are commonly
required for navigation purposes, can restrict these movements.
Both legal and conservation considerations currently require a
fish pass to be introduced into any new or significantly renovated
river obstructions where there are populations of migratory fish.
There are many designs of fish passes including:
• pool and weir passes;
• minimise disturbance to the existing plant and animal
• baffled or steep passes;
• avoid the spread of turbidity and, potentially, other
contaminants during the operation;
• artificial channels with low gradient.
• encourage the re-colonisation by plants and animals
of dredged sections.
• pre-barrages;
The effectiveness of these designs has been shown to vary
considerably, partly dependent on local conditions. Any new fish
pass will need the approval of the relevant environment agency.
Good knowledge of the location of the most important plant and
animal species or communities is key to ensuring that impacts
related to disturbance and the spread of turbidity are minimised.
An environmental appraisal is now routinely undertaken by larger
navigation authorities before dredging work is undertaken, which
allows guidance to be given to dredging operators on the ground.
Such an approach should be applied universally.
Where necessary, critical species may be removed prior to the
dredging process and reintroduced following its completion.
Dewatering mitigation
Dewatering is periodically required on canal sections as part
of structural repair works or channel re-lining. In general it is
undertaken in the winter months when the waterways are least
used and, it is assumed, wildlife impacts will be least damaging.
Dewatering will inevitably be disruptive to the channel
environment. Best practice methods to reduce its impact include
minimising the period of dewatering and retaining at least some
water in the channel bed. However, in practice, the effectiveness
of these methods has been little assessed either in canals or
other habitats.
Where species of conservation or other interest are present in
a channel where dewatering is planned (e.g. fish, white clawed
crayfish, rare plants), rescue and release can be undertaken.
This has been successful in many cases, some long term.
The Rochdale Canal, for example, was dewatered for many
months during its restoration to navigation. Throughout this
time, plants of floating water-plantain were removed from
the canal, maintained in a botanic garden and successfully
replanted after restoration was complete.
Restoring navigation to derelict canals
As mentioned above, there is an opportunity when reintroducing
water to derelict canals during restoration to create new valued
aquatic habitat. In assessing the potential effects on wildlife at
the planning stage, it is important to consider both the newly
created wet habitat and the existing damp or dry habitat that will
be lost. The re-watered channel should be carefully designed
to try to ensure that the new habitat will remain of significant
value once boats are re-introduced.
There remain issues about the long-term sustainability of such
reserves, since they have shown a tendency for rapid siltation and
invasion by emergent plants, and dredging them to retain their
value for aquatic plants can require specialist equipment.
Biomanipulation, using ‘exclosures’ from which fish are excluded,
has been trialled successfully on Barton Broad as part of a
restoration scheme involving the removal of nutrient-rich sediment.
This also benefits navigation. Excluding fish provides the right
conditions for zooplankton such as water fleas to flourish.
These feed on planktonic algae to produce clear water, which
has resulted in the development of a diverse macrophyte flora.
In situations where navigation impacts cannot be mitigated in
the main navigation channel, off-channel compensation schemes
may be proposed. Ideally, off-channel reserves for aquatic plant
communities should be relatively large, with a wide range of
depths, a firm substrate for rooting and with good water quality.
This implies that they would be relatively isolated from,
but hydrologically connected to, the main channel, have few
(if any) boat movements and low fish densities.
Monitoring of offline reserves has shown that, in the short term,
they can support rich plant and invertebrate communities similar
to those of the main channel (Willby & Eaton, 1996). However,
in the longer term, they may lose the populations of the critical
submerged plants for which they were usually created, although
they may retain a high diversity of other species (Boedeltje et al.,
Particular problems that have been identified with offline
reserves, especially those directly connected to the main
channel, include:
Compensation for habitat loss or degradation
Compensation schemes aim to retain examples of the plants
and animals of a waterway, such as scarcer aquatic plants,
which may be impacted by the construction phase of a restoration
project or by increased boat movements. For example, the
planned use of offline reserves was instrumental in securing
the agreement to restore navigation onto the Montgomery Canal
SSSI. Reserves can be either in-channel or off-line (Table 8.6).
• water quality: if the water entering the reserve, either from
the surrounding land or from navigation in the main channel,
is silt-laden and turbid, then the reserve may silt up quickly;
Creation of in-channel reserves has been most used on the
continent. It has been trialled in Britain on the Rochdale Canal
to protect floating water plantain. The results from this work have
been broadly successful in the first few years after implementation,
though boat traffic movements on this waterway are still modest
(about 25% of the initial threshold of 800 bmy which would trigger
further monitoring).
• management: due to emergent plant and tree/shrub
encroachment, sites need to be managed to maintain open
water habitat equivalent to that originally present in the prerestoration navigation channel. This has long-term cost
• vegetation succession: silting-up can allow tall emergent
vegetation extensively to colonise the compensation area,
out-competing the submerged and floating-leaved plants which
are typically the main reason for establishing the reserve;
Overall, the value of offline reserves will very much depend on
local circumstances, together with their design and management.
Continued research and monitoring is required to assess further
the effectiveness of offline reserves in the longer term (see
Montgomery Canal Case Study in Appendix 5).
Difficulties with the adoption of preferred solutions
A number of constraints may hinder the adoption of preferred
solutions to mitigate the adverse effects of navigation on nature
conservation. Clearly these constraints will differ widely
depending on local circumstances, including differing views
held by different local consultees. In general, however,
the most significant are the following:
Table 8.6
Provision of nature reserve areas
as compensatory habitat
Type of
• Profile raising. Many involved in the waterway restoration
movement have little experience in wildlife matters, while
many in the wildlife movement have little understanding of how
waterways function for navigation. Greater communication and
sharing of information should be encouraged.
In lakes, such reserves may simply be roped-off
or buoy-marked 'no-go' areas.
In a more limited way, in-channel reserves
can also include structures such as rafts that
provide local cover for fish and roosting and
nesting sites for birds.
• Limitations imposed by built heritage. Many waterways in
urban areas may be constrained by the nature of the built
environment: in these places it may be impossible to install
soft revetments. The walls of a waterway may have statutory
protection under heritage legislation; some waterways are
designated in full or part as Scheduled Monuments.
• Engineering issues. In some places, the need to ensure
waterway structural integrity may make it impossible to adopt
the best mitigation technique for nature conservation.
• Uncertainty about success and costs. Techniques are being
constantly refined, but often their effectiveness can only be
assessed over long periods of time.
• Cost-effectiveness and sustainability
of different solutions. The ecological benefits of some
new mitigation techniques have not yet been fully
evaluated, making it difficult to assess their costeffectiveness.
• Information limitation. Mitigation techniques (e.g. water
vole-friendly banks) are developing very rapidly and staff
on some smaller navigations have, as yet, little experience
and training in their use. Wider dissemination of details
of eco-friendly techniques would be beneficial.
• Navigation legislation. In some cases duties towards
navigation placed on navigation authorities by their
enabling legislation, or through public rights protected
by statute, limit the adoption of some of the nature
conservation management measures described above.
These are separated-off areas of water within
the main line of the navigation where the aim
is to minimize boat traffic impacts so that
vulnerable species, often uncommon
submerged plants, can thrive. In-channel
reserve areas are generally at least partly
separated from the main channel by a physical
barrier (e.g. earth bunds, metal piles, concrete
walls) but are hydrologically connected with it.
'Exclosures' used to restore clear water
conditions using biomanipulation (e.g. removal
of fish to encourage zooplankton which remove
algae and produce clearer water) can also be
considered as a form of in-channel reserve.
These include non-navigated connected basins
and lagoons or former canal channels, as well
as dedicated areas set aside or created in
marinas and mooring basins. Flooded, disused
gravel pits adjacent to waterways can provide
an opportunity for valuable habitat creation.
Sidewaters (defined as a minimum 50%
increase in channel width) can provide a habitat
that is relatively sheltered from the effects of
boat movement. This includes areas such as
weir streams, lock bywashes, side ponds and
large winding holes, as well as wide sections
of waterway where there is space and a suitable
bed profile to allow development of an extensive
area of emergent and/or submerged vegetation.
In some cases, the provision of off-line
compensation may involve the construction of
completely new pond areas. These will require
a water supply, either from the waterway under
restoration or from another source of similar
water chemistry.
Many methods are currently being developed to try to
minimise the impact of navigation on nature conservation.
The next 5 to 10 years should bring considerable amounts
of new information on the value of a range of mitigation
techniques. For example, monitoring of mitigation schemes
on the Rochdale and Montgomery Canals (see case studies
in Appendix 5) should help assess their effectiveness in
protecting rare plants in canals restored to navigation.
Summary of good practice recommendations
The key stages that should underpin any plan of action
for balancing the needs of navigation and wildlife can
be summarised as:
• establish a planning process;
• engage people and develop partnerships;
• find out what is there in terms of ecological value;
• decide on what needs doing to maintain navigation,
while protecting and enhancing wildlife;
• do it;
• monitor outcomes and feed back and disseminate
knowledge for use in future planning.
In conclusion, it is worth summarising who should take
action, why it is necessary and how it should be done.
Who should take action?
The adoption of good practice in balancing the needs of
navigation and wildlife is recommended to all promoters
of waterway restoration and development, along with
those involved in waterway operation and maintenance,
for example navigation authorities, local authorities and
the voluntary sector. This will usually best be achieved
by a partnership approach involving navigation, wildlife
and other interests.
Those in an advisory or wider enabling role, for example
central Government, statutory nature conservation,
countryside advisory bodies and local planning authorities,
should contribute to developing and promoting good
practice in this area.
Why is it necessary?
The UK has international and national commitments to
protect and enhance wildlife, as well as national policies
on sustainable development. All public bodies, including
many navigation authorities, have legal duties towards
nature conservation and it is recommended that all
interested parties adopt the same approach. Sustainable
management of the waterways will contribute towards the
UK Sustainable Development Strategy targets for protecting
natural resources and enhancing the environment and for
creating sustainable communities (Defra, 2005).
By taking the initiative and adopting a partnership approach
with wildlife interests, navigation bodies will be more likely
to succeed in obtaining policy support and funding for the
How should it be done?
This chapter of the report signposts the way to good
practice but is not a detailed manual of practical
techniques. Detailed guidance can be found in the
publications and on the websites detailed in the blue
‘Key information sources’ boxes in this report.
There are no magic bullets that enable single prescriptive
recommendations to be given for a best method to use
when developing, maintaining or operating inland waterways.
The most suitable for a site will inevitably depend on many
variables. These include natural factors (width, depth,
underlying substrate, water quality), navigation related
factors (boat traffic density, speed limit, required draught)
and the legal status of waterway and the land it crosses
(in terms of environmental designations).
The tables above set out guidance on and include a range
of practical examples of good practice. Some further
summary points are set out in Table 8.7.
Table 8.7
Good practice recommendations for waterway development and management
In major developments it is important to be realistic, not over-optimistic, about the likely extent of impacts.
It is always much easier to cost-in and implement mitigation at an early project stage; it is sometimes impossible,
technically and financially, to retro-fit it.
Consider timing carefully to ensure that:
• particularly vulnerable life stages are avoided (e.g. eggs or newly hatched fish, nesting birds);
• works such as dewatering are carried out for the minimum time.
Effective management of waterway infrastructure and navigation can be effective in mitigating many of the negative
impacts of navigation on wildlife and achieving additional benefits. Use of EIA and EcIA, control of mooring locations
and early gathering of baseline data in critical locations all help to minimise ecological damage and enable protection
and enhancement to be built in to waterway management plans at an early stage.
Where to
If there are water quality issues because of pollution or high boat traffic, focus any enhancement on maximising
the value of in-channel bank edge communities (such as having lower angled, well vegetated banks), but also create
off-line water bodies to support the submerged plant communities and associated animals that are difficult to
maintain in heavily trafficked waterways.
Management of bank habitats must clearly support the needs of navigation and towpath users, as well as striking
a balance with conservation and engineering stability needs. However a wide range of soft engineering techniques
are available which in many situations provide good, sometimes better, engineering alternatives to hard materials.
Minimise the need for hard banks for linear moorings by focussing on marinas (such as BW's policy) and focus
customer facilities such as moorings, marinas and wharves away from sensitive areas.
Geotextiles appear be the most effective and long-lasting method for maintaining at least some marginal vegetation
even on heavily trafficked canals (up to 10,000 bmy.). More widespread use appears justified.
Industrial operations, particularly aggregates quarrying, may leave water filled pits alongside navigable watercourses
which provide opportunities for the creation of nature reserves linked to the navigation or for off-line moorings. These
relieve pressure on the wildlife of the main navigation channel. Similarly, the construction of new off-line marinas
provides opportunities for the creation of valued habitat, provided this is properly designed.
rare aquatic
Mitigation methods for protecting uncommon submerged plants from traffic effects are all very new. Most are still
in the development and trial stage. None have, as yet, been proven effective in the long term. Indeed an initial trial of
creating off-line reserves (the method trialled for longest), although promising in the first few years, proved ineffective
over longer periods under the management regime implemented. It is possible that (i) new techniques (e.g. modified
boat designs) may give better results in future and (ii) it may be possible to modify existing approaches to increase
their longevity (e.g. dredging offline reserves). However, based on current data, it is recommended that flexibility be
built into management plans to allow experience gained from monitoring of success or otherwise to be acted upon.
Boat design
In the long term, using the best practice in boat design is likely to have very positive impacts on the canal environment
for wildlife. In the short term alterations such as fixing deflector plates to boats can help reduce impacts, especially
in ecologically sensitive areas where these issues are most critical.
on to ensure
As the case studies in Appendix 5 of this report emphasise, the key to long term sustainable management of the
navigable waterways is the continued use of extensive discussion and consultation. This helps to achieve consensus,
form strategic partnerships with all interested parties and enable an open, transparent and inclusive process in all
that is done.
Rather than starting fresh negotiations for every individual project on a waterway, the aim should be to obtain
agreement on a comprehensive programme of work over a period of time.
Key information sources
AINA (2003) Safeguarding the waterway environment:
Priorities for research.
AINA Working Group on Environmental Impacts
of Waterway Uses.
AINA (2003) Safeguarding the waterway environment:
Priorities for research.
AINA Working Group on Environmental Impacts
of Waterway Uses.
BMF, RYA and EA, 2006. Environmental Code
of Practice: Practical advice for marine businesses,
sailing clubs and training centres (available at
Broads Authority 2005. From darkness to light:
the restoration of Barton Broad.
BW Biodiversity technical manual
Defra (2005) Securing the Future.
The UK's Sustainable Development Strategy
Defra (2006) Sustainable Development Indicators
in your pocket (see www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk).
EA (2000) Navigation restoration and environmental
appraisal: a guidance note.
EA (2000) Navigation restoration and environmental
appraisal: a guidance note.
Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Practical
Restoration Handbook
IWA Technical Restoration Handbook
Landamore et al, (2005 and 2006) Stage 1
and Stage 2 reports.
Moss B., Madgwick J. and G. Phillips 1996. A guide
to the restoration of nutrient-enriched shallow lakes.
Report for Environment Agency, Broads Authority,
PIANC (1997) Conference report: geotextiles and
geomembranes in river and maritime works
PIANC WG12 (1996). Reinforced vegetative bank
protections using geotextiles.
PIANC WG7 (2003). Ecological and Engineering
Guidelines for Wetlands Restoration in Relation
to the Development, Operation and Maintenance
of Navigation Infrastructures.
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB),
National Rivers Authority (NRA) and Royal Society
for Nature Conservation (RSNC), 1994.
The new rivers and wildlife handbook.
Strachan R. and Moorhouse T. (2006) Water
EA (2002) EIA Scoping Guidelines
vole conservation handbook, 2nd Edition.
EA (2002) EIA Scoping Guidelines
The Green Blue - guidance for navigation
EA (2002) EIA Scoping Guidelines - guidance notes
for 76 development types
Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
(IEEM) (2006) Guidelines for Ecological Impact
Assessment in the UK
Institute of Environmental Management
and Assessment (IEMA) EIA Guidance see www.ieem.org.uk/ecia/
users available at www.thegreenblue.org.uk
Conclusions and
The conclusions of this report are given below.
Supporting information is given in the chapters indicated.
• The navigable inland waterways system of England, Wales and
Scotland comprises a wide variety of waterways, including
river navigations, the Broads, navigable fenland drains and
canals ranging from those designed for narrow boats to ship
canals. These provide a wide range of aquatic habitats
supporting diverse biological communities which respond
to pressures in different ways (Chapter 3).
• While vessel movement has always had an interaction with the
waterway environment, this has been greatly increased by the
introduction of propeller driven craft compared with historic
methods of propulsion, such as towage from the bank or use
of sails (Chapter 3).
• The inland waterways system has become a multi-functional
resource of value both to the country as a whole and to local
communities. This resource contributes to leisure and tourism,
commercial enterprises, freight transport, urban and rural
regeneration, telecommunications, water management,
the built heritage, community wellbeing, human health and
nature conservation (Chapter 3).
• Navigation authorities often have statutory duties to maintain
their waterways and enjoy various powers to enable them to
do this. They all must, of course, comply with wildlife protection
legislation and all public navigation authorities now have a
statutory duty to promote nature conservation in the exercise
of their functions (Chapter 3).
• As a whole, this inland waterways system makes an important
contribution to biodiversity and to aquatic wildlife in particular.
In the interests both of nature conservation and of the
continuing attractiveness of the system to its users, this
contribution needs to be protected and, where practicable,
enhanced (Chapter 4).
• The contribution of the system to wildlife conservation is far
from uniform: at one extreme there are internationally and
nationally important designated sites with legal protection,
notably the Broads and some peripheral waterways (such
as the Montgomery and Pocklington Canals) which are
undergoing, or with plans for, restoration of navigation; at the
other there are some stretches devoid of much conservation
interest (Chapter 4).
• The extremes constitute a small proportion of the whole
system. The vast majority of the waterway system is of
modest conservation interest and here the wildlife value and
the attractiveness for users can, and should, be affected
directly by how the waterways are managed and by other
controls. With appropriate management almost all waterways
can deliver some wildlife benefits compatible with other
requirements on them, including navigation (Chapter 4).
• The value of each part of the system for aquatic wildlife
conservation evolves over time and all nationally protected
sites (SSSIs) are subject to continuing re-assessment by the
statutory agencies. While UK and Scottish Government policy
is to maintain or, where necessary, restore SSSIs to favourable
conservation status, a few SSSIs on very busy waterways have
never reached and are unlikely ever to reach favourable
conservation status, even with large expenditure and resource
input and the best efforts of the waterway managers. In such
cases, it may be best to focus limited available resources on
SSSIs where achievement of favourable status is a realistic
proposition. Conversely, others sites may grow in importance
and may justify legal protection in future (Chapter 4, Chapter 8).
• Changes in value arise because a whole range of pressures,
as well as navigation, affects waterway wildlife. Physical
alterations, such as the installation of weirs on rivers and bank
protection, affect habitat availability. Water quality is
particularly important, especially nutrient pollution from both
point and diffuse sources. The Water Framework Directive aims
to address such issues by establishing programmes of
measures directed towards the achievement of ecological
quality targets in all surface water bodies and should be a
major stimulus to improving wildlife value of the waterways
system. Other factors affecting aquatic wildlife value include
hydrology (e.g. water diversion, abstraction and impoundment),
fishery management and invasive species (Chapter 5).
• Navigation by motorised vessels in particular can affect
aquatic wildlife via induced currents and waves, by resuspending bottom sediments and by direct physical contact
with aquatic plants. The extent of such effects depends
on a number of factors, including the type of waterway,
the relationship between vessel size and channel crosssection, the nature of the bed and the banks along with
vessel speed (Chapter 6).
• The ways in which the development and maintenance
of waterway infrastructure are carried out can also have
a significant influence on the aquatic wildlife value of the
waterway. This is particularly the case for dredging and bank
protection (Chapter 6).
• In some cases, the well planned development and use of
waterways for navigation can also provide benefits for wildlife,
particularly where waterway restoration to navigation secures
continued maintenance of aquatic habitat or where new habitat
is created (Chapter 6).
• Many non-tidal navigable inland waterways are already managed
to serve navigation demands, as required by statute in many
cases, in an appropriate balance with other requirements
including those of aquatic wildlife. Such a management
approach, both sustainable and by consensus, is supported,
should continue and should be extended to all waterways
(Chapter 8).
• Early engagement of both navigation and wildlife interests
in constructive working partnerships, particularly in the case
of major projects such as waterway restoration, is likely
to produce the best outcomes for waterway users and the
environment (Chapter 8).
• Tools such as ecological impact assessment, management
agreements and, particularly for waterways of high conservation
value, conservation management plans can prove very valuable
as aids to effective planning for waterway development and use
(Chapter 8).
• Measures to reduce stress on aquatic wildlife will include
the way navigation is managed. This may include specific local
measures, as well as management approaches that can be
applied across the whole inland waterway system (Chapter 8).
• Channel cross-section profiles and banks should be designed
to minimise the effects of waves and currents, generated
by boat movements, to encourage marginal vegetation and
to provide habitat for species such as the otter, water vole
and native crayfish. Creating new off-line habitats may
be appropriate in special cases (Chapter 8).
• There are a small number of waterways, both in use for
navigation and with plans for restoration, where their
importance for aquatic wildlife should be given extra
consideration in their design and management, even as far
as limitations on boat movements, boat speed or the type
of vessels allowed. Achieving a sustainable balance between
navigation and aquatic wildlife conservation does not
necessarily cost more but where it involves significant
additional costs, these should be shared between those
that benefit (Chapter 8).
• Across the system, navigation bodies, local authorities,
wildlife organisations and the waterways industry need to be
actively engaged at all levels of management and consultation
to decide on shared objectives, to agree on approaches to
impact assessment, to ascertain the optimum balance for
future management, to develop good practice methods and
to monitor outcomes, if the country is to get the best value
out of its inland waterways (Chapter 8).
IWAC’s recommendations which flow from this report and
its conclusions are set out below.
For the inland waterways sector as a whole,
in conjunction with the UK Biodiversity Partnership1
IWAC recommends that these bodies should:
• encourage research on the effects of navigation on biodiversity.
Key areas might include (a) assessing the value of off-line and
on-line nature reserves in a range of water quality and boat
traffic environments, (b) evaluating dredging methods to
enhance populations of key species, and (c) investigating the
impact of boats on river navigations, considering all biota.
Assessments of new mitigation methods should extend over
the longer-term (5 to 10 years) in order to test the value of new
• where they are lead agencies for Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
aquatic species or habitats occurring in and on the waterways,
encourage the collection of environmental and management
information on such species, especially those where
knowledge is limited, and contribute to national target setting
and reporting for these BAPs;
• recognise fully the value of navigable inland waterways in
River Basin Management Plans established under the Water
Framework Directive, making full use of provisions for the
designation of artificial and heavily modified water bodies and
setting alternative objectives as appropriate, thus ensuring
that navigation authorities are not subjected to
disproportionate costs.
The inland waterways sector includes local authorities, local groups, central government, navigation authorities and waterways' user groups. The UK Biodiversity Partnership
comprises a wide range of people from those who provide funds, amateur and professional experts to those who are interested in the rich wildlife and natural history of the UK.
They include private individuals, business, Government and non-Government representatives. The Partnership is supported by a Standing Committee comprising representatives
from Defra and the devolved Governments, as well as the statutory nature conservation agencies and Wildlife Link.
For development agencies, English regional bodies
and all local authorities throughout Britain
IWAC recommends that development agencies (in England’s
regions, Scotland and Wales), UK Government Offices,
English regional bodies and British local authority planning
and countryside departments should:
• take active steps to identify all active or derelict inland
waterways within their geographical areas;
• take an interest in developing the full potential of these
waterways for navigation users, wildlife and for the
community as a whole;
• engage with navigation authorities, statutory conservation
and environment agencies, landowners and the voluntary
sector to agree future development and conservation
plans for these waterways;
• ensure that appropriate protection and development
provisions are included in regional spatial strategies
and local development plans.
For navigation authorities and navigation bodies
IWAC recommends that:
• where these are not already in place, navigation
authorities should develop procedures that ensure an
appropriate level of ecological impact assessment is
undertaken in advance of carrying out works that may
affect aquatic wildlife. Such assessments may range from
simply following a standard checklist covering routine
activities to a detailed ecological impact assessment
in the case of more significant works;
• navigation authorities should take account of the results
of these assessments in carrying out their functions and
implement appropriate mitigation and enhancement
measures for wildlife on their waterways;
• where waterways host BAP species or habitats, waterway
based local biodiversity action plans should be
developed, tailored specifically to contribute to decisions
on waterway maintenance and management; these may
be very brief or more complex, depending on the activities
being undertaken;
• Waterway Conservation Management Plans (CMPs)
should be in place for the limited number of waterways
(active navigations and those under restoration or
proposed for restoration) with significant nature
conservation interest. Existing CMPs and other
conservation plans should be regularly reviewed
as new knowledge becomes available;
• navigation authorities should be active partners,
either directly or through AINA, in contributing to the
development and implementation on their waterways
of the River Basin Management Plans required by the
Water Framework Directive, to ensure that waterway
interests are taken fully into account;
• in consultation with statutory nature conservation
agencies, navigation authorities should encourage the
development of new mitigation and enhancement
techniques for waterway wildlife using a multidisciplinary
approach involving engineers, navigation experts and
ecologists, while ensuring that essential works to the
waterway are not prevented by excessive mitigation costs.
Environmental mitigation is a rapidly evolving field with
a very wide range of solutions possible, many not yet
well-developed (and possibly not even yet conceived) and
ongoing research and development is urgently needed;
• national navigation authorities should maintain and
cultivate their links with statutory environment and
nature conservation agencies;
• all navigation authorities should seek to engage local
stakeholders, to foster mutual understanding on matters
relating to navigation and wildlife and to work in
partnership to develop and implement good practice;
• AINA should provide a forum for, and actively encourage
dissemination of, the considerable experience of larger
navigation authorities on management of waterways for
navigation and wildlife to the smaller navigation
• AINA should encourage its members and licensed boaters
to take responsibility for maintaining the conservation
value of inland waterways, for example by encouraging
elements of self-policing;
• building on its 2005 report, AINA should assist smaller
navigation bodies and restoration societies by developing
- a manual of conservation techniques (i.e. an easily
updateable document with lists of specialists for advice)
to extend its current guidelines for aquatic wildlife;
- an easy-to-use pictorial guide for use by operators,
for example those involved in dredging;
• navigation authorities should undertake properly
structured monitoring of wildlife and boat use on their
waterways, to improve our understanding of the
interactions and the success of different mitigation
• information should be shared between authorities
(through AINA) and with statutory wildlife bodies and
the voluntary sector, to allow the real gaps in knowledge
to be identified; effort can then be directed towards
resolving these, rather than re-inventing the wheel
in relation to each new waterway project. This applies
both to technical and scientific experience and to
consensus building.
For the voluntary sector
IWAC recommends that:
• a more effective dialogue between voluntary bodies in the
navigation and nature conservation fields is established
to share experience, develop best practice and to address
issues such as coordinating the use of volunteers;
• local waterway societies should take advice on wildlife
protection matters and should initiate dialogue with
wildlife bodies at the earliest stages of restoration
• Non Governmental Organisations, such as County Wildlife
Trusts, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
and specialist nature conservation groups, should take an
active interest in inland waterways and participate in the
local and national consultation and liaison arrangements
of navigation authorities, as well as responding positively
to requests for involvement in waterway restoration
• national waterway bodies, such as IWA and RYA, should
continue to play a leading role in providing education and
guidance to local voluntary groups and providing
technical responses to information requests and
For waterway related businesses
IWAC recommends that:
• building on its ‘Green Blue’ initiative with the RYA and
the publication of its Environmental Code of Practice,
the British Marine Federation (BMF) should continue
to raise awareness among its members of
environmental issues and the role of boat designers,
manufacturers, marina operators and boat chandlers
in contributing to the protection of the waterway
environment for wildlife;
• boatyards should follow the advice in the BMF
Environmental Code of Practice to minimise entry
to the water of any materials that might be detrimental
to wildlife;
• developers and operators should aim to accommodate
wildlife-friendly areas within marinas where practicable;
• waterway businesses who supply boat users should
encourage responsible navigation, to minimise the
adverse effects on wildlife, promote the use of
environmentally friendly products and practices and
minimise water pollution from boats.
IWAC will keep this matter under review to identify
changes and, where possible, anticipate problems
Glossary and list
of abbreviations
Aquatic plants - emergent and submerged plants
Feeder - a pipe or channel supplying water to a canal
BA - Broads Authority
Invertebrate - an animal without a backbone,
such as shrimps, insects, worms
BAP - Biodiversity Action Plan
BMF - British Marine Federation
BMY - Boat Movements per Year
Bow-thruster - a propeller mounted in a transverse tunnel
across the bow of a vessel, to provide sideways thrust for
the bow when manoeuvring at low speed
Broads - a series of lakes in Norfolk and Suffolk created
by medieval peat digging in the 12th-14th centuries and
flooded at the end of that time
BW - British Waterways
By-wash - a bypass channel or culvert allowing water
to flow round a lock from the higher to the lower canal level
CCW - Countryside Council for Wales, the Welsh Assembly
Government’s advisory body on nature conservation and
countryside matters in Wales
CROW Act - Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
Cut - a canal or other artificial water channel
DCLG - Department for Communities and Local Government
DCMS - Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
DfT - Department for Transport
Drain - an artificial waterway built primarily for land drainage
EA - Environment Agency, the environmental regulator
in England and Wales
EcIA - Ecological Impact Assessment
EIA - Environmental Impact Assessment
Emergent plants - plants with their roots submerged but
with part of the plant growing above the water surface level
Eutrophication - the nutrient enrichment of waters which
results in the stimulation of an array of symptomatic changes,
among which increased production of algae and macrophytes
and deterioration of water quality are found to be undesirable
and interfere with water uses
IEEM - Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
IEMA - Institute of Environmental Management
and Assessment
IWAAC - Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council
IWAC - Inland Waterways Advisory Council
IWA - Inland Waterways Association
JNCC - Joint Nature Conservation Committee, a joint
committee on the national nature conservation agencies
in England, Wales and Scotland
Leeboards - large boards lowered into the water at the sides
of a sailing vessel to reduce the amount of leeway (sideways
movement), particularly when unladen
LBAP - Local Biodiversity Action Plan
Macrophyte - a member of the plant life of an area, especially
in a body of water, visible by the naked eye
Narrow canal - a canal built to accommodate only narrow
boats, which were generally about 21m (70 feet) long and
2.13m (7 feet) wide
NGO - Non Governmental Organisation
NE - Natural England (formerly English Nature), the UK
Government’s advisory body on nature conservation and
countryside matters in England
Nutrients - in terms of aquatic plants, substances such
as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds which are necessary
for and stimulate plant growth
Omni-directional drive - a propeller drive on a vessel that
is capable of rotation through 360° around a vertical axis,
allowing the thrust from the propeller to be directed forwards,
backwards or sideways
Organic - contains carbon or compounds of carbon
pH - a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration, which
determines whether water is acid or alkaline - a pH of 7
is neutral, lower values represent acid water, higher values
alkaline water
PIANC - the International Navigation Association
Quant - an East Anglian term for a barge pole used for
propelling a boat by pushing off the waterway bed (quanting)
Ramsar site - a site listed under the Ramsar Convention
on Wetlands of International Importance, Ramsar, Iran, 1971
Riparian - pertaining to the banks of a waterway
RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
RYA - the Royal Yachting Association
SAC - Special Area of Conservation designated under the
EC Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and
of Wild Flora and Fauna (92/43/EEC) (the Habitats Directive)
(as amended)
SG - Scottish Government
SEPA - Scottish Environment Protection Agency,
the environmental regulator in Scotland
Shaft - a canal term for a barge pole used for propelling
a boat by pushing off the waterway bed (shafting or poling)
Ship canal - a canal designed to accommodate seagoing ships
SINC - Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation
SNCI - Sites of Natural Conservation Interest
SNH - Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Government’s
advisory body on nature conservation and countryside matters
in Scotland
SPA - Special Protection Area classified under EC Directive
on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC), as amended
SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest notified under the
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
Substrate - an underlying layer
Submerged plants - plants growing entirely within
the water column
Swim - the tapered stern of a boat leading to the point
where the propeller is mounted
Tub boat canal - a canal built to accommodate short
rectangular container boats towed in trains, often provided
with boat lifts instead of locks
WAG - Welsh Assembly Government
AINA (Association of Inland Navigation Authorities), 2001.
A vision for the strategic enhancement of Britain’s inland
navigation network. AINA, 28pp.
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Consensus building bibliography (Chapter 8)
- See Appendix 4
This report was produced for IWAC by Anne Powell of the
Freshwater Biological Association and Jeremy Biggs,
Penny Williams and Pascale Nicolet of Pond Conservation:
The Water Habitats Trust. Inputs on consensus building
were supplied by Ken Taylor of Asken Ltd, and engineering
advice was provided by Chris Mitchell. Further inputs
and editing of the report were provided by John Pomfret
of Entec UK Ltd. Design was by Matt Purkiss-Webb
of Honey Creative.
Derek Gowling, former Policy Manager at IWAAC/IWAC,
and John Manning, Policy Adviser at IWAC, were
responsible for co-ordinating IWAC Members’ inputs,
including the majority of case study work.
Steering Group
Members of the Steering Group were:
Sheelin Knollys/John Edmonds - IWAAC/IWAC
Derek Gowling/John Manning - IWAAC/IWAC
John Pomfret - IWAC
Jayne Redrup - Defra
Ian White/Paul Beckwith/Philip Burgess (alternates) - AINA
Stewart Clarke - Natural England (formerly English Nature)
Eileen McKeever - Environment Agency
Recognition and appreciation is given to all those
organisations additional to the Steering Group who
contributed to the case studies and review of drafts of the
report, particularly British Waterways, Broads Authority,
IWA, Derby Wildlife Trust, John Eaton and various
waterway societies.
The Council gratefully acknowledges the financial
assistance from Defra towards the research and
publication of this report.
The report represents the views of IWAC, as advised by the
members of the Steering Group and other consultees.
It provides advice on the consideration of wildlife issues
in relation to navigable inland waterways and illustrative
examples of the way in which a balance can be achieved
between navigation and wildlife interests. However, the
success of specific approaches will vary according to the
characteristics and use of the waterway concerned and
IWAC urges readers to refer to more detailed information
referenced in the report and to local circumstances before
committing to any particular course of action. Neither
IWAC nor its advisers can be held responsible for any
planning or operational decisions made in relation to this
study’s findings.
Appendix 1
Summary of Main Legislation Relevant to Nature
Conservation and Inland Waterways
The Convention
on Wetlands of
Importance especially
Waterfowl Habitats
1971 (The Ramsar
The UK ratified the Convention in 1976. It covers all aspects of wetland conservation and their wise use.
The Convention has three main 'pillars' of activity: the designation of wetlands of international importance;
the promotion of the wise-use of all wetlands in the territory of each country; and international co-operation
with other countries to further the wise-use of wetlands and their resources. The UK has generally chosen
to underpin the designation of its Ramsar sites through prior notification of these areas as Sites of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSIs) (see WCA and Nature Conservation (Scotland) Acts below). Ramsar sites have the
same level of protection as that afforded under the EC Birds and Habitats Directives (see below).
The Convention on
the Conservation of
European Wildlife and
Natural Habitats 1979
This Convention was ratified by the UK in 1982. The principal aims of the Convention are to ensure
conservation and protection of the wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats (listed in
Appendices I and II of the Convention), to increase cooperation between contracting parties, and to afford
special protection to the most vulnerable or threatened species (including migratory species) (listed in
Appendix 3). To implement the Bern Convention in Europe, the European Community adopted the Birds
Directive in 1979 and the Habitats Directive in 1992 (see below). The Convention was implemented in UK
law by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981, as amended) (see WCA below).
(The Bern Convention)
The Bonn Convention
on Migratory Species
of Wild Animals 1983
The Convention arose in 1972 from a recommendation by the United Nations “Man and the Environment”
conference in Stockholm, and entered into force in November 1983. The UK ratified the Convention in July
1985 and it entered into force in the UK on 1 October 1985.
(The Bonn Convention
or CMS)
The Bonn Convention aims to improve the status of all threatened migratory species through national action
and international Agreements between the range states of particular groups of species.
Under the Convention, the Agreement on the Conservation of European Bats (EUROBATS) entered into force
on 16 January 1994, with the UK a party to it. The Agreement aims to encourage co-operation within Europe
to conserve all its 37 species of bats. Parties to the Agreement agree to work through legislation, education,
conservation measures and international co-operation towards the conservation of bats in Europe. Of the
Parties fundamental obligations, two are most relevant for the inland waterways:
• to identify sites within its jurisdiction that are important to the conservation of bats and protect these
sites from damage or disturbance;
• to promote research programs relating to the conservation and management of bats.
The Convention on
Biological Diversity
1992 (The Biodiversity
Convention or CBD)
The Convention entered into force in December 1993 and was ratified by the UK in 1994. This is the first
treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation. In 1994, as a result of this Convention,
the UK Government launched the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP), a national strategy which identified
broad activities for conservation work over the next 20 years, and established fundamental principles for
future biodiversity conservation. Subsequently, Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) and Local Biodiversity
Action Plans (LBAPs) have been prepared for species and habitats.
EC Directive
79/409/EEC on the
Conservation of Wild
Birds (The Birds
The Directive provides a framework for the conservation and management of, and human interactions with,
wild birds in Europe. The Directive requires the identification and classification of Special Protection Areas
(SPAs) for rare or vulnerable species listed in its Annex I. In the UK, the provisions of the Directive are
implemented through the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation (Natural
Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994 (as amended). It is generally policy in the UK that areas classified as SPAs
are first notified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (see WCA below). These are particularly relevant
to estuarine waterways (which are not covered in this guide), but also include the Broads.
EC Directive on the
Conservation of
Natural Habitats and
the Wild flora and
Fauna 92/43/EEC (The
Habitats Directive)
The main aim of the EC Habitats Directive is to promote the maintenance of biodiversity by requiring Member
States to take measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species at a favourable conservation
status, introducing robust protection for those habitats and species of European importance (listed in Annex I
and II). In applying these measures Member States are required to take account of economic, social and
cultural requirements and regional and local characteristics. This is the means by which the Community
meets its obligations as a signatory of the Bern Convention (see above). Each Member State is required
to prepare and propose a national list of sites for evaluation in order to form a European network of Sites
of Community Importance (SCIs). Once adopted, these are designated by Member States as Special Areas
of Conservation (SACs). The Habitats Directive introduces for the first time for protected areas, the
precautionary principle; that is that projects can only be permitted having ascertained no adverse effect on
the integrity of the site. Projects may still be permitted if there are no alternatives, and there are imperative
reasons of overriding public interest. In such cases compensation measures will be necessary to ensure the
overall integrity of network of sites. In the UK the Directive has been transposed into national laws by means
of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) (see below). Most SACs on land
or freshwater areas are underpinned by notification as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
EC Directive with
Regards to the
Prevention and
Remedying of
Damage 2004/35/EC
(The Environmental
Liability Directive)
Seeks to prevent and remediate environmental damage, particularly to habitats and species protected under
EC legislation. The Directive was adopted in 2004 and is now in force.
EC Freshwater Fish
Directive 78/659/EEC
Establishes categories of (i) Salmonid waters and (ii) Cyprinid waters for the classification of inland
freshwaters which require protection or improvement in order to support fish life and sets environmental
quality standards for these waters. The Directive is implemented in the UK through regulations.
EC Directive
establishing a
framework for the
Community action
in the field of water
policy 2000/60/EC
(EU Water Framework
Directive or WFD)
The purpose of the Directive is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters (rivers and
lakes), transitional waters (estuaries), coastal waters and groundwater. It will ensure all aquatic ecosystems
and, with regard to their water needs, terrestrial ecosystems and wetlands meet 'good status' by 2015.
The Directive requires Member States to establish river basin districts and for each of these a river basin
management plan. The Directive envisages a cyclical process where river basin management plans are
prepared, implemented and reviewed every six years. There are four distinct elements to the river basin
planning cycle: characterisation and assessment of impacts on river basin districts; environmental monitoring;
the setting of environmental objectives; and the design and implementation of the programme of measures
needed to achieve them.
EC Directive on
Environmental Impact
85/337/EEC, as
amended by 97/11/EC
and 2003/35/EC
The purpose of the Directive is to ensure that environmental concerns are taken into account when new
developments (built, infrastructure etc, including canals) are proposed. Developments are classed as Annex I
(for which an EIA must be completed) and Annex II (for which an EIA may be needed). Common practice for
non-Annex I projects is now to prepare a screening paper on which a decision can be made by the relevant
authorities, whether an EIA is needed. All aspects of the environment need to be considered including nature
conservation, recreation and socio-economic effects. The Directive has been implemented in UK law by
a number of Regulations.
EC Directive on the
assessment of the
effects of certain
plans and
programmes on
the environment
This Directive requires national, regional and local authorities in Member States to carry out strategic
environmental assessments (SEAs) on certain plans and programmes that they promote. It has been
introduced into UK law through Statutory Instruments 2004:1633 (England), 2004:1656 (Wales) and
by the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 (Scotland)
Nature Conservation
The Wildlife and
Countryside Act (WCA)
1981 (as amended)
This Act consolidates and amends existing national legislation to implement international legislation
on nature conservation (see above) and covers protection of wildlife (birds, and some animals and plants),
the countryside, National Parks, and the designation of protected areas, and public rights of way. It forms
the basis for habitat and species protection in the UK. Under this act, sites of particular nature conservation
interest are notified as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The WCA (and its subsequent amendments
and variations to schedules) identifies species that, in the absence of a licence, are directly protected from
killing and taking, or which have their habitat protected from disturbance and damage The release of nonnative species into the wild is also prohibited.
The Conservation
(Natural Habitats etc)
Regulations 1994 (as
These regulations transpose the Habitats Directive (see above) into national law, it provides for the
designation and protection of 'European sites', the protection of 'European protected species', and the
adaptation of planning and other controls for the protection of European Sites. Under the Regulations,
competent authorities i.e. any Minister, government department, public body, or person holding public office,
have a general duty, in the exercise of any of their functions, to have regard to the EC Habitats Directive.
The Regulations also provide for the control of potentially damaging operations, whereby consent from
the country agency may only be granted once it has been shown through appropriate assessment that the
proposed operation will not adversely affect the integrity of the site. In instances where damage could occur,
the appropriate Minister may, if necessary, make special nature conservation orders, prohibiting any person
from carrying out the operation. However, an operation may proceed where it is or forms part of a plan or
project with no alternative solutions, which must be carried out for reasons of overriding public interest.
The Countryside and
Right of Way (CROW)
Act 2000
This Act increases protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and strengthens wildlife
enforcement legislation. IT also places a duty on UK Government Departments and the National Assembly
for Wales to have regard for the conservation of biodiversity and maintain lists of species and habitats for
which conservation steps should be taken or promoted, in accordance with the Convention on Biological
Diversity. The Act changes WCA, amending SSSI notification procedures and providing increased powers for
the protection and management of SSSIs, and strengthening the legal protection for threatened species.
The provisions make certain offences 'arrestable', create a new offence of reckless disturbance, confer
greater powers to police and wildlife inspectors for entering premises and obtaining wildlife tissue samples
for DNA analysis, and enable heavier penalties on conviction of wildlife offences.
The Nature
(Scotland) Act 2004
The Act places duties on public bodies in relation to the conservation of biodiversity, replaces the WCA and
increases protection in relation to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), amends legislation on Nature
Conservation Orders, provides for Land Management Orders for SSSIs and associated land, strengthens
wildlife enforcement legislation, and requires the preparation of a Scottish Fossil Code. The Act is compliant
with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, requiring consultation where the rights
of the individual may be affected by these measures.
Environmental Impact
Since originally introduced in 1989, a family of regulations have been introduced with different regulations
applying to different sectors and in different countries of the UK. All are refinements of the basic premise
that the environmental impacts of any significant development should be identified and assessed, and
mitigation introduced to reduce the adverse impacts. The regulations are significant in introducing
transparency and give interested parties (i.e. stakeholders) an opportunity to review proposals (i.e.
stakeholders are routinely consulted).
Natural Environment
and Rural
Communities Act 2006
Given Royal Assent on 30th March 2006. Part 2 concerns nature conservation in the UK. It introduces a duty
on every public authority to exercise its functions with due regard to conservation of biodiversity, prohibits
possession of banned pesticides, regulates sales of invasive non-native species and modifies the offences
in connection with SSSIs. Part 7 created IWAC from its predecessor body the Inland Waterways Amenity
Advisory Council.
Pollution Control and Water Management
Protection Act 1990
This Act and many related amendments give powerful controls over companies that produce waste. The
main issue for navigation authorities is the definition of waste, and although dredged material is usually
exempt, it has to be chemically analysed to obtain an exemption certificate from the Environment Agency
(EA). If there are contaminants above certain levels, then the “waste” will have to go to an appropriate tip.
Under the Act a Local Authority could place notice on a navigation authority if land in their ownership is
found to be contaminated.
Waste Management
Licensing Regulations
These regulations and many amendments seek to control waste and especially the movement and disposal
of waste. Waste should be securely contained in such a state as to avoid it escaping into the environment.
Waste must be transferred only to an authorised site by an authorised carrier and must be accompanied
by an appropriate written description (transfer note).
Waste management licences are required for dredging tips. Competent managers as recognised by the
Regulations are required for licensed sites. Exemptions are available for activities such as:
• dredging to banks;
• beneficial re-use by spreading on agricultural land;
• land reclamation;
• reuse and recycling.
Exemptions must be registered with EA/Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in advance
of the works.
Environment Act 1995
Establishes Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency, who assume pre-existing
duties from the National Rivers Authority, River Purification Boards, Local Authorities, Waste Regulation
Authorities, HMIP and HMIPI, together with specified new duties under the 1995 Act. Provides for the
development of national air quality strategy for England, Wales and Scotland. Establishes a national waste
strategy for Scotland, England and Wales and a system of producer responsibility for waste together with
amendments of Scottish Statutory Nuisance Law and Scottish Water Pollution Legislation. Establishes the
Sandford Principle for national parks.
Water Resources Act
The Acts are to protect and control the use of water resources. This covers:
Water Environment
and Water Services
(Scotland) Act 2003
• water resource management including control of abstractions;
• water pollution and effluent discharge control;
• flood defence.
Canals are controlled waters, and the water quality is monitored by the EA and SEPA.
The acts include offences of causing knowingly permitting polluting matter to enter controlled waters,
including silt.
The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 also makes provision for implementation
of the EC Water Framework Directive in Scotland.
Water Act 2003
This Act applies mainly to England and Wales (with some sections applying to Scotland
(i.e. section 73 (Border Rivers)). There are four broad aims:
• the sustainable use of water resources;
• strengthening the voice of consumers;
• a measured increase in competition;
• the promotion of water conservation.
Many water abstractions that before were exempt now will require Environment Agency licences
or consents. Some exceptions still remain.
The Salmon and
Freshwater Fisheries
Act 1975
The Act protects freshwater fisheries. Key provisions are that it is an offence to pollute any waters that
are fisheries and section 30 requires a licence for the movement or introduction of fish to inland waters.
NAs cannot introduce fish or spawn without prior approval of the EA.
Salmon and
Freshwater Fisheries
(Scotland) Act 2003
Consolidates previous legislation relating to salmon and freshwater fisheries in Scotland and essentially
make provision for offences of polluting waters containing fish.
The Surface Waters
(Fish Life)
Regulations 1997 and
The Surface Waters
(Fish Life)
(Scotland) Regulations
These regulations implement the EC Freshwater Fish Directive.
Waters classified under the Regulations require to be sampled and analysed in accordance with provisions
set out in the Regulations. Specific provisions relating to sampling are covered.
If the quality standard is failed for any reason, then the navigation authority may have to be involved
in managing improvements.
The Water
Environment (Water
Framework Directive)
(England and Wales)
Regulations 2003
These regulations make provision for implementation of the EC Water Framework Directive in England
and Wales.
Land Drainage Act
Gives powers to the Environment Agency, local authorities and Internal drainage Boards to manage and
carry out works for flood prevention works in England and Wales.
There are requirements for navigation authorities not to block or obstruct any watercourses necessary for
the drainage without consent, and also NAs have a duty to keep all ditches on their property clear where
they drain adjacent land. Any works in a watercourse that is registered as “main river” have to be consented
by the Environment Agency.
Flood Prevention
and Land Drainage
(Scotland) 1991
(and related acts)
These Acts regulate a regime for the carrying out of works to alleviate or prevent flooding and for flood
warning in Scotland.
Key information sources:
Countryside Council for Wales (www.ccw.gov.uk)
Defra (www.defra.gov.uk)
Environment Agency (www.environment-agency.gov.uk)
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (www.jncc.gov.uk)
Natural England (www.naturalengland.org.uk)
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Scottish Government (www.scotland.gov.uk)
Scottish Natural Heritage (www.snh.org.uk)
Appendix 2
Important Protected Species and Habitats Associated
with Navigable Waterways
Latin name
English name Legislation/Status
Vascular plants
Leersia oryzoides
Cut Grass
Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA),
Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Basingstoke Canal.
Luronium natans
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive,
Significant populations in a number of canals e.g.
Rochdale Canal, Montgomery canal.
A significant proportion of the remaining UK population
is located in canals e.g. Montgomery and Grantham.
Sharp Leaved
Mainly in south-east England.
Chara baltica
Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.
Chara connivens
Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.
Chara intermedia
Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.
Nitellopsis obtusa
Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive,
Populations in a number of canals.
Occurs in the Wye.
Donacia bicolora
A Reed
Generally, Donacia bicolora is associated with
branched bur-reed growing along the margins
of rivers, and sometimes ponds, lakes and canals.
Occurs on the River Wey navigation.
Pea Mussel
Canals and lowland rivers north to Yorks.
River Mussel
Occurs (at least) in the rivers Ouse, Waveney, Yare,
Derwent (Yorkshire), Wye, Brue, Arun and various
canals and drains.
Vertigo moulinsiana
Whorl Snail
Habitats Directive, BAP
Occurs in dense reedswamp vegetation alongside
watercourses and in fens. Occurs on River Kennet
and in Norfolk Broads.
Latin name
Perileptus areolatus
English Name Legislation/Status
Exposed riverine sediments, which support this
species group, occurs on some navigable rivers
e.g. Wye, Soar.
Crested Newt
Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP
Occurs in a number of canals and fenland waterways.
Alosa fallax
Twaite Shad
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive
Rivers which still have spawning stocks include
the Wye and Severn.
Anguilla anguilla
Occurs widely in freshwater.
Cobitis taenia
Spined Loach
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive
Trent and Great Ouse catchments, some small
rivers and drains in Lincolnshire and East Anglia
and a small number of canals (Grantham, Grand
Union, Trent and Mersey).
Cottus gobio
Habitats Directive
Study showing competition between bullhead
and signal crayfish done in Great Ouse
(Guan and Wiles 1997).
Lampetra fluviatilis
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive
Rivers Ouse/Ure, Derwent, Dee and Wye.
Lampetra planeri
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive
River Ouse/Ure.
Petromyzon marinus
Sea Lamprey
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive
Occurs in some navigations (e.g. Rivers Derwent,
Avon, Dee, and Wye).
Salmo salar
Bern Convention, Habitats Directive
Occurs in navigations (e.g. Rivers Wye, Avon and Dee).
Arvicola terrestris
Water Vole
Occurs on canals and river navigations.
Lutra lutra
Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP
Occurs on canals and river navigations.
Neomys fodiens
Water Shrew
Found in habitats close to water, including the banks
of streams, rivers, ponds and drainage ditches,
as well as reed-beds and fens.
Bembidion testaceum
Lionychus quadrillum
Hydrochus nitidicollis
Thinobius newberyi
Meotica anglica
Triturus cristatus
Latin name
English name Legislation/Status
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA, BAP
An uncommon bat that sometimes feeds over water.
Myotis bechsteinii
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA, BAP
Ancient woodland species.
Myotis daubentonii
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA
Occurs throughout Britain and feeds over rivers, lakes,
ponds and canals.
andt’s Bat
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA
These two species, which are difficult to separate,
occur widely in England, Wales. Sometimes feeds
over water.
Myotis nattereri
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA
A scarce species found throughout Britain that
sometimes feeds over water and roosts in bridges,
trees, aqueducts and tunnels.
Nyctalus noctula
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA
A bat that occurs widely in England, Wales and
south-west Scotland; sometimes feeds over water.
Pipistrellus nathusii
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA
Very rare, perhaps under-recorded, bat. In southwest
England found over lakes and rivers.
Pipistrelle 45
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA, BAP
Common bat on canals and rivers (see Lancaster
Canal case study in Appendix 5).
Pipistrelle 55
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA, BAP
Common bat on canals and rivers (see Lancaster
Canal case study in Appendix 5).
Plecotus auritus
Brown Longeared Bat
WCA, BAP, Bonn Convention,
Habitats Directive
Roosts in canal tunnels.
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA, BAP
A rare species found in South-West England and
South Wales that sometimes feeds over water.
Bonn Convention, Habitats
Directive, WCA, BAP
A rare species which occurs in Wales and the west
of England that sometimes feeds over water.
Latin name
English name Legislation/Status
Alcedo atthis
Widespread on canals and navigable rivers.
Hard oligomesotrophic
waters with
benthic vegetation
of Chara spp.
Habitats Directive, BAP
(mesotrophic and eutrophic lakes)
The Broads is the richest area for charophytes
in Britain (Stewart 1996).
Water courses with
the Ranunculion
fluitantis and
Rivers with
Habitats Directive, BAP (chalk
Some navigations fall into this category
(e.g. River Derwent).
Notes on species selection
The list includes a selection of species and habitats associated with navigable waterways taken from the following:
UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species and Habitats.
Natural habitat types and species listed in Annexes 1, 2 or 5 of the Habitats Directive.
Species listed in the Bern Convention.
Species listed in the Bonn Convention.
Species listed on Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and subsequent revisions.
The list includes water-dependent species and species which are associated with channel margin water-dependent habitats
(e.g. reed beetles, Donacia spp., which occur on emergent macrophytes that commonly border canal or river channels). It also
includes mammals such as bats which make extensive use of linear water habitats for foraging and/or shelter. The lists do not cover
Red Data Book species or species with other conservation designations (e.g. identified as nationally or regionally scarce), unless they
fall into one of the categories listed above.
Appendix 3
Guidance on Waterway Management
for Important Species and Habitats
Species name
Relevant legislation and status
Ecological requirements
Aquatic plants
Floating water-plantain
(Luronium natans)
Bern Convention
Habitats Directive
Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA)
Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
Grass-wrack pondweed
(Potamogeton compressus)
Nationally Scarce (it would be rare if not
for several large canal populations)
Floating water-plantain is found in clear-water, usually
mesotrophic canals, lakes, ponds and a few slow-moving
rivers, where it may need periodic dredging and/or
disturbance to provide the open, bare-mud situations which
it favours. Luronium grows in a number of aquatic habitats:
in shallow water with floating oval leaves, in deep water with
submerged rosettes of narrow leaves and on exposed mud
where water levels fluctuate. The plant thrives best in open
situations with a moderate degree of disturbance, where
growth of competing emergent vegetation is held in check.
Grass-wrack pondweed is a submerged plant species of
little-polluted, still or slow flowing, calcareous, mesotrophic
waterbodies, including rivers, canals, drainage ditches and
lowland lakes. In canals it typically grows in clear,
moderately deep water, often in aqueducts or other areas
where the flow is slightly accelerated. Populations are
known to be declining significantly in rivers, and canal
populations are of significant importance.
Aquatic invertibrates
Donacia aquatica is usually found on aquatic vegetation
dominated by sedges, such as Carex acutiformis. Adults are
active during May and June. The larvae feed on submerged
parts of emergent vegetation.
The depressed river mussel lives in the bottom sediment
of rivers near the banks. Unlike the other mussel species,
it usually buries completely into the mud, and leaves its foot
out to anchor itself into the substrate. It is restricted to
larger rivers and various canals and drains. It may prefer
rivers with high flow and high algal content. It can live for
between 8 and 18 years, and may reach more than 10cm
in length. Its larvae parasitise fish, probably perch and
Fine-lined Pea mussel
(Pisidium tenuilineatum)
Red List
A little known species recorded from rivers, canals and
lakes, where it favours fine silty or muddy substrates in
clean hard unpolluted water.
A reed beetle
(Donacia bicolora)
Depressed River Mussel
(Pseudanodonta complanata)
Consideration in waterway restoration or operation
Canal populations may be threatened by opening little-used waterways
to motorised traffic, which stirs up the mud, decreasing the light
penetrating to submerged populations and may physically erode
marginal populations. Its habitat in rivers has been reduced by
channel-straightening, dredging and pollution, especially in the
lowlands. There is also a potential threat from eutrophication due
to agricultural intensification or development in the canal corridor.
Paradoxically, there is also a threat from neglect of the canal system:
particularly occasional dredging which helps to prevent ecological
succession in which closed communities of emergent plants replace
the open communities supporting floating water-plantain.
Populations of Floating Water-plantain can be maintained by
(i) ensuring good water clarity in the channel and (ii) preventing
overgrowth by emergent plants. Careful periodic dredging or
draining to expose sediments is beneficial, especially if canals
are part dredged to ensure retention of a portion of the seed bank.
In the short term Luronium may get some protection from adverse
conditions, such as muddy water and disturbance, within inchannel refugia (e.g. behind piling). However, these areas quickly
grow over with tall emergents and their long-term sustainability,
even with regular management, is unknown. The plant is
successfully being conserved in on-line reserves on the Rochdale
Canal (see Appendix 5). Creation of off-line refugia (e.g.
Montgomery restoration ponds) may be effective where there
is good water quality and periodic disturbance from dredging
to create bare areas and keep the waterbodies in early to mid
succession. If managed appropriately, such refugia should work
in principle. However in practice, their long-term value is currently
The main threats to grass-wrack pondweed are enrichment
(eutrophication) and increased turbidity in its aquatic habitats.
Increases in volume of pleasure boat traffic and associated disturbance
are a threat in canals as are disuse and drying out.
Channel management requirements for grass-wrack pondweed
are similar to floating water-plantain: i.e. maintain clean water
with good clarity in the channel and ensure periodic dredging.
Off-line reserves have been created beside the Montgomery Canal
for this and other species. However, their value and long-term
sustainability are not yet clear.
Loss of suitable habitat due to water abstraction, disturbance
of marginal vegetation and eutrophication.
Identify populations and ensure their habitat is appropriately
managed, particularly in maintaining water quality and water
The threats to this species are not fully known, but are likely to include
water pollution and physical disturbance of river banks and channels.
River management has serious consequences for mussel populations:
mussels may be deposited on the river banks, where they will die; they
may be moved into the mid-channel where flow may be too high and
they may be washed away; they may be killed when their shells are
broken; and mussels downstream of the dredging may be smothered
by the extra sediment suspended during the dredging operation.
Avoid activities which could cause pollution.
The reasons for both the rarity and recent decline are unknown, but are
likely to include a decline in water quality and possibly inappropriate
channel management.
From what little is known of the threats to this species, it appears
to be important to maintain water quality. Other recommendations
will need to await a greater understanding of its habitat
requirements and the reasons for population declines.
Recent studies of the effect of river dredging in the River Brue in
Somerset found that dredging removed over 20% of the mussel
population, including large numbers of the depressed river
mussel, Pseudanodonta complanata. After the winter floods,
very few mussels were left in the river as much of the remaining
substrate had been washed away. This demonstrates how
dredging operations can be catastrophic for mussel populations.
This is a particular problem for the depressed river mussel,
which occurs along short stretches of river at high density. If these
stretches are dredged, whole populations of the depressed river
mussel can be lost.
Species name
Relevant legislation and status
Water beetle
(Bidessus minutissimus)
Red List
White-clawed Crayfish
Bern Convention
(Austropotamobius pallipes)
Habitats Directive
Ecological requirements
Bidessus minutissimus occurs in the lower reaches of
rivers, typically in association with sand or fine gravel banks.
Fine silt at edge of rivers often associated with plant roots.
The life-cycle is unknown and the immature stages have not
been described. In Great Britain this species is confined to
the west and includes recent records from the Dee and Wye.
The white-clawed crayfish occurs in a wide range of
environments (canals, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds),
especially those with relatively hard water. Crayfish generally
prefer hard substrates to soft, but adult crayfish may dig
numerous burrows in the soft mud of banks especially in
winter. Key factors associated with the presence of native
crayfish are: (i) overhanging bank-side vegetation which
is a key resource providing shade, food and cover (ii) steep,
preferably vertical, banks (iii) overhanging trees with tree
root systems projecting into the water (iv) submerged
vegetation and (v) unpolluted well oxygenated water.
In favourable habitat areas crayfish typically live under rocks,
in crevices, under logs among tree roots, algae and
submerged plants. Juveniles may also be found under
detritus such as leaf litter, and dead leaves may also provide
an important source of food to supplement the crayfish’s
largely carnivorous diet.
Great Crested Newt
(Triturus cristatus)
Although the Great Crested Newt is usually associated
with pond habitats, they can also be found in standing
water areas of other waterbody types including canals.
Great Crested Newts need to be able to move between
aquatic and terrestrial habitat. Aquatic habitat needs to
provide both open and vegetated areas, minimal predation
from fish and dragonfly larvae, and other amphibians and
invertebrates for food. Nearby terrestrial habitat such as
grassland, scrub and woodland is needed for dispersal,
foraging for invertebrates and refuge including underground
crevices for hibernation.
Migratory Fish associated with
navigable waterways
Various (see Appendix 2)
The ecological requirements of migratory fish include:
(i) a clear migration pathway with suitable river flows,
(ii) suitable clean gravel spawning areas, (iii) suitable nursery
sites, and (iv) clean water.
Spined Loach
Bern Convention
(Cobitis taenia)
Habitats Directive
Requires fine, well-oxygenated sediments for filter feeding,
patchy cover of submerged (and possibly emergent) plants
for spawning, and sandy and silty substrate for juvenile fish
to bury themselves.
Bats associated with navigable
12 species listed under WCA are
associated with navigable waterways;
5 of these are BAP species, 4 are species
whose conservation requires the
designation of Special Areas of
Conservation. All bats are protected
under the Habitats Directive (the
directive’s Annex IV gives a full listing).
Waterways are used by bats as sources of insect prey and
as flyways. Bankside trees, bridges and tunnels are used
as roosts and for hibernation.
Daubentons bat is especially associated with waterways and
its activities have been demonstrated to be greatest in areas
with high insect activity which in turn is indicative of good
water quality. It is particularly associated with slow flowing
areas of rivers edged with trees and emergent vegetation.
Consideration in waterway restoration or operation
Current factors causing loss or decline include (i) impoundment,
bank strengthening, canalisation and other forms of river regulation
(ii) point source pollution of lower parts of rivers from sewage outfalls
(iii) diffuse pollution resulting in algal blooms and loss of clean gravel
sites in rivers (iv) intensive use by anglers, pleasure craft and other
amenity use.
Ensure that the habitat requirements of this species are taken
into account in relevant development policies, plans and proposals,
particularly in relation to river engineering. Requires clean river
gravel and is susceptible to excessive algal growth from additional
nutrients (diffuse pollutants).
North American signal crayfish and some other US species, carry the
highly virulent and lethal crayfish plague (the fungus Aphanomyces
astaci), which has decimated populations of our native species across
the UK. Where plague is not present, the three non-native crayfish
species now breeding in the wild also out-compete white-clawed
crayfish for food and shelter. Native crayfish populations are also
damaged by pollution including biocides, silage and cattle slurry.
Individuals do not tolerate high turbidity; their delicate gills are easily
clogged by sediment, which causes physio-pathological changes in the
long term.
Where native populations are known or suspected, it is
recommended that anglers (and others using the aquatic
environment) are made aware of the risks of spreading crayfish
plague on equipment (spores are easily transferred by water, on
fish and damp fishing equipment and mud on boots) and of the
legislative controls on release of non-native species. To protect the
species, maintain key habitat requirements including overhanging
vegetation. Avoid work likely to lead to the destruction of refuges
and banks e.g. channelisation. Where bank maintenance or other
works are critical in areas where native crayfish may occur, ensure
surveys are carried out at appropriate times of year to establish
if a population is present. Use crayfish-friendly designs for bank
reinforcement. Minimise the length of time taken for construction
operations or take other precautions to prevent excessive water
turbidity. Translocation of populations has often proved successful.
There appears to be low genetic variability across the UK, which
reduces problems associated with issues
of crayfish movements and re-introductions.
The major threats to Great Crested Newt populations are loss of
aquatic and terrestrial habitat, introduction of fish to previously
fish-free waterbodies and chemical pollution including eutrophication.
Where Great Crested Newt populations are suspected their use
of the habitat should be assessed before restoration or operational
changes, or any activities which may entail disturbance of Great
Crested Newt habitat.
Further information can be found in the Great Crested Newt
Conservation Handbook (Langton et al. 2001).
Threats to migration include man-made obstacles such as weirs or
dams and fluctuating water levels due to water abstraction or land
drainage. The long distances travelled make migratory fish vulnerable
to belts of pollution
Channels should be managed to ensure access along migratory
pathways, clean water and availability of suitable areas of gravels,
silt or sand for spawning and nursery areas. Channelisation,
siltation and variation to flow dynamics should be avoided.
Spawning gravels and nursery silts are vulnerable to destruction
by channelisation, to damage from flooding associated with fluctuating
water levels resulting from water abstraction or land drainage, and
to smothering by algae and siltation.
NB Consideration should be taken of which species are present as
there may different management needs for different species types
e.g. lampreys and salmonids.
Habitat requirements mean this species is vulnerable to dredging
and weed-cutting operations, but this is not well understood.
Where populations are known the potential impact of planned
restoration or operation on vegetation and substrate used by
the Spined Loach should be taken into account.
Loss of foraging areas because of reduction in insect prey numbers and
diversity due to inappropriate management or pollution of waterways.
Waterway management should aim to maintain a structurally
diverse wide corridor of bankside vegetation including open and
wooded banks.
Loss of habitat used for roosting or hibernation through, for example,
repair work to bridges, aqueducts, tunnels and tree works, which
removes gaps used for roosts. Timber treatment can be poisonous
to bats.
If vegetation removal, bankside cutting or tree management is
necessary it should be planned to minimise the impact on insect
populations and bat flyways e.g. vegetation removal or cutting in
small areas at a time, one bank per year, rotational pollarding /
coppicing instead of clear-felling.
An assessment should be made of bat use of the waterway before
any restoration or operational changes are made.
Where bats are affected by repair work on tunnels and bridges,
artificial bat brick roosts should be installed as part of the repair
Species name
Relevant legislation and status
Bern Convention
(Lutra lutra)
Habitats Directive
Water vole
(Arvicola terrestris)
Ecological requirements
Otters occur in a wide range of habitat. Inland populations
utilise a range of running and standing freshwaters with an
abundant supply of food (normally associated with high water
quality). Otter ranges can be extensive (often 10-15 km
stream or river length), and this is typically combined with the
presence of other habitats required for foraging, breeding and
resting including ditches and dykes, mature broad-leaved
woodland with good understorey cover; scrub and other tall
bankside vegetation, reed beds, sedge beds and willow carr;
lakes, ponds and canals. Navigable canals are mainly used
by otter as part of the range of wetlands they used for
feeding, rather than as breeding sites. Otters feed on
whatever fish are most available including stickleback, trout,
roach, perch or eels. Frogs can become an important part
of the diet during the breeding and hibernating seasons.
Other prey include crayfish, water birds and more rarely
small mammals, particularly rabbit. Otter holts are typically
dug into the earth of stream, river or lake banks often in
cavities among tree roots. They sometimes use piles of rock,
wood or debris. The holt entrance is often below water level.
Water voles are predominantly found along the densely
vegetated banks of slow flowing permanent water habitats
such as rivers, canals, ditches, ponds, lakes and marshes.
They are herbivores, feeding on a wide variety of waterside
vegetation. Surveys of canal and river sites show that water
voles are strongly associated with (i) earth banks into which
they can burrow, (ii) dense bank-side vegetation that
comprises tall grasses, sedges, reeds and herbaceous plants,
in conjunction with (iii) a steep bank profile and (iv) nearby
wetlands such as ditches or ponds. Water voles typically avoid
sites with dense tree and shrub cover, or banks that are
trampled by cattle or reinforced by stone, wood or metal
piling. However they may use banks in poor repair where
there are gaps in stonework or rotten wooden piles that allow
water voles access to the earth bank behind.
(Alcedo atthis)
Kingfishers are usually associated with lowland still and slow
flowing waters. Overhanging branches are used for perches
from which they catch small fish. Nests are made in
riverbanks and consist of vertical tunnels into sandy
Consideration in waterway restoration or operation
The aquatic habitats of otters are vulnerable to man-made changes.
Canalisation of rivers, removal of bank side vegetation, dam
construction, draining of wetlands, aquaculture activities and
associated man-made impacts on aquatic systems are all unfavourable
to otter populations. Specific threats include (i) lack of suitable
riverside lying up and holt sites, hollows in large riverside tree roots,
scrub patches, reedbeds, (ii) loss of wetlands within the floodplain,
(iii) lack of large undisturbed areas suitable for breeding,
(iv) lack of sustainable fish stocks limiting food availability
to otters, (v) accidental mortality, e.g. road casualties
(vi) direct effects of watercourse contaminants,
e.g. PCBs and heavy metals, particularly mercury.
Following large declines in the last century, otters are currently
expanding their range, at least in England. Unsympathetic river
management and wetland drainage during the last century means
that many areas remain sub-optimal for otters so there are many
opportunities for enhancement. This includes, improving water
quality, river habitat enhancement work to help improve fish
populations and improving river corridors with tree and shrub
planting schemes to create sites where otters can hide and breed.
Artificial holts are not a substitute for good habitat but may help
to encourage otters into an area by providing immediate extra
security in otherwise poor habitat. They can often be constructed
easily when other work is being done next to a watercourse.
Factors that will enhance use of canals include: improving water
quality (and hence fish stocks) and keeping one undisturbed
natural bank to provide easy access points in and out of the water.
This is particularly important in areas adjacent to small tributaries
which can allow otters to move easily between watercourses.
Where river or canal works or adjacent development are proposed
in areas likely to be used by otters, this needs to be considered in
early stages of the planning process. There are often opportunities
for habitat enhancement (creation of natural river corridors for
example) as part of development work. This is valuable whether
otters are present in the area or not to ensure that conditions are
suitable as otter populations expand in future years. In planning
developments with otters in mind, particular care should be taken
to avoid increases in disturbance, especially from people and dogs.
For example, where new riverside paths are proposed, routes can
be planned so they divert from the water’s edge at intervals
to provide undisturbed riverbank areas. Opening up previously
un-visited stretches to angling should be avoided, as should
significant increases in water-based recreational activity.
New development close to waterways needs to ensure that otter
resting sites are protected and that changes in traffic patterns are
considered, since they may increase the risk of otters being killed
whilst crossing roads.
Water vole populations have been in decline for many decades.
A national survey in 1996-1998 showed that they had been lost from
94% of sites and had vanished from entire catchments in northeast
Scotland, North Yorkshire and Oxfordshire. The reasons for this decline
are complex but involve: (i) habitat loss and degradation due to river
and canal engineering, bank protection and maintenance works (such
as desilting and reprofiling operations) which directly damage water
vole habitat and removes vegetation cover (ii) fluctuations in water
levels, (iii) pollution, (iv) predation (especially by mink), or (v) indirect
persecution through use of rodenticides in rat control operations.
Banks can also be made unsuitable for the species by excessive
trampling and poaching by heavy animals such as cattle or ponies.
This is a particular problem along sections of river and canal where
the banks are not protected by fences.
Where water vole are known from canal and river sites, routine
management operations e.g. dredging and cutting should be
sensitive to their habitat requirements. Specifically: water margins
dominated by reeds, sedges and stands of emergent plants
together with tall grasses and herbs on the banks should
be retained, and mid-channel dredging or clearance should
seek to maintain a minimum of 1m reed margin on each bank.
Management of the margin vegetation is best achieved through
a late summer cut of the bankside vegetation. Where development
or bank maintenance work is planned, watercourses should be
surveyed to establish if populations are present. Damage to known
vole habitats (e.g. through bank-side development, extension
of moorings, bank re-profiling) must (legally) be avoided. Good
practice in bank maintenance includes using appropriate natural
materials for erosion control (i.e. use of willow spiling, hazel
hurdles and coir fibre rolls instead of stone, brick and metal/wood
piling). Pesticides should be used selectively and in accordance
with codes of best practice. There are also many opportunities
in canal and river management to enhance existing bank habitats
for water voles. Such restoration has an important role to play
because of the importance of dispersal corridors to population
viability. Enhancement can include: (i) increasing vegetation
abundance through sympathetic management or creation of volefriendly bank edges (e.g. use of coir fibre rolls), (ii) pollarding,
coppicing and clearance of scrub overhanging the channel and
(iii) work with local land mangers to enhance adjacent areas
e.g. fencing from stock, creation of wetland (reedbeds, ditches,
ponds etc.) and introduction of buffer strips. Targeted Mink control
is suggested in the BAP as an experimental conservation tool,
and should be considered where voles are under greatest threat:
the preferred option is to encourage specific landowners
to undertake the trapping
Lack of availability of food caused by poor water quality.
Management should be aimed at maintaining good water quality
and conditions that ensure suitable populations of fish prey, and
areas of wooded banks. Where nests occur it is important to avoid
damage to banks and over-abstraction. Opportunities should be
sought to create new suitable nesting areas in waterways which
are otherwise suitable for Kingfishers.
Loss of nesting habitat due to canalisation, flood alleviation schemes,
damage from livestock / agricultural activity.
Damage to nest site from removal of bankside vegetation. Increased
exposure of nest site due to over-abstraction resulting in increased
predation of eggs and young.
Appendix 4
Consensus Building Techniques Supporting Information
1. Overview
Consensus building appears to be the ‘label’ currently
applied to a process of conflict resolution that has been
used, in various forms, since the dawn of civilisation.
Indeed, resolving conflicts through means other than by
physical struggle could be seen as the mark of a civilised
society. In more recent times, a chronology of consensus
building in relation to recreational activities would probably
focus more on conflicts between the rights of the public
to gain access to land and water, and the rights of landowners for exclusive use of the resource. The history of the
developments in this long-running struggle is explained
in detail by Shoard (1999).
Bishop (1996) traces its recent origins to the USA in the 1960s,
with emphasis on that country’s interest in participative
local democracy, and their reaction to activities of large
corporations. Because of the imbalance of power, for
example the ability of large corporations to appoint expert
legal advisers, the emphasis was on non-adversarial forms
of consensus building. Woods (undated) sets the issue
of conflicts in the context of canal restoration and sees
the best conflict avoidance strategy is to undertake
an environmental assessment of the proposals, along with
a ‘do nothing’ option against which it can be compared.
2. Consensus on management measures
to reduce adverse environmental effects
2.1 Awareness raising in situ –
information and interpretation
Communicating messages on good practice often includes
raising awareness, for example through the use of signs,
leaflets and information boards. Various methods can
be used which work in situ, as opposed to imparting
knowledge before a visit:
• talking to people when on site;
• leaflets distributed through outlets such
as Tourist Information Centres, visitor centres, moorings;
• signs – directional, informative, regulatory;
• entries in guide books;
• interpretation boards (perhaps with a theme –
as at Bugsworth Basin; see photo alongside).
(Taken from Access-Nature Conservation Good Practice
Handbook, Taylor et al).
There is a wealth of literature on interpretation and
no attempt has been made to review this. However,
a short summary of interpretation ‘ground rules’
(Past Forward Ltd 1988), in relation to proposed
developments in the Peak Forest Canal area,
is worth highlighting:
• preserve the sense of place;
• tell the stories which are appropriate to the location;
• edit the story ruthlessly;
• remember that you are telling a story;
• personalise stories where possible;
• respect the visitors.
2.2 Zoning - sharing the resource (in time and in space)
One of the commonly used methods for reaching
consensus over competing interests is through sharing
of the resource in question, either in time and/or in space.
Most typically, the sharing has been between two types
of recreational interest, such as canoeists and anglers.
However, the tactic has been employed when competing
interests are recreation participants and those protecting
nature conservation interests. The advantages of this
approach are:
• sensitive areas can be protected whilst less sensitive
areas continue to be used;
• recreational use can be reduced at times when wildlife
is most sensitive (e.g. nesting times);
• competing recreational activities can be kept apart.
Good examples of resource sharing are use of Llandegfedd
Reservoir (SportsScotland 1997) and Bassenthwaite Lake
(Crowe and Mulder 2005).
2.3 Steering
A technique commonly used in managing public access
so as to avoid conflict is “steering” (see, for example,
Countryside Agency 2005; Taylor et al in prep). It works
on the basic premise that most people are willing to be
led along particular routes and will tend to follow clearly
marked routes. So, good way marking and signage, clear
route alignment and the provision of access furniture
at key locations will serve to reduce straying off-route to
manageable proportions. It is a technique less applicable
to canal boating but may have relevance in mooring areas.
2.4 Presence on the ground
Research has shown that maintaining a presence ‘on-theground’, such as in the form or wardens, rangers and
bailiffs, is likely to encourage adherence of participants
to codes of good practice (e.g. Taylor et al 2005, in relation
to control of dogs and based on responses from a number
of managers of nature reserves). Various studies have been
found that discuss the potential role for rangers and
wardens for managing land-based activities (e.g. Elwyn
Owen and Holdaway 2002; SNH 1997). The main point
made is that rangers and wardens should not be seen
as a ‘police force’, but as agents of increased mutual
understanding between differing interests. The individuals
who provide the presence can be either employed staff
or volunteers.
An alternative is for voluntary agreements and self
regulation. Such arrangements are generally only
successful where:
• the activity is controlled by a national governing body
and participation is dependent on membership
(SportsScotland 1997); and
• when the rationale is clear and well justified,
with specific messages and alternatives in place
to allow recreational use to continue at other
locations (Crowe and Mulder 2005).
The circumstances on canals may well meet these criteria,
especially via the licence system.
2.5 Formal agreement
Where two or more parties agree to a management
regime, there are benefits in drawing up a formal written
agreement. Although this has some disadvantages, such
as the cost of legal advice or the formality that such
agreements impose, there are many advantages, including:
• the reduction of scope for misunderstanding;
• the provision for continuity in cases of change
of personnel;
• imposing a level of commitment that may otherwise
be lacking, or which reduces over time.
There are several examples where formal agreements
have been used to enable improved recreational use
simultaneously with better environmental protection:
• on North Solent NNR covering canoeing on the Beaulieu
river, between English Nature and Liquid Logistics Ltd
(Mark Larter, Pers Comm.);
• Broads Authority and Eastern Rivers Ski Club
(Crowe and Mulder 2005).
2.6 Monitoring
Monitoring is an important component of consensus
building as it provides feedback on the success, or
otherwise, of management measures used (Taylor et al,
in prep). An example provided by Crowe and Mulder (ibid)
shows how monitoring at Bassenthwaite Lake has helped
determine the effectiveness of zoning measures which
give priority to nature conservation over recreation.
Important factors to be agreed with respect to monitoring,
as identified by the Best of Both Worlds (BoBW) website
www.bobw.co.uk, are:
• what is to be monitored, and over what period of time
(and procedures for the monitoring data be reviewed);
• who does the monitoring and using what methods;
• what are the critical thresholds;
• possible implications if critical thresholds are crossed.
It is inferred that monitoring methods would focus on
ecological variable, but there may be merit, in some
circumstances, in monitoring visitor/participant behaviour.
2.7 Step by step guide to consensus building
Step 1: Assessing the situation
• identify the position and name of the land and/or water
over which recreation is desired
• analyse the current situation at the site
- land/water management
- nature conservation/landscape interest
- existing recreational use
• know where each party stands legally
Step 2: Preparation
• establish objectives which include the most
and least favourable likely outcomes
• find out about who to deal with
• do your research:
- establish the facts of the case’s history
Step 6: Reaching consensus
• adopt a ‘can do’ philosophy – be positive and flexible
• only promise what you can deliver
• ask for more time if needed
• watch out for signs of agreement and build on them
• when agreement is in sight, don’t let it get away
- understand the findings of relevant scientific
research on impacts of an activity
• allow for others to be consulted if necessary
- collect objective data on usage of the site
• be clear who is expected to do what, and when
to put the agreement into effect
• think about sharing resources not competing for them
Step 3: Meeting and opening communications
• talk to all interested parties
• make sure dealings are with the right people
and deal with them courteously
• where necessary, make provision for the future
of the agreement
Drawn from Best of Both Worlds website www.bobw.co.uk,
which in turn was based on Kotler (1988) and Sidaway
• be open and honest in all dealings
• hold some meetings on site
Step 4: Getting down to business
• start on a positive/encouraging note
• explore each other’s objectives
• list all the subjects/issues to be discussed
• don’t be fazed by ‘shows of strength’
• distinguish between conflicts of belief and conflicts
of interest
Step 5: Confronting conflict
• conflict sometimes cannot be avoided in achieving
a long-lasting solution, so don’t shy away from it
• look for areas of agreement as well as disagreement
• look for ways in which all can gain
• keep debates constructive and adjourn if they
become destructive
3. Codes of Good Practice
3.1 Development, promotion and review process
for a Code of Good Practice
1.a. Recognition of management issues, or opportunities to influence awareness,
attitudes and behaviour
b. Identifying desired outcomes
2. Identifying preferred management mechanisms
other management solution
(e.g. signing, zoning, byelaws)
3. Evaluations and key decisions for the development of codes
4. Developing and piloting the code
5. Preparing and implementing a code action plan
6. Monitoring, evaluation and review
Source: Scott and Annett, 2006
Consult and involve stakeholders
a code or similar guidance
3.2 List of codes of good practice
Web Address
British Sub-Aqua
The Divers’ Code of Conduct
British Surfing
Code of Conduct
British Water Ski
Statement of Purpose and Environmental
British Water Ski
General Code of Conduct of Cable Tow
Water Skiing
British Waterways
Waterways Code
British Waterways/
Environment Agency
The Boater’s Handbook –
Basic Boat-Handling and Safety
Environment Agency
Golden Rules for Anglers
Inland Waterways
Guidance Notes
Marine Conservation
Seashore Code
Marine Conservation
Underwater Photographers’ Code
of Conduct
Marine Conservation
Society/CCW/ English
Conservation Code for Sea Anglers
National Angling
Code of Conduct for Coarse Anglers
Pembrokeshire Coast
National Park
Canoeing & Kayaking
County Council
Pembrokeshire’s Personal Water Craft
and Speed Boat – Code of Practice
Royal Yachting
Environmental Guidance for Boat Users
Salmon and Trout
Salmon and Trout Trust
Thames Water
River Thames Users Code
4 Consultation techniques employed
Rural Resources (2004)
Nottinghamshire County Council (undated)
• User questionnaires
• Face to face
• Group discussion
• Written Consultations
• Using maps to show who wants what and where
• Group Consultation
• Semi-structured interviews
• Parish newsletters
• Organisations questionnaires
• Direct Public Consultation
• Parishes questionnaires
• In Depth Consultation
• benefits were gained from investing time and effort into
explaining to stakeholders what the process was about
• face-to-face consultations, be they with groups or individuals,
seem to elicit a more detailed response than other methods
• use appropriate skills to carry out the chosen method
(not always available in-house)
• talking and be able to ask questions leads to a better quality
of response, in a format more useful to those posing
the questions
• different methods are needed for different situations
and types of stakeholder
• the biggest part of the battle was getting people to come
to the group consultations
• the local newsletter part of the process produced a mixed
response, depending on which local residents read them
in detail
5 Definitions of commonly used terms
Codes of Practice
A list of actions that, taken together, represent the responsible and legal way in which to undertake an
activity. A code may be specific to a single recreational activity (e.g. canoeing), and possibly in a specific
location or type of habitat (e.g. Marine Code for the Pembrokeshire Coast, by Wales Tourist Board et al,
Conflict resolution
The process through which differences in views between parties are removed, such as through correction
of misunderstandings, improving knowledge, changing opinions, compromise and so on.
Consensus building
A negotiation or process of decision-making aimed at recognising and respecting common interests
and working together for mutual benefit (taken directly from Sidaway, 2005). It differs from “conflict
resolution” as consensus building can occur without any conflict existing.
A process in which one party exposes its thinking, ideas and options to scrutiny by others, with a view
to improving the consultors’ proposals through the responses of consultees, including facilitating
acceptance of the proposals.
Any form of contact between interested parties. This could be one-to-one discussions, public meetings,
seminars/workshops and written communication. This differs from “consultation” as it usually involves
contemporaneous exchange of ideas.
Good practice
Actions that would generally be regarded as responsible behaviour. It differs from “best practice” in that
good practice is what can reasonably be expected of most people.
An individual who takes part in an activity, such as canal boating.
A process during which individuals, groups and organisations are consulted about, or have the opportunity
to, become actively involved in a project or programme of activity.
Participatory appraisal
An approach which uses group animation to facilitate information gathering and sharing, analysis and
action. Its purpose is to get development practitioners, government officials and local people to work
Anyone with an interest in a site/area of land, including watercourses and canals. In terms of canal
boating, stakeholders will include: - canal boat users, businesses that rely on canals, environmental
regulators (e.g. Scottish Environment Protection Agency, English Nature), navigation authorities
(British Waterways), local residents, environmental bodies, riparian landowners and so on.
6 References
Please note that the organisations English Nature and
the Countryside Agency, referred to below, became part
of Natural England (www.naturalengland.org.uk) at its
creation in October 2006.
Best of Both Worlds – www.bobw.co.uk. Website developed
for the Countryside Agency, English Nature and Central
Council of Physical Recreation.
Bishop, J. 1996. Consensus in the Countryside: An
Overview. In: Consensus in the Countryside – Reaching
shared agreement in policy, planning and management.
Proceedings from a workshop held on 15th February 1996.
Countryside Recreation Network, Sheffield Hallam
University, Sheffield.
British Canoe Union 1999. Agreeing Access to Water for
Canoeing. See website:
British Waterways 2002. Waterways for People. British
Waterways, Watford. See website:
Bryden, D., Donaldson, N. 2004. Management for People.
Report for Scottish Natural Heritage. SNH, Battleby.
Council for National Parks 2005. Off Road or Off Limits?
Recreational Driving in the National Parks. CNP, London.
Countryside Agency 2005. Managing Public Access. Ref
CA210. Countryside Agency Publications, Wetherby.
Countryside Council for Wales (undated). SSSI citation for
Llandegfedd Reservoir.
Countryside Council for Wales 1998. A Model Approach to
Resolving Conflict in the Countryside. Ref CCC167.
Countryside Council for Wales, Bangor.
Crowe, L., Mulder, C. 2005. Promoting Outdoor Recreation
in the English National Parks: Guide To Good Practice.
Report for the Countryside Agency. Countryside Agency,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2003.
Rural England: Summary of Responses. Responses to
Question 4. See website: www.defra.gov.uk/wildlifecountryside/consult/ruraleng/response/rural05.htm.
Ellison, M. 2000. Windermere and Water Ski-ing: Access
Dilemma for the Future. Countryside Recreation, Summer
2000. See website:
Elwyn Owen, R., Holdaway, E. 2001. The Role of
Rangers/Wardens in Implementing the New Right of
Access to Open Countryside in Wales. Report Ref: 01/1.
CCW, Bangor.
Falkirk Council 2005. Countryside Access Strategy –
Executive Summary. See website:
Fletcher, J. (undated). Publicity Material. In IWA (Eds.),
Technical Restoration Handbook. See website:
Kotler, P. 1988. Marketing Management. Analysis,
Planning, Implementation and Control. 6th Edition.
Prentice-Hall International. New Jersey, USA.
Larter, M. 2005. Personal Communication. North Solent
NNR Manager for English Nature.
Nottinghamshire County Council (undated).
Greenwood/Sherwood Access Study (South). Report on
Gedling Demonstration Area Consultation trials. NCC,
Past Forward Ltd 1998. Bugsworth Canal Basin –
Interpretation Strategy. In: Entec UK Ltd, Asken Ltd 2004
Peak Forest Tramway: Feasibility Study. Report for High
Peak Borough Council. HPBC, Glossop.
Pomfret, J., (2003). Wildlife Conservation. In IWA (Eds.),
Technical Restoration Handbook see website:
Rural Resources 2004. Rights of Way Improvement Plan
Demonstration Project Public Consultation. Final report
to Shropshire County Council and Telford and the Wrekin
Borough Council. See website:
Scott, P., Annett, J.A. 2006. A New Approach to Codes
for Responsible Enjoyment of the Countryside in Wales.
Report (unpublished at time of writing) to Countryside
Council for Wales.
Scottish Natural Heritage 1997. Rangers in Scotland –
SNH Operational Guidance 1997. SNH, Battleby.
ISBN 1 85397 275 4.
Scottish Natural Heritage 2004. Towards Responsible Use:
Influencing Recreational Behaviour in the Countryside.
SNH, Battleby. ISBN 1 85397 405 6
Shoard, M. 1999. This Land is Our Land. Gaia Books,
London. ISBN 1-856-75064-7.
See website:
Wilson, G., Robinson, D. 2005. Towards Practical
Management of Motorised Recreational Vehicle Activity
in a National Park. The Lake District Hierarchy of Trails
Routes. Countryside Recreation 13, 2. pp12-18.
Woods, D. (undated). The Impact of Recreation.
Report for IWA. See website:
Sidaway, R. 2005. Resolving Environmental Disputes:
From conflict to consensus. Earthscan, London.
ISBN 1-84407-013-1 and 1-84407-014-X
Sport Scotland 1997. Calmer Waters: Guidelines for
Planning and Managing Watersports on Inland Waters
in Scotland by the Scottish Sports Council.
SportScotland, Edinburgh
Studd, K. 2002. An Introduction to Deliberative Methods
of Stakeholder and Public Participation. English Nature
Research Report 474. English Nature, Peterborough.
ISSN 0967-876X
Taylor K, Anderson P, Taylor R, Longden K, Fisher P, 2005.
Dogs, Access and Nature Conservation. English Nature
Research Report 649. English Nature, Peterborough
Taylor, K., Anderson, P., Liley, D., Underhill-Day, J. in prep.
Access-Nature Conservation Good Practice Handbook.
Handbook prepared for Countryside Agency and English
Nature. Countryside Agency, Manchester.
Wales Tourist Board, Countryside Council for Wales,
Environment Agency Wales, National Trust, Milford
Haven Port Authority, Pembrokeshire Coast National
Park Authority and the Crown Estate (undated).
Pembrokeshire Marine Code. See website:
Watkins, J. 2005. Saturation Points. A Question of Respect:
Conservation and Countryside Recreation: Proceedings
of the Countryside Recreation Network Seminar on 28th
June 2005 at Cardiff University. Eds: Bull, M., Powell, K.
Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield.
Wildlife and Countryside Link 2005. Priorities for Marine
Spatial Planning: A working paper for Defra. WCL, London.
Appendix 5
Case study 1
Ashby Canal
Contributors - roles: Geoffrey Pursglove, Ashby Canal
Project Officer
Organisation(s): Leicestershire County Council (LCC)
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Website: www.leics.gov.uk and www.ashbycanaltrust.co.uk
Waterway description
Built in 1804, it served mainly coal mines and experienced
a decline during the twentieth century due to subsidence.
The top 8 miles (out of 30) were closed by 1966, with
a current terminus at Snarestone. There is a new 2,100m
length at Moira managed by Leicestershire County Council
(LCC) and partners, which is isolated from the larger main
system managed by British Waterways (BW).
Partners: British Waterways as a consultee. Funding for the
canal extension project is provided by LCC, East Midlands
Development Agency, Inland Waterways Association, Community
Foundation, Ashby Canal Trust, Ashby Canal Association,
National Forest Company, Measham Development Trust and
Ashby Canal Trust Supporters.
The BW length of canal has no locks and is essentially
rural in character apart from some recent development
in Hinckley. It is approximately 10m wide, 1.2 to 1.4m deep,
shallow at the sides and mainly puddle clay lined. Mooring
is difficult for deeper boats except at certain limited points.
There is sufficient depth for loaded working boats so long
as they keep to the channel.
The Moira length has 1 lock (compensating for subsidence)
and is situated in mainly open countryside with strong
National Forest and industrial heritage influences. It is
approximately 12m wide, 1.4m deep and lined with either
MDPE liner, bentomat, or puddle clay.
Along the BW stretches, the canal has sedge banks, sheet
piling and some wooden bank protection installed mainly
to assist in reinstating the towing path in places.
Along the Moira stretch the canal has bank protection
consisting of concrete walling and galvanised sheeting,
along with natural banks protected by sedge and other
Some dredging has been carried out on the BW length over
last 4 years in accordance with a Natural England (NE)
management agreement, estimated at a maximum depth
of about 1.2m.
The main water source for the BW length is the River Swift
on the Northern Oxford; its water quality is generally good
with no known significant abstractions. For the Moira
length, there are 2 boreholes with a total licensed
abstraction of 26 cubic metres per hour. The water has a
high iron content and is treated by reed bed to meet the
Environment Agency discharge consent.
The canal’s current use along the BW length, whose top 6
miles are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is for
general boating, angling and passenger boats (4 at Sutton
Cheney Wharf.). Along the restored Moira length the canal
sees trip boats, work boats, trailable boats, some limited
angling and some canoeing by local groups.
Navigational use
Boating and other recreational activities are encouraged
in accordance with BW policies and plans, such as
Waterways 2025.
The objective for the Moira length is for it to be connected
to the main navigable network, potentially within the next
10 years, and LCC is currently preparing an outline
feasibility study to that effect.
The BW length has predominately leisure use, both private
and hire, with a hire base at Stoke Golding. It also hosts
a major historic working boat event at Shackerstone,
has very minor freight use by narrow boat and also
some canoeing.
The Moira length currently sees trip boats, limited trailable
boats and some canoeing.
The 2005 boat figure movements along the BW length
show that approximately 5,500 to 6,000 passed Market
Bosworth; about 4,000 passed the Snarestone Tunnel
portal in 2006. Boat numbers show seasonal variation,
being low in the winter.
Movements along the Moira length are presently low;
aiming to reach 3,000 to 4,000 boat movements a year
by 2015 should it become connected to the BW system.
There are no movement restrictions on the BW length;
at Moira the lock and swing bridge are padlocked and
opened on request.
Navigation restoration proposals
The Moira section has been restored to full
navigable condition.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
BW has a management agreement with NE.
Otherwise, there is a Transport & Works Act (TWA) Order
authorising the reconstruction of the 4,500m Snarestone
to Measham length. LCC is in the process of raising the
necessary funding and finalising the legal and planning
issues; these include water abstraction matters,
compliance with NE conditions, performing site
investigations and an archaeological survey.
NE requires LCC to provide off-line reserves, where
practicable, on the BW length to compensate for any
potential increase in traffic due to restoration.
Local navigation interest groups
Ashby Canal Trust, Ashby Canal Trust Supporters, Ashby
Canal Association, Measham Canal Restoration Group,
Inland Waterways Association Lichfield branch.
Nature conservation interest
The top 6 miles are an SSSI; BW has a management
agreement with NE. The SSSI has emergent aquatic
vegetation, crayfish and species of damsel fly.
Along the Moira stretch banks are, where practicable,
allowed to vegetate naturally so providing useful habitat,
particularly on the offside.
On the Snarestone to Measham length (the subject of the
TWA Order), the Gilwiskaw Brook (to be crossed by
aqueduct), is an SSSI and Special Area of Conservation
Copies of the SSSI designation for Ashby Canal and River
Mease/ Gilwiskaw Brook are appended to the LCC
Environmental Statement.
Specific conservation issues are turbidity, along the BW
length, and bank erosion, along the Moira length, which is
now largely resolved by planting of appropriate reed and
sedge species.
Local wildlife interest groups
Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.
Local waterway groups support wildlife protection
measures that are not at the expense of navigation; the
only real uncertainty is what, if any, increase in boat traffic
on an additional 4,500m of canal will generate and how
this would affect aquatic wildlife.
Management actions or proposals
On the BW length, trees were felled over a few hundred
metres north of Shackerstone to get more light into the
canal and encourage weed growth.
From Snarestone to Measham, offside planting areas are
incorporated in the restoration design.
Along the Moira length, bankside aquatic growth is
encouraged. Experimenting with coir matting and coils
showed coir coils to be satisfactory by allowing the
establishment of aquatics and also preventing erosion.
This method will be used where appropriate on the
Snarestone to Measham length.
Good practice lessons
A consensus building approach is done mainly through
meetings, to ensure agreement is reached.
This is a lengthy process, given the differing agendas of the
key stakeholders, e.g. NE and the SSSIs, BW in ensuring
navigation and Leics County Council wishing to restore
stretches of the canal with no SSSI on it, but affected by it.
Communication and consultation is important, taking care
that talks and meetings do not result in excessive
investigations and surveys which slow down the actual
planned restoration.
Sources of further information
Leicestershire County Council Environmental Statement,
Vols 1 and 2.
Case study 2
The Broads
Norwich Broads
Contributors - roles: Andrea Kelly,
Conservation Officer (Waterways strategy)
Organisation(s): Broads Authority
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.broads-authority.gov.uk
Partners: A wide range of partners and stakeholders are involved in managing the Broads
wetland. Some are represented at the Broads Authority consultative committee (the ‘Broads
Forum’) which includes representation from the following areas: boating/water based
recreation, commercial boating, land based recreation, angling, tourism, farming/landowning,
environmental protection, conservation, drainage/flood prevention, cultural
heritage/landscape, local charities and other societies such as the Broads Society which is a
campaigning and volunteer organisation aiming to promote the future well-being of the area.
Waterway description
The area known as the Broads is located in Norfolk and
Suffolk in the east of England. It extends over the lower
valleys of the Rivers Waveney, Yare and Bure, together with
the two tributaries of the Bure (the Ant and the Thurne)
and the tributaries of the River Yare. The nature of the
low-lying land in these valleys is diverse. The wetland
habitat includes rivers, streams, dykes and the open water
of the broads (shallow lakes), fens and carr woodland.
The Broads area covers some 30,000ha. There are around
63 broads, which range in size from tiny isolated lakes
to the huge expanse of water like Hickling Broad (120ha).
The majority of the Broads are tidal, but only the lower
reaches are saline/brackish.
The shallow lakes known as the broads were created as
a result of peat digging (turf cutting) from the 12th to 14th
century. Throughout the history of the region, the waterways
linking the broads were essential for communication and
commerce. Commercial cargo traffic was at its heights
in the Broads in the 19th century. Changes in economic
conditions and the development of the railway system were
the main factors which brought about a gradual shift away
from commerce and trade to recreation and pleasure in the
region. The 20th century brought an explosion in commerce
based on recreation, helped by the development of the
railway system in Norfolk which brought many visitors
to the region. The recognition of alarming environmental
degradation in the late 1960s led to the creation of the
Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Authority through an Act of
Parliament in 1988. The organisation began operating
in 1989 and is responsible for conserving and enhancing
the natural beauty of the Broads, promoting their enjoyment
by the public and protecting the interests of navigation.
The potential for recreation in the Broads is immense and
includes sailing, motor-boating, rowing, canoeing, fishing
and bird watching. With more than 2 million visitors a year,
the area needs sensitive management for nature
conservation and amenity use to coexist successfully.
The majority of the Broads area is below high tide level and
defended by river embankments. Climate change and the
potential for sea level rise is therefore a big issue in the
Broads, which will shape future policy development and
management decisions, particularly with respect to the
cost and practicality of maintaining sea defences.
Important issues in the Broads are nutrient enrichment,
with the resultant loss of species and habitats, and
sediment accumulation. This is mainly due to treated
sewage effluent inputs and agricultural practices in the
upper part of the river catchments, although half of the
siltation that occurs is due to bank erosion partly caused
by boat wash. In order to maintain navigation, an intensive
dredging programme is required which has a huge cost
implication. The Broads Authority, as part of its Sediment
Management Strategy, is working with the Catchment
Sensitive Farming Initiative to try and minimise silt input
from agricultural fields in the upper catchment.
Navigational use
The Broads have some 200km of lock-free navigable
waterways and 400ha of navigable waters on 17 broads
(two of which are restricted to summer navigation),
with navigable links to the sea via Great Yarmouth and
via Mutford Lock at Lowestoft. The maximum depth of
the navigable rivers is 6m in small parts of the Port area,
but most are much shallower. For the broads the mean
depth is around 1.5m. All broads are privately owned, and
some have boat access restrictions or prohibition, although
around 75% of the water space is navigable. Some areas
within the Upper Thurne are voluntary exclusion zones
to protect wintering wild birds; these are usually well
respected by boaters. The Broads Authority provides
a free mooring network where boats can stay for 24 hours.
Moorings can also be found at public houses and
boatyards. Scheduled works to river navigations are
posted on their website.
A total of 13,000 recreational vessels are registered in the
Broads, including private and hire boats. The majority
(about 75%) are motorised vessels but there is also much
sailing activity. There is a wide range of navigation related
activities on the Broads including sailing schools and
regattas, power boat racing (Oulton Broad) and water
skiing on designated sections of rivers. There is also a
large hire boat industry which caters for holiday-makers.
The majority of visitors come to the Broads in the summer
and holiday seasons.
The Broads Authority works with the Green Blue initiative
to encourage environmental friendly boating and some of
the Broads’ boatyards are at the forefront of development
and design of sustainable boating (e.g. new wash down
collection systems and the EcoBoat project). In total, there
are about 20 electric boats for hire on the Broads; the
Broads Authority provides a network of charging points
throughout the waterway network.
Navigation restoration proposals
The main rivers and majority of the broads are open
to navigation. The recent opening of Whitlingham Broads
provides new water space near Norwich. In addition,
a proposal to create a new broad for Great Yarmouth
is receiving considerable local support.
There are proposals for the restoration of some linked
navigations, particularly the North Walsham and Dilham
Canal, which linked the River Ant to Swafield and
Antingham Ponds via 6 locks. The East Anglian Waterways
Association (EAWA) has recently organised volunteer
working parties to undertake restoration work on the
canal. Other derelict navigation works include 5 locks
on the River Bure, between Coltishall and Aylesham,
and 3 locks on the River Waveney, between Geldeston and
Bungay. The examination of opportunities for extending
navigation on all three of these waterways is included
in the Broads Authority’s Action Plan.
Local navigation interest groups
EAWA, the Broads Society, Norfolk and Suffolk Boating
Association, Broads Hire Boat Federation.
Nature conservation interest
The Broads are one of Europe’s finest and most important
wetlands for nature conservation. Under national
legislation, there are 28 sites designated as Sites of
Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and many of these are
also National and Local Nature Reserves (NNR and LNR).
Virtually all the SSSI network is also designated as Special
Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive
or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds
Directive and as a Ramsar site of international importance.
The Broads are renowned for their high biological diversity
and the presence of many rare species of wetland birds
such as the bittern, teal and widgeon.
Both ecological and chemical monitoring is carried out in the
Broads. Biological monitoring includes annual surveys of
aquatic plants around 24 broads. Wetland plants are a good
indicator of freshwater ecosystem health and this program
has shown slow recovery of the broads since their decline
30-40 years ago.
From an ecological perspective, the Broads system as a
whole is not stable and is affected by a wide range of factors.
There are a number of issues linking nature conservation
and navigation:
• The number of motor boats on the Broads has created
problems in the fragile Broads environment. Boat wash has
damaged river banks and mobilises silt, producing cloudy
water. This silt gathers at the bottom of the waterways,
increasing the need for dredging if the waterways are to
remain navigable.
• Restoration projects aimed at improving navigation and
water quality on some broads, for example projects on
Barton and Hickling Broads, have stimulated aquatic plant
growth which can interfere with navigation. To prevent
some of the past conflicts between various interests,
wide consultation and information dissemination has
been carried out. Water Space Management Plans have
also been prepared, which zone the waterway according
to use and allow a suitable macrophyte cutting regime
to be developed taking into account the needs of
various stakeholders.
• The application of antifouling paint is necessary for sea
going boats and fast sailing. Toxic compounds used in the
past and now banned, e.g. Tri-Butyl Tin, have contributed
towards the past ecological decline of the waterways.
Alternatives and their use are now being trialled and
monitored. The Broads Authority and the Green Blue
initiative have produced a leaflet and poster to raise the
awareness of boat owners and boatyards on this issue.
Local wildlife interest groups
Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the
Broads Society.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
There is a big focus on conservation in the Broads, coupled
with a decline in tourism over the past 10 years or so. Overall,
there is a growing awareness that the Broads experience
needs to be sustainable and that environmentally friendly
holidays are more satisfying for customers, and consequently
for the local economy. The relationship between boaters and
nature conservation interests can be affected when it leads
to restrictions or hindrance to navigation, for example on
Barton Broad.
On most issues the Broads Authority has a good working
relationship with the various stakeholders. Its Waterways
Directorate facilitates close working of officers on joint issues.
Its strategy for the management of aquatic plants is to try and
identify problems before they occur, so that solutions can be
identified in advance and rapidly implemented should those
problems occur.
Management actions or proposals
The maintenance of navigation is a big issue. The Broads
Authority has prepared a Sediment Management Strategy
with a range of stakeholders, which aims to look at the source
as well as the settlement and removal of sediment. The
Waterway Specifications for navigation have been designed
by boaters and have been posted on a local boating society
website for wider consultation in the boating community.
Under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act (1988), the Broads
Authority is required to produce a Broads Plan and review
it at least once every five years. The Broads Plan 2004 sets
out a vision and long-term 20-year aims for the future of the
Broads. It also specifies short-term priority objectives towards
addressing these aims in the next five years, which are
supported by an Action Plan. A wide range of organisations
are involved in drawing up and implementing the plan and
many others are consulted. The effectiveness of the Action
Plan is monitored using a set of indicators to assess progress.
It is planned to establish a small representative panel of
partner organisations and other key stakeholders to assist the
Authority in overseeing the monitoring and assessment of the
implementation of the Broads Plan and Action Plan. There are
four main themes to both plans: Living Landscape, Water,
Habitats and Wildlife, Tourism and Recreation, and
Understanding the Broads.
The aims of the Broads Plan are to maintain and enhance
water quality and biodiversity along with promoting tourism
and recreation in a sustainable manner. These aims are to
be achieved through a comprehensive program of research,
monitoring and practical actions as set out in the Action Plan
and which cover both nature conservation and navigation.
For example, they include:
Good practice lessons
Consultation via the Broads Forum and Broads Tourism
Forum was judged by the Beacon Council Awards judges
to be “innovative and appropriate” and the involvement
in the process of the boat hire industry and other commercial
businesses “impressive”.
Early consultation with stakeholders before any action
is taken is essential to minimise conflict.
Making time and resources available for the development of a
management plan with genuine involvement of all stakeholder
groups, to achieve maximum buy-in from interested parties,
yields benefits in the long term. Considerable efforts were
made to ensure that the process was transparent,
participatory and inclusive from the outset. The process was
designed to bring together a wide range of organisations and
individuals, create a common purpose and collective
responsibility for the future of the Broads, generate
consensus around a set of objectives based on a shared vision
for the future of the Broads and to engender a strong sense of
ownership among organisations.
Sources of further information
Broads Authority website
Broads Society website
The Green Blue Initiative website
• review and analyse water quality and ecological data
from the last 20 years;
• identify sustainable levels of boat traffic;
• develop management strategies for controlling invasive
alien organisms;
• maintain and expand navigation through a dredging
• promote the design and use of environmentally
friendly craft;
• promote boat etiquette to improve safety and reduce
environmental impacts;
• use soft engineering solutions, where practicable,
to protect banks from erosion;
• sustainably manage aquatic plants;
• encourage stakeholder and community participation.
Case study 3
Bude Canal
Contributors - roles: Charlie David, Public Space Manager
Organisation(s): North Cornwall District Council (NCDC)
Email: [email protected]
Partners: Local interest groups, landowners, Devon and
Cornwall County Councils, Environment Agency, South West
Lakes Trust, Local Community Groups.
Website: www.ncdc.gov.uk
Waterway description
The Bude Canal was built in the 1820s to take sea sand,
primarily, into the agricultural hinterland. Use ceased by
1900. Barges were used on the first section and tub boats
operated on the three inland arms of the canal.
The length was 57km in total, comprising the main line
from Bude to Blagdon Moor Wharf, near Holsworthy,
with a branch from Red Post to Druxton Wharf, near
Launceston, and a feeder arm from the newly constructed
Tamar Lake (now Lower Tamar Lake). The canal was
unusual in that it was constructed for agricultural
purposes: the transporting of lime rich sand for the
improving of soil.
The canal engineer James Green and Thomas Sheaton,
a surveyor, concluded that because of rising land and
a poor supply of water most of the ascents would be by
inclined planes, which were cheaper to construct, saved
water and were quicker to use than a flight of locks.
The canal for the first 2 miles was a barge canal, 11.4m
wide at water level with a depth of 1.4m, accommodating
vessels of 40-50 tons. A sea lock and breakwater were
constructed to allow sailing vessels of 70-100 tons to be
admitted to the basin. The course of the River Neet was
changed from discharging along the northern edge of
Summerleaze Beach to its present course, to create
a channel to give depth for manoeuvring vessels.
Further inland the canal was narrower, 3m wide at water
level and 1m in depth, using tub boats which had wheels
to traverse the inclined planes in trains, towed by a
continuous chain. Inclined planes at Marhamchurch, Venn,
Merrifield, Tamerton and Werrington derived power from
underground waterwheels at the head of the plane. The
largest plane at Thurlibeer, now called Hobbacott Down,
which was 285m long and raised the level of the canal
69m, used water power in the form of counter-balancing
‘buckets of water’ (cysterns) in 2 wells of 69m depth. Each
‘bucket’, holding 15 tons of water, would rise and fall in the
well. A valve on the bottom of the ‘bucket’ released the
water which returned to the canal.
The canal banks have stone revetment at the Lower Wharf,
inland of which their construction comprises earth banks
with puddle clay lining. Part was dredged in 1995, otherwise
no dredging has taken place since the 1970s. The sea lock
gates were restored in 2000 and consolidation has been
undertaken of the sea lock walls damaged in 1996
by storms.
Water supply is from the Rivers Neet and Strat which
converge at Helebridge. At this point there is a weir; this
is overtopped at times of high flow water to supply the river
Neet which then continues down to Summerleaze beach in
Bude, adjacent to the canal. In times of low flow, no water
overtops the weir and the paddle in the weir allows water
to pass into the river. There is a concern about low flows.
The canal also leaks, supplying water into a Local Nature
Reserve (LNR), significantly enhancing its reed bed habitat.
The Environment Agency (EA) has required NCDC to apply
for, and has subsequently provided, an abstraction licence
to enable there to be a better share of the water resource
at times of low flow. NCDC is working on a methodology
to monitor and adjust flows.
Navigational use
Currently the main navigation use of the canal is by
recreational boats including canoes, dragon boats and
kayaks, for water sports/training, and small rowing boats,
for general recreational use. The harbour (Lower Wharf)
is also used for visiting vessels of varying sizes and by local
boatmen when bringing their boats out of the seaward
harbour in times of bad weather, for repairs or during the
winter. It is also proposed to provide for small electrically
powered craft for trips up the canal.
For the first 1km from the sea lock gates, the use by water
sport trainees and by recreation rowing boats is intense
in the summer. There is an issue with the adjacent river
which was once used as a boating area; a weir retained
a navigable depth of water at all states of the tide as the
natural river is tidal. Now, for various reasons, the weir
is kept down and the users of the river have transferred
to the canal.
NCDC has had a carrying capacity study done to enable
it to understand the opportunities for managing current
and future demand. There is a licensing policy in place
for commercial users. There are currently no other
restrictions, but this is likely to change.
Principal issues to be addressed include the level of use
and resulting noise, low water flows in the summer and
derelict locks on the barge canal preventing use of the
canal further inland.
Navigation restoration proposals
The Bude Canal is subject to a comprehensive restoration
proposal, mainly focussing on restoring navigation along
the barge canal length. This includes dredging, repairs
to the lining, the restoration of two sets of locks, possibly
installing a lift bridge, reconnecting the end of the canal
close to its historic end point at the Helebridge wharf,
improvements to physical and intellectual access and
the development of a training and marketing strategy.
Technical feasibility studies have been undertaken and
a Conservation Plan prepared, some funded through a
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant. The project has now
been awarded a Phase 2 pass by the HLF and grants have
been forthcoming from Europe, through the Objective
1 programme, and from the South West Regional
Development Agency. The £4.3m project is now well
underway and due to be completed in December 2008.
Blue green algae has also occurred in both the canal and
the river, giving rise to health and safety concerns and
highlighting the need to consider water flows.
The canal is now used for leisure boating, outdoor activity
training, angling and nature conservation.
Local navigation interest groups
Bude Canal and Harbour Society, Bude Canal Trust
(owners of the Bude Aqueduct part of the canal system).
Local wildlife interest groups
Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, Environment
Agency, Bude Marshes Management Committee.
Nature conservation interest
The objective is to maintain and, where possible, enhance
the nature conservation interest of the canal. These
objectives have been articulated within the Conservation
Plan and the bid documentation.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
The Bude Canal Regeneration Partnership embraces
all interests. The Environment Agency provides nature
conservation input, as does NCDC’s Coast and
Countryside Service.
The Canal passes through a LNR, closely associated with
the canal, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a
national nature reserve. Protected species associated with
the canal include the otter and marsh fritillaries, which are
also Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species. The
Culm grasslands, a BAP priority habitat, adjoin the canal.
Some structures are important as bat roosting sites and
the canal is known as a feeding site for bat species.
No biological monitoring is routinely undertaken. Water
quality is tested regularly close to the side weir allowing
water to discharge into the river and thence onto the
adjacent beach. Full details and data can be obtained from
the NCDC Environmental Health Section.
Water quality has become an issue with the appearance of
blue green algae, not a direct nature conservation concern
in its own right but probably indicative that the aquatic
environment is stressed. Management of the seepage from
the canal into the adjacent LNR is critical in that this water
makes the LNR habitat special, but this has to be balanced
against water requirements of the canal and river.
There is also a perceived issue over potential disturbance
to the wildlife if the canal becomes used more intensively.
This is something that needs to be addressed.
There has probably been no change in chemical water
quality over the last 10-20 years. Agricultural run off is
likely to have enriched the water nutrient levels in the
past when farming was locally more intensive, but
agriculture is becoming more extensive, which is likely
to reduce nutrient rich run off. There are no known
sources of other contaminants.
Recreational use is seen as a pressure on nature
conservation interests but mitigation measures are
planned, such as the creation of new ponds and
wetland areas.
The Bude Canal Regeneration Partnership began in 1997.
It meets regularly; all interests have been involved in
developing the regeneration plan and have been able to
comment on the various proposal documents that have
been developed, including the Conservation Plan and the
Feasibility studies. The waterway management has a high
regard to nature conservation. However, there is a
perception that additional navigation activity may increase
disturbance to wildlife.
As they are integral partners to the development of the
project, the nature conservation interests are well known
and addressed. There appears to be no conflict at this
time. Most issues are well covered through the detailed
feasibility work already undertaken in advance of the
possible implementation of the canal restoration project.
Management actions or proposals
The Bude Canal Conservation Plan aims to balance
recreational and nature conservation interests. All
regeneration proposals have been undertaken in light
of this plan.
The assessments of technical measures for minimising
adverse effects have been incorporated into contract
specifications. The development of appropriate mitigation
measures to counteract potential adverse effects on nature
conservation is important in that there is a duty of NCDC
to demonstrate that nature conservation has due regard
paid to it during the development and implementation phase.
The Bude Canal Regeneration Partnership is a major
vehicle for consensus building, as is the consultation
process which has engaged with the local community and
the various interest groups. The effectiveness of these
approaches is currently being analysed.
NCDC believes that the approach taken has been open,
transparent and, as all of the community has had an
opportunity to engage, successful. It believes that the
approach used has been successful in avoiding or resolving
conflict. The development of the canal regeneration project
has taken so long and involved so many people that,
realistically, NCDC feels little more could have been
done to encourage more involvement and contact with
users of the canal and the local community in building
a consensus approach.
The fact that the project has been awarded a stage two
pass from the HLF suggests to NCDC that its approach
to the project and the management of the canal is
satisfactory, when measured against the HLF criteria,
which are probably quite useful guidelines.
Good practice lessons
1) Bude Canal Users’ Forum
A number of years ago there was a Bude Canal Users
Committee which met at least once a year in order to
discuss matters relevant to the canal. This group consisted
of riparian owners, boat users, walkers, parish and town
councils, as well as elected members of the District
Council. When the committee structures changed a few
years ago, the Council decided to do away with sub
committees and chose to go to cabinet style management.
Consequently this forum disappeared at the very time that
the canal regeneration project started.
2) Bude Canal Regeneration Partnership
The development of the regeneration project has taken a
long time. A Partnership was developed to take the project
forward. This Partnership, particularly as the time has
been so long, has required considerable management and
encouragement. There are probably lessons to be learnt
about how to manage expectations within a Partnership,
knowing now that project development can take
many years.
3) General consultation process
Much of what is described above is centred upon local
consultation. Where the canal is seen as an important local
asset there can never be enough local engagement. The
resources required for demonstrable consultation should
not be underestimated. At the start of any project, or
indeed when introducing a new management regime,
preparing a consultation strategy which identifies how local
people and the various statutory and non statutory bodies
can be kept involved, is strongly recommended. The
strategy needs to be realistic about the resources required,
which may be considerable.
Sources of further information
Please see the web page on www.ncdc.gov.uk
(use the search facility to search for Bude Canal).
NCDC has now resurrected the user group as the Bude
Canal Users’ Forum, the chairman of which now sits on the
Partnership. The Forum meets at least twice a year and
sub (special issue) groups meet as and when required to
discuss specific issues.
Case study 4
Forth and Clyde Canal
Contributors - roles: Dr Olivia Lassière, Environmental Scientist Scotland
Organisation(s): British Waterways Scotland (BWS)
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.britishwaterways.co.uk
Waterway description
Built 1768-1790 as a ship canal linking east and west
coasts of Scotland, the Forth and Clyde became an
important transport route for goods (agricultural, industrial
including coal, wood, quarried stone and sand) and people
(up to 200,000 a year).
It spawned the development of numerous industries along
its length including shipbuilding, foundries, iron works,
engineering plants, distilleries, chemical works and
factories (glass, dye). Navigation rights were extinguished
on 1 January 1963.
Through navigation was re-established via the Millennium
Link project in 1999-2001, which involved the provision
of 25 new fixed and 12 opening bridges, dredging 150,000t
of sediment and dumped items, building 1km of new canal
channel, the renovation of 32 locks, building 6 new locks
(including the first drop lock in the world at Dalmuir) and
upgrading 55km of canal towpath. The link with the Union
Canal via the Falkirk Wheel boat lift was opened in 2002.
This is a man-made canal: 18.0m wide at the top and 1.8m
deep with 39 locks which are mostly 20.9m x 6.0m, but
the sea locks at Bowling and the Carron and Dalmuir
Drop Lock are larger. The summit pound is 26km long at
47.5m AOD. It is principally clay lined in cutting or earth
embankment. Some areas are also as dug or lined with
concrete or bentonite clay matting. 70% of the bank is
protected, using various methods: vertical stone walls
24%, stone pitching 10%, wooden piles 20%, concrete
10%, sheet piling 2%, trench sheet piling 3% and gabion
baskets 1%. Where walls have collapsed, and along most
embankments, there is substantial development of
emergent vegetation fringes estimated to be around 65%
of the canal’s length.
The Millennium Link dredging project removed 150,000t
of contaminated sediment and larger items including cars,
furniture and shopping trolleys to provide a channel 6m
wide and mainly 1.8m deep. In some areas wall to wall
dredging was undertaken to allow for boat mooring. A wide
range of sediment contaminants was encountered on the
canal as a result of the industrial past, with high levels in
some locations. The disposal of dredged material is a key
management issue due to Waste Management Licensing
requirements and the recent EU Landfill Directive. Since
2001, major works have included further repairs and a new
link between Port Dundas and Spiers Wharf, completed
in October 2006, which includes a new basin, a new fixed
bridge and two new locks.
Hillend Reservoir, Lilly Loch and Black Loch feed into the
western end via the North Calder Water and the Monkland
Canal (some of which is piped). Two further reservoirs,
Birkenburn and Townhead, supply water to the summit
near Kilsyth. The side-long catchment also provides some
water supply. The whole supply system can support flows
of up to 35M litres per day, average flow velocities within
the canal are less than 0.1 metres per second.
Canal water quality ranges from Class A2 (Good) to Class C
(Poor) (2001 statistics - Scottish River Classification Scheme).
The main contributor to the poor classifications is the low
level of dissolved oxygen associated with slow flows, high
weed growth and organic enrichment. There are very
localised impacts of discharges, for example from septic
tanks, and very occasionally small algal blooms have
been reported.
The canal’s uses include boating (powered and unpowered),
angling (coarse), environmental and built heritage
education, nature conservation, bird/general wildlife
watching, practical conservation, limited freight carriage,
water supply and drainage.
Navigational use
Navigational objectives are to provide safe navigation for
inland and transit vessels and, through bringing ‘life to the
water’, stimulate regeneration and economic growth in the
area. British Waterways Scotland (BWS) is endeavouring
to deliver 1.8m water draught, 3.05m air draught, 19.2m
length and 5.94m beam to suit the use of both transit and
mixed inland craft, including cabin cruisers, narrow boats,
trip boats, de-masted yachts, canoes and freight vessels.
The main boating season is April to October. There were
165 long term moored boats, 12,000 lockages and 125
transit passages by yachts and motor boats in 2005. There
are localised closures for engineering works in the winter
months. There are tidal restrictions to entry at the sea
locks at Bowling and River Carron; boats are encouraged
to travel together through locks to save water where
possible. Boats are escorted through locks by BWS staff.
At the moment the number of boats transiting the canal
is relatively small and the market is developing since the
re-opening in 2001. There have been some very localised
problems where anglers have complained about boats
passing too close to angling equipment or free clumps of
aquatic vegetation hampering their sport. A small number
of boaters have formally complained about the aquatic
weeds/sediment/objects hampering movement in
some areas.
Navigation restoration proposals
The main line of the Canal was restored in 2001; the new
link between the Glasgow Branch at Spier’s Wharf and
Port Dundas occurred in October 2006.
Local navigation interest groups
Forth & Clyde Canal Society.
Nature conservation interest
Nature conservation objectives are defined in the BW web
based Biodiversity Action Plan for the Lowland Canals as:
• improve our knowledge of the distribution and
abundance of our key species;
• manage the waterway environment to reduce and
mitigate the threats to habitats and key species;
• develop a greater awareness amongst colleagues,
partners and visitors of key species and their
conservation requirements;
• effective management of invasive species;
• improved management of key habitats to maintain and
increase biodiversity value;
• develop a greater awareness amongst colleagues,
partners and visitors of key habitats and their
conservation requirements;
• develop and establish partnerships to benefit
• where appropriate create new areas of key habitat
in line with country and national BAP objectives.
There are Sites Of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
adjacent to some reservoirs and the linked estuaries of the
Forth and Clyde are SSSIs and Special Protection Areas
(SPAs). Possil Marsh SSSI is adjacent to the canal and
includes open water habitat but does not include the
navigable channel.
The canal supports the water vole, otter, Daubenton’s bat,
common toad, common frog, palmate newt and smooth
newt, as well as nationally scarce pondweeds Potamogeton
friesii and P. trichoides. Other species of interest include
Nuphar x spenneriana (a water lily), Alisma lanceolata,
Potamogeton x bennettii (endemic to the canal),
Bdellocephala punctata (a triclad), Alona weltneri (a
cladoceran) and Piscicola geometra (fish leech).
Potential and developing problems include: invasive
species out-competing and threatening native species (e.g.
Japanese knotweed, Himalyan balsam, water fern,
Canadian and Nuttall’s pondweeds, ruffe and mink);
diffuse pollution from adjacent land contributing to the
occurrence of filamentous algal growth and of blue green
algal blooms; shading from tall urban developments;
boat movements resulting in localised increased water
turbidity; disturbance of waterfowl by boat traffic and
increased bank erosion. In some areas formal walls have
collapsed creating soft embankments of high nature
conservation value.
The perceived ecological quality trends are both positive
and negative. Water quality has improved with the removal
of contamination and increased water flows. Water voles
have declined due to predation by mink, despite the
presence of suitable habitat. The incidence of
duckweed/water fern has decreased as the obstructions to
water flow have been removed. There are some anecdotal
reports of waterfowl numbers decreasing in the Glasgow
area. This trend has not been reported elsewhere.
Local wildlife interest groups
Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage,
Biodiversity Action Plan steering groups of the local
authorities through which the canal passes, Scottish
Federation for Coarse Angling and Lowland Canals
Angling Partnership.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
The nature conservation value of the Canal is recognised.
In general the low traffic intensity is not seen to have
a nature conservation impact on the greater part of the
Canal and nature conservation interests are not seen
as a threat to navigation.
Problems have been reported of aquatic vegetation causing
a navigation hazard and interfering with angling. BWS has
addressed these concerns successfully by implementing an
aquatic weed management strategy to keep the centre 6m
of the canal channel open. However, Glasgow City Council
and others are concerned about the effects of aquatic plant
management and about disturbance of waterfowl by boat
traffic. BWS’ management approach aims to balance its
navigation and nature conservation duties and this is
communicated regularly in presentations to user groups.
BWS liaises with local Scottish Natural Heritage officers
regarding works on SSSIs along the canal and is aiming to
agree on a management plan for Dullatur Marsh SSSI. This
will aim also to meet Water Framework Directive
requirements in protected sites.
Long term biological monitoring will assist in developing
methods for measuring nature conservation value and
identifying any links to particular management techniques.
The impact of invasive species, including disease causing
agents, on the ecology of the canal is difficult to predict.
Management actions or proposals
In 1995, the Forth & Clyde Canal Joint Advisory Committee
produced the Lowland Canals Sustainable Development
Strategy, Forth & Clyde Canal Nature Conservation
Strategy and Scottish Natural Heritage produced a draft
Strategy for the Millennium Link in 2000.
The Scottish Canals Development Group has proposed the
development of ‘A strategy for enhancing and protecting
the Environment of Scotland’s Historic Canals’ and
Glasgow City Council is preparing Canal Development
Planning guidance to address the competing issues of
adjacent land development, maintaining navigation and
furthering the cause of biodiversity.
Technical measures used to support both navigation and
nature conservation include: boat speed limits and boat
safety scheme requirements help to reduce direct impacts
on the nature conservation interest; boats carrying spill
kits to deal with oil pollution incidents; canal profiles to
promote emergent vegetation growth; soft bank details
(support matrix included rip-rap, coir matting, coir rolls
and man-made mesh alternatives), with native planting
using plants from elsewhere on the canal; positioning
of pontoons to allow for the development of emergent
vegetation fringe between them and the embankment; the
management of invasive emergent and aquatic vegetation,
to maintain the full range of habitats from open water to
Measures taken to improve communication with users and
others have involved: regular meetings with the Scottish
Government; establishment of the Highland and Lowland
Canal groups; public meetings for specific projects; talks
and presentations to groups/societies/ schools; public
notices on the canal bank and in newspapers, ‘The Link’
(regular Millennium Link project magazine); direct bank
staff contact with customers; BWS led user group
meetings; one to one meetings with customers and
contractors; direct liaison with regulators (Scottish Natural
Heritage, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and
with biodiversity plan steering groups and angling
organisations; Annual General Meetings including question
and answer session; media presentations; radio and TV
programmes/ interviews; a feedback reporting procedure
and a web-based enquiry service. These have been
effective and the aim is for continual improvement.
Sources of further information
The following references provide additional background:
Practical conservation projects are undertaken on the
ground with volunteers, local community members, British
Trust For Conservation Volunteers.
Keane 2005 Aquatic Plant survey, University of Glasgow
MSc thesis (limited number of locations on Forth
& Clyde Canal).
Good practice lessons
Re-opening a waterway to navigation after nearly 40 years
is a continuing challenge. For BWS to demonstrate
sustainable management of the canal into the future,
it must take note of stakeholder aspirations, meet
legislative requirements, protect the canal’s built and
natural environment, be affordable and provide a catalyst
for appropriate economic regeneration and development.
This will be a continuing and dynamic process.
Lassiere, O.L. 2001 Wildlife, Forth & Clyde
Canal Guidebook.
There is good evidence of reduced boat wash erosion in
areas where native planting was introduced, in particular
behind coir rolls, with untreated areas showing significant
signs of erosion. The coir breaks down as the emergent
vegetation becomes established. This approach reduced
boat wash effects, provided an attractive landscape feature
and created an important wildlife habitat with some
species that are known to be scarce elsewhere in the UK.
e.g. tufted loosestrife, Lysimachia thyrsiflora. Simple use
of man-made alternatives without planting was less
effective, with some material becoming detached and
a navigation hazard.
The communication approach uses transparent, open and
varied formats. Some customers have in addition asked
for better web based information and provision of policy
information in a customer accessible form.
Bats and the Millennium Link survey 2000-2005.
See website for details www.batml.org.uk
British Trust for Ornithology WEBS counts of bird activity
– various dates.
British Waterways 1995 Environment and Heritage Report
– Part of Millennium Link Bid.
Forth & Clyde Canal Joint Advisory Committee, October
1995, Lowland Canals Sustainable Development Strategy,
Forth & Clyde Canal Nature Conservation Strategy,
Fozzard, Doughty & Clelland 1994, Invertebrates In The
Fresh Waters of Scotland, Wiley Eds Maitland, Boon
and McLusky.
Lassiere, O.L. 2001, Conservation and Restoration Case
Study, the Millennium Link; in the State of Scotland’s
Environment and Natural Heritage, HMSO Edinburgh.
Scottish Wildlife Trust 1997, pre-Millennium Link survey
of habitats, plants, odonata and birds in 1km sections
along the entire canal corridor. Excel spreadsheets of
data available.
Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government), October
2002, Scotland’s Canals: An Asset for the Future; describes
the intended relationship between environmental
regulators and BWS as a navigation authority.
Scottish Natural Heritage 2000, draft Strategy for the
Millennium Link 2000.
Scottish Wildlife Trust 2000, Survey of Wester Common
wildlife site adjacent to the canal.
Watson K. 1988, Aquatic Plant Survey, MSc thesis,
Glasgow University.
Wildcru 2001, Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned
Water Vole survey 2000-2005 (Includes information on
minks, otters, bank voles and water shrews).
Case study 5
Grand Union Canal
Rugby Northampton
Luton Stevenage
Contributors - roles: Mike Youé, Environment and
Heritage Manager
Organisation(s): British Waterways, West Midlands Waterway
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.britishwaterways.co.uk
Waterway description
The modern Grand Union Canal (GUC)is a 1929 amalgamation
of several older, separate waterways. One of these was
the Warwick & Napton Canal built by engineer Wm Felkin
(replaced by Chas Handley 1795-1800) to link Warwick with
the Oxford Canal at Napton.
The Warwick & Napton Canal connected at Warwick with
the Warwick and Birmingham Canal, thus providing a new
route from Birmingham to Oxford and thence via the River
Thames to London. The Warwick canals were both opened
in 1800.
The future GUC Main Line from Birmingham to London
was completed by the opening of the Grand Junction
Canal from Braunston to London in 1805. The 1929
amalgamation absorbed the Warwick canals and the
Grand Junction Canal into the Grand Union Canal
Company’s system.
The Warwick and Napton Canal and the Warwick and
Birmingham Canal were originally built with narrow
locks measuring 21.95m x 2.13m. The route from
Napton to Birmingham was widened in 1932-34 under
a modernisation scheme and new locks were built
measuring 27.73m x 4.68m, which would each
accommodate a larger barge or a pair of narrowboats.
The modernisation scheme is significant as being one
of the last attempts at improving a UK inland waterway
in the Midlands for 20th Century transport purposes.
The old narrow locks remained in use in parallel to the
new wider locks for some time and the disused lock
chambers still exist alongside the new locks in use as
bywash weirs and, in some cases, pumping chambers.
The canal banks comprise mainly of concrete piles dating
from the 1930s enlargement, with some natural bank
on the offside. There is a towing path on one side only.
Routine dredging takes place as part of the British
Waterways (BW) dredging programme. Other recent works
include the ongoing scheduled lock gate replacement
along with the embankment repairs at Long Itchington
in 2002/03. The towing path was upgraded to National
Cycle Route standard in 2002/03.
Water supply for the canal is from the Oxford Canal
summit (fed by reservoirs) and from Napton Reservoir,
with water used in lock operations discharged from the
sump pound through Leamington to the River Leam.
Backpumping has been installed to maintain water
supplies, the system comprising twenty pumps between
Radford Bottom Lock and Napton, operated automatically
in response to water level sensors.
Regular commercial freight use of the canal ceased in
1969, with the cessation of cement traffic from Southam
to Birmingham. Since then significant leisure boating use
has developed. The canal is also used for angling, cycling,
walking, nature conservation and keep-fit activities,
while the towpath provides a route for a national
fibre-optic cable network.
Navigational use
Currently the canal has ‘Cruising Waterway’ status under
the 1968 Transport Act, requiring BW to make it principally
available for cruising.
The canal is used by a variety of craft, including narrowboats
and broader beamed vessels. There are three off-line
marinas along its length (Stockton, Ventnor Farm and
Calcutt) as well as off-line moorings in Kaye’s Arm branch
canal near Stockton and lay-by moorings in Warwick.
Boat hire fleets operate from Stockton and Warwick;
boat building and repairs take place at Calcutt, Stockton,
Kaye’s Arm and Warwick.
In 2005, the annual boat movement count (one way)
at Calcutt Locks was 7600, with traffic density varying
from one or two a day during the winter period to an
average of 45 per day during August (peak period).
Closures have occurred in the past due to insufficient
water supply; this is now managed through backpumping.
The water space is also used by multiple fishing clubs
along the length.
Navigation restoration proposals
The canal has remained open to navigation throughout,
so restoration is not applicable.
The canal has 23 locks and 17 bridges and currently
accommodates boats of up to 23.77m long, 3.81m beam,
about 1m draught and 1.98m air draught.
Nature conservation interest
A full ecological report was undertaken and reported
in December 2001. BW’s West Midlands Waterway also
has a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) covering this section
with the following objectives, which include some actions
relating to the aquatic habitat:
BW has a water quality action plan and regular water
quality testing is carried out by the Environment Agency.
Using the General Quality Assessment system for rivers
(although this is not entirely suitable for assessing water
quality in canals) the water quality moved from Class E
(poor) in 1994 to Class D (fair) in 2002.
• to survey, map and develop tree management principles
for every tree or group of trees;
Offside bank erosion is an issue for nature conservation,
including occasional cattle damage.
• to implement a priority tree programme (5 years);
Local wildlife interest groups
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
• to implement a new vegetation management regime
that will encourage wildflowers in verges;
• to ensure that bat roosts are considered during all
bridge refurbishments;
• to introduce a grassland management regime around
Napton reservoir;
• to survey and map water vole activity;
• to survey and map otter activity;
• to survey and map crayfish activity whenever the
opportunity arises during dewatering or development.
The waterway BAP will be monitored and updated as
There are no statutory nature conservation sites along
the canal; the Calcutt meadows Site of Special Scientific
Interest (SSSI) designation is for being hay meadows.
The entire canal length is a County Wildlife Site.
There are a number of records of protected white-clawed
crayfish at Napton, Gibraltar Bridge and Bascote Bridge;
great crested newts are also recorded at Napton.
Although the canal does not qualify for statutory nature
conservation designation, wildlife benefits are recognised
and, where practicable, enhanced. Of particular note is the
retention of a broad reed fringe on the towing path side,
in front of hard bank protection, for most of the length
between Bascote and the Fosse Way, with breaks to allow
for boat mooring. This significantly enhances dragonfly
populations along this section. The areas of the canal
to the side of the main channel upstream of the former
narrow locks also provide good habitat for emergent plants
and their dependent ecosystems.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
BW undertakes an Environmental Code of Practice (ECoP)
assessment for ‘every’ project undertaken – this is an
ECoP ‘Short Form’ appraisal which helps to evaluate and
minimise likely impacts (positive or negative) from future
planned work along the canal corridor. Through this
process BW strives to minimise negative impacts and
maximise positive benefits for both built heritage and
environmental issues. For larger engineering projects over
£50k, wider sustainability issues are also considered.
The nature conservation value of the canal is generally
seen as a significant benefit, with use for bird watching,
visits by school parties and the like, and not as any threat
to navigation interests.
All groups, including BW as the management body,
take a positive approach to nature conservation. The BW
approach fulfils statutory and corporate responsibilities.
The West Midlands Waterway BAP provides adequate data
on which to base decisions so that nature conservation
interests can be protected and enhanced.
Management actions or proposals
Management actions or proposals Management actions
are guided by BW’s Environmental Code of Practice, its
Waterway Mooring Strategy and Towingpath Standards.
Specific management actions have included:
• coir roll bank protection;
• spot dredging carried out in isolated locations;
• back pumping to maintain an adequate supply of water.
Good practice lessons
Early consultation and communication with stakeholders
is important.
The nature conservation value can be enhanced
significantly by relatively simple management measures
on heavily used waterways.
Sources of further information
British Waterways, West Midlands Waterway Biodiversity
Action Plan for the canal.
These are all consistent with the maintenance of the
nature conservation interest of the canal.
The management regime BW employs aims to strike
a good balance between the needs of the environment
and those of an increasing volume of all sorts of visitors;
it appears to have been successful in avoiding and
resolving conflicts.
Consensus building methods employed have included:
• surveys & questionnaires (hire boat users and towing
path users);
• regular user group meetings;
• BW formal complaints procedures;
• responses to local issues where possible within BW’s
framework of corporate objectives & local business
plan targets.
This achieves a better understanding by all users of the
complexities that have to be managed and an appreciation
of the approach BW takes towards its responsibilities.
It also enables BW to gain a better awareness of the views
and concerns of visitors and to plan accordingly.
Given the resources available, the processes applied have
achieved encouraging results for nature conservation
on the waterway.
Case study 6
River Great Ouse
Contributors - roles: John Adams, Waterways Development Manager
Organisation(s): Environment Agency
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk
Waterway description
The River Great Ouse and its tributaries, the Rivers Cam,
Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey, comprise the major navigation
in the Fens and East Anglia, providing about 240 km
(150 miles) of navigable waterway.
Upstream of St Ives, the river passes through many areas
important for their landscape and nature conservation
value. The lower reaches (Old West River and then the
Ely Ouse) take boaters through the fenland landscape.
The Great Ouse catchment represents a heavily regulated
lowland river. Much of it has been heavily engineered for
flood defence and land drainage purposes as well as for
navigation purposes. Modifications include completely
artificial cut-off channels, channel re-alignment and resectioning, bank reinforcement, weirs/locks and a loss
of floodplain channel diversity. As a result of drainage,
fens were transformed from wetland with raised islands
of clay into some of the most productive arable land in
the UK. Overall, despite the extensive human influence
on the landscape, parts of the area have been designated
as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Sites of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Ramsar wetland sites.
The Great Ouse can be classed as a modified natural river,
canalised in the lower Fenland reaches, with its width
varying from 12m to 80m and its depth varying from 1m
to 6m. It is provisionally classed as a heavily modified
water body under the Water Framework Directive.
Its bank protection is mostly natural, with extended areas
of piling in the fenland reaches; its dredging regime is
limited, consisting mostly of localised shoal dredging.
Work done in the last 10 years has been mostly in the
fenland reaches: bank revetment, as detailed in the Ely
Ouse strategy, along with some soft engineering. There
has also been bank raising, as detailed in the Ouse washes
strategy (a £20m capital project).
The Great Ouse has a natural river flow with no significant
water quality issues. Its abstraction is regulated to prevent
adverse impact on the river’s ecology, water quality
or boating.
The river is used for boating, fishing, water resources and
is a habitat for wildlife.
Navigational use
Navigational objectives are to maintain navigation
infrastructure, improve facilities to the Association of
Inland Navigation Authorities’ standards and optimise
the economic, social and wildlife benefits of the river.
Around 3,500 recreational craft per year use the waterway,
mostly powered in the 6m to15m class; there is some
rowing and canoeing but no freight.
The Bedford Ouse is busier than the Ely Ouse; busy locks
have around 2,500 to 4,000 boat movements per year.
The waterway is navigable throughout the year, subject
to flows and work related stoppages.
There are some minor localised navigational issues
between power boaters and anglers, and rowers and
anglers. Water resources are not a major issue other
than in extreme droughts, for example in 1976.
Navigation restoration proposals
There has been some interest in the restoration of the
River Ivel, Little Ouse Brandon to Thetford. Major
regeneration proposals include the south reaches of the
‘Fens Waterway Link’ and the NORA project in Kings Lynn
(NORA is a partnership between the Borough Council
of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, English Partnerships,
East of England Development Agency, Norfolk County
Council and Morston Assets.)
Local navigation interest groups
Anglian Waterway Association, Association of Nene River
Clubs, Cambridge Marine Industries, Great Ouse Boating
Association, Inland Waterways Association, National
Association of Boat Owners.
Nature conservation interest
There are various riverside meadow locations with SSSI
designations; along the Ouse washes there are SPAs,
Special Areas of Conservation, Ramsar wetlands and
SSSI designations.
Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species and habitats
on the Great Ouse include reed beds, wet grassland,
otters, water voles, bitterns, spined loach and
various invertebrates.
The Environment Agency performs biological monitoring of
the river’s fisheries and invertebrates and performs routine
chemical monitoring for nitrate, phosphate, BOD, turbidity
and other standard parameters. The river’s biology is also
monitored by Natural England and the Royal Society
for the Protection of Birds. Perceived trends include
an improvement to water and biological quality.
Key nature conservation issues are related to the Habitats
Directive, for example reviews of consents for water
abstraction and discharge.
Pressures on nature conservation include water resources
and eutrophication due to point source and diffuse pollution.
Local wildlife interest groups
Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection
of Birds, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Wildlife Trust.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
Environmental Impact Assessments are completed
for all maintenance and capital schemes.
There are few issues of contention between navigation
and nature conservation interests; some which related
to restrictions on reed cutting on the Old West Bedford
(Ouse washes) are now largely resolved.
There is a low-level concern by some boaters that nature
conservation can lead to boating restrictions, though
no examples of this are given to support the case.
Both waterway managers and boaters are generally very
supportive of nature conservation; water resources and
eutrophication issues are far more important for
conservation than boating. There remain some questions
on the impact of boats on macrophyte growth.
Management actions or proposals
The Great Ouse Waterway Plan outlines the strategic aims
of managing the navigation.
Nature conservation measures used to mitigate impacts
include retaining marginal vegetation when weed cutting
and issuing best practice guidance with illustrated
methodologies for use by machine operators. This is
perceived to be effective from river habitat survey data
available for some reaches.
Formal meetings to share works programmes, presentations
and specific projects take place to ensure good and
continuous dialogue with all interested stakeholders.
These measures are deemed as successful, having in the
past 20 years protected the river environment without
compromising recreational activities. They have helped
to build trust between the Environment Agency,
conservation and boating groups; enabling all to listen
and help understand each of their needs.
Good practice lessons
The building blocks for success are dialogue, active
listening, consensus building and accurate science:
develop, consult and publish environmental good practice,
then deliver on promises.
The science and dialogue approach provides a general
framework to follow, however there is no “one size fits all”
approach to dealing with all specific issues.
Sources of further information
Environment Agency website
Case study 7
Lancaster Canal
(section north of the Ribble only)
Forest of
Contributors - roles: Cath Ferguson, Environment and
Heritage Manager
Organisation(s): British Waterways (BW)
Partners: Rural Regeneration Cumbria, South Lakeland District
Council, British Waterways, Kendal Town Council and the
Lancaster Canal Trust (LCT).
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.britishwaterways.co.uk
Waterway description
The Lancaster Canal was authorised by Act of Parliament
in 1792 to link Kendal with the Lancashire coalfield. It was
built in several stages and by 1826 extended from Preston,
through Lancaster, to Kendal and provided a link with the
Lune Estuary via a branch to Glasson Dock.
In 1948 the Canal was transferred to the British Transport
Commission which determined in 1955 that the canal had
‘insufficient commercial prospects to justify its retention’.
Shortly thereafter the northernmost section of the navigation
between Stainton and Kendal was closed and 3.5km of the
waterway approaching Kendal were drained and in-filled.
During the 1960s a further section of the canal in the centre
of Preston was in-filled and the length north of Tewitfield was
closed following the construction of the M6 motorway.
Today the Lancaster Canal between Preston and Tewitfield
Locks, including the Glasson Branch, remains navigable and
is promoted as a ‘cruising waterway’ under the 1968 Transport
Act. Under the same Act the length of waterway between
Tewitfield and Stainton, which forms part of the Northern
Reaches of the canal, is classified a ‘remainder waterway’
and is closed to through navigation. Both sections continue
to be owned and operated by British Waterways (BW). To the
north of Stainton, the tenure and extent of the waterway
is very fragmented.
The canal is a rural broad canal that follows land contours for
most of its length. There is a series of 6 locks on the Glasson
Branch and 8 (currently disused) locks at Tewitfield. The
Northern Reaches are severed in several places by the A6070,
M6, A65 and A590 roads. This section of the Canal is generally
12m wide at water level and 1.5m deep in the centre.
Where present, bank protection consists of masonry, timber
slabbing and trench sheeting. On the watered length of the
Northern Reaches there appears to be little bank protection
other than that provided by natural vegetation. Photographs
dating from the 1950s indicate wash-walls at the top of the
side slopes along the dry section of canal into Kendal. Each
bridge has sloping masonry wash-walls and, based on
photographic evidence, the wharves at the in-filled canal head
in Kendal appear to be masonry. At Crooklands a short length
of the towpath is fronted by a ‘Nicospan’ geo-textile, behind
which dredgings were deposited.
As a ‘remainder waterway’, the Northern Reaches are not
generally dredged for navigation, although a short section at
Crooklands was dredged about 5 years ago to accommodate a
trip boat operated by the LCT. Aquatic vegetation on this section
is controlled annually to maintain the water supply to the south
of Tewitfield. As a ‘remainder waterway’, the Northern Reaches
are not generally subject to a programme of major works. BW
undertakes work required by statute to ensure public health
and safety, land drainage and preservation of amenity.
There are no significant water abstractions from the canal,
but there are numerous consented discharges to the canal
and its feeder streams. The canal between Stainton and
Galgate has fairly good water quality, as does the Glasson
Branch, but this deteriorates towards Preston.
Throughout its length the canal is used by anglers and canoeists.
The navigable length between Preston and Tewitfield is also
popular with powered craft. On the Northern Reaches between
Stainton and Crooklands, a powered trip boat is operated
by the LCT.
Navigational use
The navigation objectives are to maintain the currently
navigable section of the canal as a ‘cruising waterway’ and,
subject to the availability of funding to sustain its restoration,
to restore the Northern Reaches between Stainton and Kendal
to a navigable standard.
There are approximately 1,200 licensed powered craft based
on the navigable section of the Canal. Approximately 60%
are cruisers, with narrowboats accounting for the other 40%.
An additional 200 craft visit the waterway each year. There are
no official canoe clubs but it is a popular location due to the
absence of locks.
Historically, the general pattern of cruising was dominated
by short cruises in locations close to mooring facilities. There
is no recent data available to determine current patterns of
boat use since the opening of the Ribble Link. BW operates
a booking system for passages via the Ribble Link between
April to October to allow access to and egress from the canal.
During 2005 and 2006 there were some minor restrictions
to navigation due to constraints on water supplies caused
by low rain fall.
The Northern Reaches receive water mainly from Killington
Reservoir and the Peasey Beck catchment via the Crooklands
Feeder, as well as from Stainton Feeder (Saint Sunday’s Beck)
and Farleton Feeder (Lupton Beck). The southern navigable
section receives water from the White Beck Feeder and the
Caterall Feeder from the River Calder, as well as water from
the Northern Reaches. Flows from several of the feeders can
be limited in times of drought. The Glasson Branch receives
water from the River Conder, as well as from the main line.
Navigation restoration proposals
The restoration of the Northern Reaches is currently being
planned in 3 phases. Phases 1 and 2 include the dry length
between Kendal and Stainton and Phase 3 includes the
watered length south to Tewitfield.
Phase 1 includes the creation of a basin in Kendal and the
restoration of the canal to Natland and will provide a focus
for mixed-use development. A 2-year programme of
planning for Phase 1 has commenced, with funding from
partners, which will include engineering feasibility,
master-planning, economic appraisal and environmental
impact assessment (EIA), prior to submission of a planning
application. The outcomes will determine the project’s
Local navigation interest groups
Lancaster Canal Restoration Partnership, including BW,
Cumbria County Council, Lancashire County Council, South
Lakeland District Council, Kendal Town Council, Lancaster
City Council, Lancaster Canal Trust, Inland Waterways
Association and The Waterways Trust. The Northern
Reaches Restoration Steering Group includes local
authorities, Government departments and a wide range of
other public bodies and Non Governmental Organisations.
Nature conservation interest
Specific nature conservation objectives for the Northern
Reaches of the Lancaster Canal have not yet been defined.
There are no statutory nature conservation designations
directly relating to the canal. However, the conservation
and enhancement of both the natural and built heritage
is recognised as an important element of the restoration
proposals, which will aim to conserve or enhance the
nature conservation value of the Northern Reaches.
Specific objectives will be defined during restoration
planning and a biodiversity action plan prepared.
The canal supports a range of habitat types which are
home to a wide variety of plants and animals and the value
of the canal lies as much in its ecological diversity as it
does in the rarity of species recorded along it, although
there are records of water voles and bats (pipistrelle,
Daubenton’s, whiskered, long-eared and Brandt’s bats) on
the canal whilst great crested newts have been recorded
nearby. Other species of national conservation interest
recorded on the Northern Reaches include: mayfly Caenis
robusta, caddis-fly Setodes argentipunctellus, mud snail
Lymnaea glabra, Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina and
hairlike pondweed Potamogeton trichoides. The canal has
been particularly valued for its aquatic plants; in 1993,
several sections of the Northern Reaches of the canal met
the qualifying criteria for designation as Sites of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSIs) (see: Environmental Management
Consultants (1993) Lancaster Canal: A Botanical Survey
and Management Plan Phase 1 report for English Nature).
A summary of nature conservation interests on the Canal
and impacts of restoration is provided in the 2002 report
“Lancaster Canal: Towards restoration of the Northern
Reaches”, prepared by BW on behalf of the former
Northern Reaches Restoration Group (now the Lancaster
Canal Restoration Partnership).
Chemical water quality (including biological oxygen
demand, ammonia and dissolved oxygen) of the Lancaster
Canal is routinely monitored by the Environment Agency.
BW is not aware that any routine biological monitoring
is undertaken on the canal.
The trends in waterway chemical or biological quality have
not been reviewed in any detail by BW. However, there
is a perception that eutrophication caused by fertilisers
and increasing levels of boat traffic has caused deleterious
changes in the aquatic flora of the Lancaster Canal (see:
E.F. Greenwood (2005) The changing flora of the Lancaster
Canal in West Lancaster (v.c. 60). Watsonia, 25: 231-253).
Local wildlife interest groups
Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Lancashire County Council,
Lancashire Wildlife Trust, local naturalists’ groups.
Relationship between navigation and nature
Restoration of the dry section will create approximately
9km of open water canal habitat, including a fringe of
emergent vegetation on the off-side of the canal. This will
largely replace improved agricultural land and so will
contribute to national and local biodiversity objectives.
Phase 3 of the restoration is perceived as a potential
catalyst to increased boat movements, which may impact
on the aquatic flora and fauna of both the navigable
Southern Reaches of the Lancaster Canal and the currently
watered section of the Northern Reaches.
Many organisations represented on the Partnership and the
Steering Group (such as BW and the local authorities) have
both navigation and nature conservation interests. There is
an annual meeting of the Steering Group at which issues
may be aired and incorporated into the on-going restoration
planning where appropriate. The LCT organises annual
canal camps which include vegetation management.
Local concern has previously been expressed about the
potential impacts of restoration and navigation of the
Northern Reaches on the nature conservation interests
of the canal, especially the aquatic flora. However, there
is also recognition that the restoration has the potential
to bring nature conservation benefits.
Good practice lessons
Progress with the restoration proposals, while maximising
nature conservation protection and enhancement, have
been facilitated by a diverse and well-coordinated
Restoration Partnership supported by broad stakeholder
representation on the Steering Group.
At the present time, the key nature conservation issues that
may impact upon restoration and navigation are understood
to be: water supply for Phases 1 and 2 (the Environment
Agency is being consulted on a potential abstraction and
return of water to the River Kent), the transfer of non-native
signal crayfish to the River Kent via the canal, and bats in
bridges (conservation measures will be incorporated into
the scope of restoration works).
Early identification of key issues (including nature
conservation) affecting restoration is essential,
as is an early establishment of open dialogue to address
these issues.
The restoration of the Northern Reaches of the Lancaster
Canal has been well researched over the past decade or so.
Further work is planned to resolve some of the outstanding
issues, in consultation with stakeholders.
It is important to identify and consider the positive aspects
of restoration on nature conservation, as well as
adverse impacts.
Sources of further information
See references above and BW website
(search for Lancaster Canal).
Management actions or proposals
A desk study of the environmental, cultural and social
resources of the Lancaster Canal was undertaken to
provide a preliminary assessment of the significance of
environmental resources in the waterway corridor. This will
form the basis for future work, including the Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA).
Technical measures for mitigating or enhancing nature
conservation interests on the canal which may be impacted
by the restoration of the Northern Reaches will be
determined through the formal EIA. It is envisaged that the
design of the engineering works will provide for both
navigation and nature conservation interests. The designs
will draw from BW previous experience of canal restoration
to ensure the use of best practice techniques.
The technical measures for mitigating or enhancing nature
conservation interests have not yet been fully defined.
However, the desk study and the engineering feasibility
studies have proven valuable tools for identifying the likely
requirements/opportunities for such technical measures.
For many years the Northern Reaches restoration has
been coordinated by the Lancaster Canal Restoration
Partnership (formerly the Northern Reaches Restoration
Group) with assistance from a wider steering group which
includes both navigation and nature conservation interests.
The Partnership meets every quarter.
An Environment Focus Group, chaired by the Friends of the
Lake District, is being established to consider environmental
issues associated with the restoration of the Northern
Currently, it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the
communication or consensus building methods.
Case study 8
Montgomery Canal
Contributors - roles: Stephen Lees, Project
Manager, Montgomery Canal Restoration
Organisation(s): British Waterways (BW)
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.britishwaterways.co.uk
Partners: Montgomery Canal Partnership: (BW, Cadw, Countryside Council for Wales,
English Heritage, Environment Agency, Inland Waterways Association, Montgomery
Waterway Restoration Trust, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Oswestry
Borough Council, Powys County Council, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic
Monuments of Wales, Shropshire County Council, Shropshire Union Canal Society,
Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Welsh Historic Monuments).
Waterway description
The Montgomery Canal is notified as a Site of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSI) for much of its length and is
particularly important for its range of rare aquatic plants.
It is used for recreational and leisure purposes and
is a habitat for wildlife.
The canal runs from Welsh Frankton to Newtown and
was part of an extensive network of over 200 miles
of waterways once owned by the Shropshire Union
Railways and Canal Company.
Shropshire Hills
It was commenced around the same time as the Ellesmere
Canal, part of which was to become known as the
Llangollen Canal.
Carreghofa marks the original junction between what was
then the Montgomeryshire Canal and the Llanymynech
Branch of the Ellesmere Canal; the curious feeder
arrangements from the River Tanat are indicative of the
jealous emphasis on water supply. Terminating for a while
at Garthmyl, its continuation to Newtown was delayed by
the Napoleonic Wars and it was left to a separate company
to construct the Western Branch, or Newtown Extension,
which opened in 1821. Completion of the Weston Branch of
the Montgomery, which was to connect with the Severn at
Shrewsbury, failed to materialise.
Competition from the railways led to a decline in trade and
when the Montgomery breached its banks near Perry in
1936, isolating it from the rest of the system, the cost of
repairs vastly exceeded the annual revenue and it was
closed in 1948. The line from Llangollen to Hurleston
become known as the main line of the Llangollen Canal,
with the derelict Montgomery perceived as merely a spur
off it at Welsh Frankton.
Plans to build a relief road on the canal bed led in 1969
to the ‘Big Dig' targeted restoration event at Welshpool
and the focus of efforts to reclaim the waterway. The
Montgomery Canal is being restored and just over half
of the line has been reinstated in various sections, with
a view to eventual full restoration.
Two sections of the canal are currently open to navigation.
The canal has been restored from its northern end - the
junction with the Llangollen Canal at Welsh Frankton south through Frankton and Aston Locks. There are then
extensive dry sections and some road blockages around
Llanymynech and Pant; although a 500-metre section at
Llanymynech is used by a trip boat. The canal is then
navigable for an 11-mile section around the town of
A phased dredging programme is being drawn up to
reduce silt and mud clouding the water; fencing of offside
banks will prevent stock breaking the canal edges.
Water is currently supplied from three main points: the
Llangollen Canal for the English section, the Tanat feeder
at the northern end of the Welsh length, and the Penarth
feeder near Newtown in the south.
Current supplies will enable up to 5,000 boat movements
a year in England. Flows may be changed around Pant to
maintain separation of the different water types from
England and the River Tanat. Some channel works are
required to ensure water supplies in Wales in times of low
flow, including minimising leakage. If restoration extends
to Newtown, an additional supply will be needed for the
currently dry section above Freestone Lock.
Water quality is also an important issue for the
Montgomery Canal, and has contributed to its special
wildlife interest. Hence nature conservation measures
include a range of proposals to protect and enhance the
water quality of the canal.
The canal is a candidate artificial water body under the
Water Framework Directive; it generally maintains a width
of 10m and a depth in the centre of the channel of 1.2m.
The first section is a new trapezoidal section lined with
HDPE protected by concrete, with some gabion baskets at
the margins. The next two miles are cut through wet peat
farmland and unlined. Most of the channel is lined with
silt/clay excavated on site. For long lengths in Wales the
canal is perched on the side of a hill, part of the Severn
Navigational use
Apart from a short section used by a trip boat at
Llanymynech, navigation is currently limited to two parts of
the canal: in England, a length of 7.5 miles (12km) from the
junction with the Llangollen Canal at Frankton down to
Bridge 82 south of Maesbury; in Wales, a length of 11 miles
(18km) around Welshpool, from Arddleen to Refail Bridge,
near Berriew. Current total figures for the two navigable
sections are around 2,500 boat movements (hire, trip and
private) for the Frankton to Maesbury section in England
and less than 500 boat movements for the Welshpool
section in Wales.
The canal is used for canoeing by Shropshire Paddlesports,
based at Queen’s Head, and also by visiting activity centres,
including the Red Ridge Centre, based near Welshpool.
Some private canoes also use the canal, although there
are no accurate records of numbers. An annual dinghy
dawdle, organised by the Shropshire Union Canal Society,
attracts in the region of fifty participants. The relatively low
number of movements by powered craft makes the canal
particularly attractive as a safe environment for canoes
and other small craft.
In Wales, boat numbers are largely limited by low demand
for the isolated section. BW has sought environmentally
friendly businesses, so the only commercial operator on
this length has a horse drawn boat offering luxury short
breaks. In England, passage on to the canal is through
Frankton Locks which are staffed from 12-2pm every day
in the summer and on request in winter. Boats have to
book passage, although they may do so up to 10am on
the day of travel in the summer and with 48 hours notice
in the winter.
Navigation on the canal will be gradually increased up
to the maximum capacity consistent with protecting the
natural and built heritage of the canal. In Wales, the target
level for navigation on the canal to build up to, subject
to annual monitoring, is 2,500 boat movements per year.
In England, the current limits on navigation will be lifted
after a new nature reserve has been constructed and
established. At this point, water supply will determine
the level of navigation possible. These figures are much
lower than on the adjacent Llangollen Canal, but very
similar to some other rural canals, for example much
of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
Numbers of boat movements can be managed by a
number of measures including:
• managed access at Frankton Locks;
• a system to manage the numbers of boats continuing
into Wales from Llanymynech;
• selective location of private moorings and commercial
hire or trip operations.
There is also a need to strike a balance between visiting
boats, locally moored private boats and hire craft. It is
proposed to maintain the numbers of boats visiting from
the Llangollen Canal, and look towards additional boats
moored on the canal, as this provides better returns to the
local economy.
Navigation restoration proposals
The major costs involved mean that the continued
restoration of the canal is likely to be undertaken in stages.
The first priority is to re-connect the navigable length of
canal at Welshpool, through Llanymynech, to join up with
the northern section at Gronwen Wharf, near Maesbury,
and thus to the national network.
This is likely to be undertaken as two separate stages of
work, Phase 1: England and Phase 1: Wales. The economic
impact from this section is expected to be great, as
restoring eight miles of canal will connect with a further
eleven miles which is currently under-used.
Restoration of the southern section (Phase 2: Wales) will
need to follow as a later phase or phases. Access to
funding will depend on demonstrating the success of
Phase 1.
In parallel to the major engineering, the restoration will
seek to deliver small scale local improvements to the
amenity, for example local footpath and signage
improvements; increased local access and use will support
and reinforce the case for further major restoration.
The capital costs of restoration will be met through a range
of grants likely to include heritage sources, local authorities
and economic regeneration packages. This means that
progress will be dependent on the availability of funding,
and it is not possible to give accurate timescales.
Local navigation interest groups
Friends of Montgomery Canal, Inland Waterways
Association, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust,
Shropshire Paddlesports, Shropshire Union Canal Society,
Waterway Recovery Group.
Nature conservation interest
The Montgomery Canal Conservation Management
Strategy (CMS) sets out the key principles for wildlife
as follows:
• wildlife interest will be safeguarded throughout
restoration works and future use;
• interest will be monitored annually, and management
of the canal adapted to ensure wildlife protection;
• the wildlife interest where there is enhancement
of overall value;
• water quality is integral to maintaining the interest
of the canal corridor;
• navigation levels will build up only on successful
establishment of the reserves and careful monitoring,
and will start lower than the target levels;
• there will be support for other wildlife schemes in the
canal corridor, especially where they help re-create
original wetland sites and ponds.
All of the Welsh section and part of the English length
of the Montgomery Canal have been notified as a Site
of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Welsh section is
also designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
The SAC designation is because of the abundance of
Luronium natans (floating water plantain) in the Wales
length; the SSSI citation also refers to Potamogeton
compressus (grass-wrack pondweed), the whole
assemblage of aquatic plants and also the Odonata
(dragonflies) that the canal supports. The citation for
the English section of the canal refers to submerged
and emergent species of plant.
The canal supports a range of rare aquatic plants,
including floating water plantain and grasswrack pondweed.
It is also important for invertebrates, such as dragonflies,
and has otters and occasional water voles. Seen more
often, a high proportion of Wales’ mute swans breed
on the canal.
The two different feeds (River Dee via Llangollen canal
for England and River Severn via two feeders for Wales)
results in significantly different qualities in the two
The Environment Agency regularly monitors water quality
at a number of points on the Canal. Classifications are
geared towards assessments of river quality and do not
bear immediate relation to conservation value. This is
exemplified by the apparent significant failure against
water quality standards of the best section of canal
ecologically, around the Vyrnwy Aqueduct.
Measuring invertebrate fauna is one method by which
conservation assessment is made and the Agency’s data
and survey work has enabled a more canal-specific
assessment to be made. Suspended sediment
concentrations have not varied greatly either along
the canal or over the last decade or so. In general there
is a significant difference between lower water quality
and higher nutrient levels in the English length, when
compared to the canal in Wales.
A computer analysis, plotting the invertebrate results
for the ten sample sites from the 2005 survey, showed
a correlation with navigation and water transparency;
there was also a smaller correlation with dissolved oxygen
and amount of aquatic vegetation cover.
Results overall indicate a mesotrophic water canal,
with some tendencies to eutrophic, and an invertebrate
assemblage indicative of high water quality for a canal.
Local wildlife interest groups
British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV),
Montgomery Angling Association, Montgomeryshire
Wildlife Trust, Preston Montford Field Studies Centre,
Shropshire Botanical Society, Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
The key elements for the future management of the
Montgomery Canal are:
• a community resource, valued and used by all;
• a corridor of opportunity that will provide a driving
force for rural regeneration;
• a restoration to navigation that respects values and
enhances the unique nature of the Montgomery Canal;
• sustainability at the heart of all management and
Wildlife has flourished since the closure of the canal
to navigation and so the aquatic plants are especially
sensitive to disturbance by boats. However, the plants
would not flourish in the long term if the canal is left
to nature, as it would eventually revert to swamp and
then woodland.
There has been overwhelming support for the restoration
of the canal, with careful safeguards, and the CMS maps
a way forward, providing practical solutions to resolve the
previous tensions between different interests e.g. boaters,
wildlife organisations and other recreational users.
Perceived threats to nature conservation include a lack of
dredging, structural failure, eutrophication and suspended
sediment from navigation.
Perceived threats to navigation include the risks associated
with ensuring that the canal restoration works in Wales
receive consent under the Habitats Regulations. This will
involve a twin track approach of seeking both an extension
to the SAC site boundaries from the UK Government and
an application to the EU for restoration approval on the
grounds of IROPI (Imperative Reasons of Overriding
Public Interest).
The attitude of waterway management and nature
conservation advisors is favourable to the canal restoration
based upon the CMS. The advantage of restoration, and
the sustainable future for the canal that it offers, requires
careful balancing with the need to conserve rare and
protected wildlife.
Following publication of the final CMS, attitudes between
different canal stakeholders have calmed down. It is
expected that other issues are likely to arise during
the Options Appraisal process and final negotiations
on the canal restoration.
Management actions or proposals
The CMS gives the following measures used to protect
nature conservation:
• a range of new nature reserves will be constructed,
to provide additional areas of habitat as far south
as Berriew. These new reserves will be spread over
a range of sites in Wales, and will total twenty seven
acres of aquatic habitat;
• boat barriers with silt screens will be provided along
some wider sections of canal, e.g. redundant winding
holes to maintain some aquatic plants within the canal;
• plants living in the margins of the canal will be protected
where possible along the banks;
• towpaths, hedges and dry land areas will be managed
for other wildflowers and animals;
• active measures will be used to improve water quality;
• best practice for environmentally friendly boat design
will be required for commercial craft based on the canal.
All craft will have to comply with local speed limits and
other controls in sensitive areas;
• managed navigation levels will be employed in Wales.
The Montgomery Canal Partnership has worked hard to
develop a willingness to share and understand the values
and interests of everyone with an interest in the canal,
both within the Partnership and in wider circles, and has
reached a shared way forward in the CMS which is based
on sustainable restoration.
Good practice lessons
The creation of a partnership representing a wide variety
of stakeholders with a common purpose has been important.
Seeking consensus through publication of a CMS can be
a lengthy process; issuing the initial consultation document
and producing the final Montgomery CMS took two years.
Sources of further information
Montgomery Canal Conservation Management Strategy:
Case study 9
River Thames
Luton Stevenage
Contributors - roles: Eileen McKeever, Thames Waterway Manager
Organisation(s): Environment Agency
Email: [email protected]
Crawley Tumbridge
Partners: All members of the River Thames Alliance,
comprising nearly 80 bodies including local authorities,
boat user groups, wildlife trusts and other recreational
interest groups.
Website: www.visitthames.co.uk
and www.riverthamesalliance.com
Waterway description
The River Thames has been a navigable river since time
immemorial. From the 12th century boats could reach
Oxford and flash locks were a feature from the 13th
century, with pound locks appearing in the 17th century.
The formation of the Thames Navigation Commissioners
in 1751 heralded the start of a period of improvement
in the navigation, with the construction of further pound
locks and the extension of the navigation upstream
of Oxford to link with the Thames and Severn Canal.
Further improvements followed the formation of the
Thames Conservancy in 1857, although the last flash lock
was not dismantled until 1937. Control passed to Thames
Water Authority in 1974 and subsequently to the National
Rivers Authority in 1989 and the Environment Agency in
The Thames had a major role in transporting freight but
this is virtually non-existent now. It had its heyday for
pleasure navigation in the late 19th century, as an escape
from London, and reached the peak in its more recent
usage in the 1970s. Since then, the Thames as a navigation
has been in decline; the most significant indicator of this
reduction is the number of holiday hire boats, which has
dropped from over 800 in 1980 to less than 130 in 2005.
We are now working to rejuvenate the Thames through
the River Thames Alliance, a public private partnership.
We have also succeeded in getting increased funding from
Defra to spend on critical maintenance and improvements
to the infrastructure.
The Thames is a managed river with 44 locks. The non-tidal
navigable section is 218km. The width varies considerably
from 18m at Lechlade to 100m at Teddington. The Lower
Thames cross-section is a relatively wide and shallow
river, with a substrate of predominantly coarse sediment.
The bank is a mixture of engineered and natural banks.
In the past there was extensive dredging but this is very
limited now. We dredge on a site by site basis when
necessary to achieve the navigable depth for the fairway.
We undertake a regular programme of capital works to
maintain the infrastructure of the Thames, mainly focussed
on locks and landings.
Flows during a typical summer are: Upper Thames (Buscot)
– 230 million litres per day (Ml/d), Middle Thames (Reading)
– 970Ml/d and Lower Thames (Kingston) – 1900Ml/d.
There are 36 licences to abstract water directly from the
non-tidal Thames. About 60% of the river length has been
classed as having medium sensitivity to adverse ecological
effects of low flows, with about 35% less sensitive than
this and a small section between Eynsham and Oxford
(5%) highlighted as being more sensitive.
Both the chemical and biological water quality of the
Thames have improved dramatically over the last 30
years. Generally, the Thames and its tributaries are graded
as A or B (very good or good), although two sites have been
classified as grade C (fair). Water quality in the Thames is
influenced by discharges from sewage treatment works,
diffuse agricultural run-off, urban run-off and accidental
or mischievous incidents of pollution. The Thames
Waterway Plan recommends that consideration should be
given to the need for bacteriological monitoring in lengths
where water contact sport is popular.
Current uses of the river include powered boating, sailing,
rowing, canoeing, angling, water supply, nature conservation,
camping and swimming (as part of organised events),
and as a drainage system for flood management.
Navigational use
Our vision is to increase the use of the Thames for
communities, wildlife, leisure and business. It is currently
used for recreation and by associated businesses. We plan
to investigate freight opportunities although we believe
these are limited.
The Thames is currently used by powered vessels (launches,
Dutch barges, passenger boats and narrowboats) and also
unpowered vessels for rowing, canoeing and sailing. A total
of 24,510 boats were registered in 2005, of which just over
75% were powered vessels.
Lock dimensions and bridge air draughts limit the size of
usable craft to 53m x 6m up to Windsor, 40m x 5.3m up
to Reading, 36.5m x 5.25m to Oxford and 33.2m x 4.2m
upstream of Oxford, with available headroom of 3.55m
to Oxford and 2.28m further upstream. Available draught
varies from 1.7m in the lower reaches to 0.9m upstream
of Oxford.
The Thames is open all the time as there is a public right
of navigation. There is no zoning or limitation on the
number of vessels. Teddington Lock is staffed 24 hours
every day; staffing at other locks varies seasonally,
although locks can be user operated out of hours.
The level of use and waterspace available means that
generally, conflicts between users are minimal. There are
some issues with rowers in busy rowing reaches, and with
anglers, but a system of River User Groups to coordinate
local activity has helped inter-user dialogue. River closures
for un-powered events are unpopular with powered boat
users. Some traditional Thames users are unhappy with
the increase in narrowboat numbers.
The increase in winter lock closures due to increased
capital spending is unpopular, as many modern boats are
useable all year round.
Navigation restoration proposals
There are no proposals for navigation restoration on the
Thames itself but there are proposals to restore the Wiltshire
and Berkshire Canal and the Thames and Severn Canal
(now referred to as part of the Cotswold Canals), which
will link to the Thames.
Local navigation interest groups
Association of Thames Yacht Clubs, Association of Thames
Valley Sailing Clubs, Cotswold Canals Trust, Electric Boat
Association, River Thames Boat Project, Thames Hire Cruiser
Association, Thames Traditional Boat Society, and Wilts
& Berks Canal Society.
Nature conservation interest
The Thames and its flood plain contain a diverse range
of valued habitats including flood meadows, wetlands and
reedbeds. Examples of aquatic Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)
priority species present include the otter, water vole and
depressed river mussel. Regional priority aquatic species
include the barbel, club-tailed dragonfly, Loddon lily and
Loddon pondweed. Some bat species are also water
dependent. The freshwater Thames has a diverse fish
community, with approximately 30 different species
comprising both coarse fish and salmonids. It supports many
species of birds such as the kingfisher, great crested grebe,
mute swan, coot and moorhen, as well as reed and sedge
warblers which nest in marginal vegetation. There is also
great diversity of aquatic plants.
The presence of locks and weirs protects some important
sites that are water flow and/or level dependent. The richest
areas are the shallow margins where plants like the yellow
water lily and the common reed are established, providing
habitats for invertebrates, fish and birds. Backwaters, such
as those in the Little Wittenham Site of Special Scientific
Interest (SSSI), often provide habitats for damselflies and
dragonflies, including the locally important club-tailed
dragonfly and white-legged damselfly. Little Wittenham’s
ponds also support the UK’s largest breeding population
of great crested newt. Wetland creation schemes have
been undertaken adjacent to the Thames at various
sites including Iffley, near Oxford, and Cholsey Marsh,
downstream from Wallingford.
There are 35 water related SSSIs, one National Nature
Reserve, three Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and
one Special Protection Area (SPA) within the River Corridor,
although none includes the main navigable channel.
Monitoring includes routine macro invertebrates, fisheries,
macrophytes, phytoplankton and river habitat surveys.
Chemical quality is graded using the General Quality
Assessment (GQA) system. Generally the upper Thames is
classed as good to very good though some lower stretches
are only fair. The majority of the Thames has good biological
quality measured through macro invertebrate scores (GQA),
although there are some exceptions on the lower sections
as a consequence of reduced water quality and the extent
of hard bank protection. Over the last 20 years the river
has seen improvements; these include an increase in water
clarity leading to the development of abundant and diverse
macrophyte communities, a decline in the amount of material
dredged and removed from the river, and improved water
quality. Further information is available on www.environmentagency.gov.uk.
Key issues affecting the nature conservation value of the
river include: diffuse pollution, water abstraction and low
flows, habitat modification through hard bank protection
and dredging, invasive species, fragmentation of habitats,
impoundment, and barriers to species migration
and dispersal.
Local wildlife interest groups
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, Surrey Wildlife Trust,
Thames Water and Thames Fisheries Consultative Council.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
The main areas of conflict between navigation and wildlife
conservation are engineering works on the river, for example
bank protection and dredging. Where sheet piling is
necessary, various methods are being used to reduce
its sterility; success will be monitored over time.
Some people perceive a potential adverse impact on wildlife
from boat wash, hard-edged banks, marina development and
the potential for growth in boating. For the current ecological
status to be maintained and improved, navigation needs to be
constantly managed to ensure there is no threat to wildlife.
Wildlife interests can also be seen as a threat to navigation
if they block the development of boating facilities or insist
on mitigation which is prohibitively expensive.
We are continuing to seek ways of improving integration
between the different sector/functions within the Environment
Agency, so that compromise resolutions to problems are
found by discussion and the Agency’s high standards towards
nature conservation are maintained. Internal Thames
Champions groups help to improve integration, as do Capital
project workshops.
Key requirements to resolve uncertainties include improved
risk assessment tools to identify proportionate responses
to bank erosion and better understanding of the impact of
boat use on banks and on wildlife. Also, biological monitoring
of large heavily managed lowland rivers still presents many
challenges. Some existing data, for example from River
Corridor Surveys, are out of date; there is a paucity of
macrophyte data and a poor understanding of
river geomorphology.
Management actions or proposals
The Thames Waterway Plan has been prepared to address
issues of navigation and recreation. The Plan has been
subjected to Strategic Environmental Assessment and was
developed in consultation with internal colleagues and River
Thames Alliance members.
The intention is that none of the Agency’s activities will result
in the loss of biodiversity and, by 2010, there will be a
substantial net gain in the region’s biodiversity resource.
Other plans and agreements will assist with this; for example
Water Level Management Plans address hydrological
requirements of water dependent SSSIs, the Lower Thames
operating agreement deals with some abstraction issues
and there is an agreed protocol on flow share between locks
and fish passes in drought conditions. Detailed proposals
to improve fisheries are developed through Fishery Action
Plans. These are drawn up in partnership with angling,
fisheries and conservation interest groups including the
Thames Fishery Consultative Council. There is also a special
Salmon Action Plan for the river. All capital works, such
as lay-bys, weir rebuilds and bank protection, are subject
to an Environmental Impact Assessment process.
Design guidance is provided for lock sites, with a pallet of
options available for bank protection; for example composite
hard and soft bank protection, habitat creation schemes that
can off-set damage in other areas and lock by-pass schemes.
Techniques include fish refuge pipes attached to the toe of
steel sheet piles, pile faces treated with geotextile materials,
spawning and refuge brushes or timber cladding to increase
structural diversity. Dredged gravels have been removed
and re-deposited where this will provide an enhanced habitat,
for example Romney Lock Cut dredgings were used to
enhance Romney Weir stream.
Mitigating for the impacts of individual projects has often
been difficult to resolve due to a number of constraints, such
as land ownership. The Environment Agency has been very
proactive in recognising this issue and a process has been
developed to allow for mitigation banking. This has meant
that targeted offsite ecological mitigation opportunities can
be realised effectively.
An enforced speed limit of 8km/h is an excellent control
of boat wash. River User Groups have been very effective
at managing user conflicts. Educating users is important,
through mechanisms such as the Green Blue initiative of the
British Marine Federation and the Royal Yachting Association.
Good practice lessons
Face to face discussions are important, achieved through
River User Groups. Mutual understanding and respect helps
lead to consensus and compromise solutions.
There is a need to have agreed a strategy and objectives
to guide development, incorporating a holistic approach to
sustainability (environmental, economic, social and health).
There is a clear message that needs to be communicated:
an improved ecological resource equals an improved amenity
resource which leads to increased use of the waterway.
Sources of further information
Thames Waterway Plan available at
A naturalised by-pass channel was created on Penton Hook
island to mitigate for impacts of the weir structure as a
barrier to the movement of fish. This provided the opportunity
to create valuable and scarce Thames habitats previously lost
because of navigation management pressures. Ecological
surveys have shown that this has been very successful for
wildlife, including red data book invertebrates, macrophytes,
kingfishers and more species of fish in the channel than in
any other site on the river. Success as a migration route for
fish has been demonstrated by surveys showing 11 species
of fish using the channel for upstream migration.
Case study 10
Rochdale Canal
Contributors - roles: Jason Leach, Project Manager
(formerly Project Ecologist Rochdale Canal Restoration)
Organisation(s): British Waterways (BW), North West Waterway
Partners: Environment Agency, Greater Manchester
Ecology Unit, Natural England (NE), Rochdale Canal
Society and local authorities.
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.britishwaterways.co.uk
Waterway description
The Rochdale Canal is a broad canal which pioneered the
routes up the valleys on each side of Blackstone Edge
on to the magnificent rounded slopes of the Pennine
moors. Rail and modern road followed on, all packed
tightly into the available space.
The canal was reopened in 2002 and is a wonderful journey
for energetic boaters, especially as it is an integral part of
a 'Pennine Ring' including the Huddersfield Narrow Canal
or the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
It was the first of three Pennine crossings to be completed
(in 1804), the others being the Leeds & Liverpool and
the Huddersfield Narrow Canals, also recently reopened.
The engineers were Brindley, Rennie, Jessop and Crosley.
Running for 53km from Sowerby Bridge to Castlefield in
Manchester, through 92 broad locks and a short tunnel,
it was designed to take river craft from both sides of the
Pennines (lock size 22.5m x 4.27m). Payloads of up to 70
tons of coal, grain, salt, cotton and wool were carried around
the urban areas at each end, but a relatively small proportion
of trade went through all the locks ‘over the top’.
Despite competition from the railways, the Rochdale Canal
was busy until the First World War but eventually its
commercial use declined due to the development of better
road networks. The last through cargo was in 1937 and
trading ceased finally in 1958. Sections to the west of the
Pennines were partially filled in and locks converted to
weirs. The canal was never nationalised but the private
company was more inclined to develop the canal company's
land assets than waterways traffic.
Control was transferred to BW/The Waterways Trust in
2000 and full restoration to navigation has taken place
at a cost of £23.8 million, funded by grants of £11.9 from
the Millennium Commission, £10.8 million from English
Partnerships and contributions from Rochdale and Oldham
Councils. This required approximately 15 blockages to
be removed, new sections of channel to be excavated and
constructed plus dredging and associated environmental
work to be carried out. Since the restoration, many lock
gates have been replaced and a programme has been
undertaken to improve paddle gearing. A section of the
embankment at Whit Brook, Middleton has been repaired
to prevent a potential breach. A full account of the
restoration can be found at
www.penninewaterways.co.uk/rochdale. Reopening
occurred in July 2002, although there have been some
restrictions in use due to various factors including
breaches, lock gate failures and dredging.
It is a broad canal with a general width of approximately
15m. The offside is generally soft with a well developed
fringe of emergent vegetation. The tow-path side is a
mixture of original dry stone work, copings on wood, sheet
piling and concrete. There are some areas with emergent
vegetation on the towpath side. The majority of the urban
sections have a stone construction on both sides;
frequently the offside may comprise a mill wall and
The canal was widely dredged during the restoration
period; additional dredging takes place to address shallow
areas at mooring sites and bridge holes.
Warland and Chelburn reservoirs feed the summit pound,
while Hollinworth Lake supplements this at the Manchester
side of the Littleborough Lock flight. Water supply can
be limiting during peak times, however BW operates
a booking system during these periods. Through the
‘Rochdale 9’ locks in Manchester, passage is assisted
due to anti-social behaviour.
The canal is used for recreational boating, angling and
canoeing, and the towpath has a moderately heavy use
for walking.
Navigational use
The objectives for navigation on the waterway are to develop
leisure use, balancing boat demand with nature
conservation objectives.
Use is mainly by recreational canal craft. There is one canoe
club based at Castleton. The canal is part of the South
Pennine Ring and is therefore appealing to recreational
users. There is also a community boat based at the top
of the Slattocks Lock flight.
Data on boat numbers through the Site of Special Scientific
Interest (SSSI)/Special Area of Conservation (SAC) are
collected using three webcams. At the time of writing,
since re-opening the highest number of boat movements
was in 2004, with 231 boats entering the SSSI/SAC section;
this number was limited as a result of infrastructure
failure leading to the closure of the canal during the
season. Due to the number of locks (3 per mile on average)
boat numbers are self regulating.
There is a defined level of navigation within the SSSI/SAC
section at which BW is required, under the terms of a
management agreement with NE, to assess the impact
of boating on the submerged aquatic flora, currently set
at 800 boat movements per year. If no adverse impact
is identified then this number can be increased in 100
movement increments. Due to the number of locks, water
supply limitations and infrastructure problems, navigation
demand to date has been low resulting in few conflicts
between navigation and wildlife interests.
Navigation restoration proposals
The canal has been restored to navigation and was
reopened as a through route in 2002.
Local navigation interest groups
Rochdale Canal Society
Nature conservation interest
19km of the canal in Oldham and Rochdale Boroughs
are designated as a SSSI and SAC, due to its important
population of floating water plantain (Luronium natans
or L. natans) and associated aquatic plant assemblage.
L. natans is protected under UK and European law.
The nature conservation objectives for the waterway are
to maintain and enhance where appropriate the important
aquatic flora, while balancing this with its use as an
operational canal, and to achieve favourable condition
of the SSSI.
UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) habitats present on
the waterway channel include ‘standing open water and
canals’; UKBAP priority aquatic species present include
floating water plantain, grass wrack pondweed, white
clawed crayfish, water voles and bats.
As well as L. natans, the site supports a diverse assemblage
of aquatic flora, notably its pondweeds, Potamogeton spp.
The nine species of these found in the canal represent
a balanced community and reflect the quality of water,
which varies from acidic to neutral in pH, with low
to moderate levels of nutrients. Significant stands
of emergent plants also occur, including water violet
and a range of other flowering plants and some
uncommon ferns.
There is a rich but generally common-place invertebrate
assemblage in excess of 112 species; 13 of these species
are of local importance, including the locally uncommon
freshwater sponge Spongilla lacustris. Two species are
nationally scarce, a water beetle Agabus uliginosus and the
pea mussel Pisidium pulchellum. The canal also provides
habitat for a number of coarse fish and waterside bird
species, including the kingfisher.
As part of the management agreement between BW and
NE for the SSSI/SAC, the canal is subject to a suite of
surveys and monitoring activities. 34 aquatic macrophyte
survey plots along the canal are surveyed annually in
September, at the end of the main boating season, with
a subset of 10 sites surveyed in spring prior to the start
of the boating season. A summary of the information is
produced at the end of the season in a review document.
Eleven water quality sampling sites are sampled monthly
for pH, conductivity, secchi depth, phosphate and nitrate to
monitor seasonal and long-term variation. Data collected
to date indicate that chemical parameters are within the
agreed thresholds set during the restoration.
L. natans and other flora and fauna could be impacted
by a variety of factors, including boating, water quality and
external factors such as shading, pollution incidents and
vandalism. The monitoring undertaken covers all these
aspects to ensure that the true reasons for any potential
impact on the biology can be identified and the correct
management actions taken. The SSSI is currently
considered to be in a recovering condition following
The main pressure on the nature conservation interest
is perceived to be navigation. It appears that a moderate
number of boat movements is required to sustain nature
conservation interests in the canal. Some of the important
aquatic macrophytes present on the canal, including L.
natans, are intolerant to competition from other vigorous
aquatic plants. Few or no boat movements allow the
dominant species to thrive, which may impact on the
abundance of these more sensitive species. Boats have
yet to reach the levels that may have a negative impact
on L. natans and other sensitive species.
Local wildlife interest groups
Local wildlife lobby groups (e.g. wildlife trusts). Other key
players include NE and Greater Manchester Ecology Unit.
Relationship between navigation and nature
conservation interests
A document known as the exit strategy was produced by
BW and NE highlighting all the work that was undertaken
to protect L. natans and other species. It also includes
details of the monitoring required and maintenance
operations that can be carried out without impacting
on the features of interest, as well as the protocol to
be followed if activities that may impact on the interest
features are required. The supervisors and bank staff are
all briefed on the nature conservation issues and protocols
to be followed. They are assisted and advised by BW
The nature conservation interests were balanced against
the regeneration benefits of the restoration by having a very
close partnership between NE and BW. A jointly funded
project officer was employed to liaise between BW, contract
engineers and NE so ensuring that the agreed protection
and monitoring measures were put in place. The success
of the project depended on the ability of the project officer
to agree working methods that were practical and efficient
and allowed the engineering work to continue without
affecting the protected species. Flexibility, the ability to
develop new methods rapidly and getting approval from
both BW and NE were vital.
Some people initially expressed concern that the protected
species might jeopardise the restoration. As the project
developed this concern dissipated. The most recent issue
was dredging: to preserve L. natans in situ, the dredging
was restricted to a 6 metre channel adjacent to the
towpath even though the canal society preferred to have
the full width dredged.
Nature conservation bodies supported and continue to
support the restoration of the canal. They understand the
regeneration benefits the canal brings to very challenging
urban areas.
BW staff understand that a balance between nature
conservation and operation is required. There is regular
contact between BW’s ecological, bank and office staff
regarding conservation issues. Ecological staff also screen
proposals and works to ensure the BW Environmental
Code of Practice and other agreed procedures are followed.
Current levels of navigation, including a moderate increase,
are not considered a threat, although NE needs to be notified
of the number of boat movements at the end of the season
to allow them to determine trends. Current relationships
are good. Key uncertainties remain on the potential impact
of more than 800 boat movements per year on the nature
conservation interest of the SSSI; however, agreed
monitoring is in place.
Management actions or proposals
The exit strategy document covers the strategic aims and
includes the management plan. This document is approved
by NE and BW.
A wide range of methods was used to ensure that the
ecological works had the best chance of success. These
included conservation in situ, translocation to alternative
sites on the canal, translocation off site and culture and
return post restoration (population safeguard). The dredging
profile was restricted to a 6m channel on the tow path side.
20 in-channel reserves were created to act as refuges from
activities being undertaken in the channel. The technical
measures were vital in assuring conservation bodies that
all options and potential concerns were being addressed
and that all eventualities were considered, including the
very pessimistic. Should the restoration, including dredging,
have been undertaken without these measures then
important species would have been significantly impacted.
While working to preserve the protected species, a wide
range of other species has also benefited.
The restoration and ecological works were considered
a success. Monitoring shows continued development of
L. natans populations and stability of the chemical quality.
Several vigorous species are expanding and may have
potential to impact upon the protected species if left
unchecked. In this case, appropriate management
activities will be undertaken.
Regular ecological steering group meetings were held
between BW, NE and Greater Manchester Ecology Unit.
These were open and transparent which fostered trust.
All issues were looked at, no matter how contentious.
The project officer held regular progress updates with
all organisations to ensure all parties were appraised
of the state of the project and any issues. This led to
all parties feeling included in the day to day aspects
of the project.
The project was executed without any major problems
arising from nature conservation issues and communication
throughout the project was good, which was key to its
success. In the annual monitoring review meetings,
few issues are raised and relationships remain good.
Good practice lessons
It is important to ensure waterway staff are briefed on
progress and issues so that they buy-in to the process,
championing the nature conservation issues after the work
is finished. A close working partnership with NE through
the Project Officer proved successful.
In the early stages, it was found difficult to record
all meetings and site visits. This is an area that should
be looked at right at the start of the project. Good note
and record keeping is essential, especially when agreeing
potentially contentious issues.
Sources of further information
See SSSI citation on Natural England’s website
See reports on BW’s website
Photography acknowledgements
IWAC would like to thank everyone who
has supplied imagery for use in this report:
IWAC/John Pomfret
British Waterways
Created in April 2007 by the Natural Environment and
Rural Communities Act 2006, IWAC is supported by Defra
and the Scottish Government. It succeeded the former
Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, created
in 1968 to give advice on the amenity and recreational
use of canals and rivers managed by British Waterways.
Pages - 06, 08, 10, 11, 14, 18, 19, 20,
24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 36, 38, 39,
40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 49, 55,
96, 110, 114, 122, 126, 138
Pages - 18, 26, 29, 40, 52, 107, 118,
130, 134, 142
Page - 26 (Hickling Broad)
Pages - 80
Designed and produced: Honey Creative Ltd
Published: June 2008
In England and Wales, IWAC’s remit covers all of the
inland waterways such as:
• canals (including those managed by British Waterways,
canal companies, local authorities and smaller
independent bodies);
• rivers (including those the responsibility of the
Environment Agency, British Waterways and
port authorities);
• the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads, and
• the navigable drains of the Fens.
In Scotland, IWAC’s remit covers inland waterways that
are owned or managed by, or which receive technical
advice or assistance from, British Waterways.
Inland Waterways Advisory Council
City Road Lock, 38 Graham Street
London N1 8JX
Inland Waterways
Advisory Council
020 7253 1745
Fax: 020 7490 7656
Email: [email protected]
City Road Lock, 38 Graham Street
London N18JX
Tel: 020 7253 1745
Fax: 020 7490 7656
Email: [email protected]

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