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Britain’s inland waterways: 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

Contents 1







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








Appendices 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




Summary 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 4

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.



Introduction 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, enhanced; • 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): British Waterways (BW): British Waterways Scotland (BWS): Broads Authority (BA): Countryside Council for Wales (CCW): Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra): Environment Agency (EA): Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC): Inland Waterways Association (IWA): Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC): Natural England (NE): Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA): Scottish Government: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH): Sea and Water: The Waterways Trust: The Wildlife Trusts: Welsh Assembly Government:

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;



Understanding 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 modified); • 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 11

Figure 3.1 Map of waterway types

12 Broad Canal (over 7ft wide) Navigable

Navigable lake

No longer navigable Under restoration Loch Dochfour

Narrow Canal (max 7ft wide)

Loch Ness

Caledonian Canal

No longer navigable


Under restoration Loch Lochy

River Navigation Navigable No longer navigable Under restoration

River Tay Burnturk Canals

River Earn

Crinan Canal

Loch Lomond

Tidal River Navigation

River Forth

Navigable No longer navigable

Forth & Clyde Canal


Under restoration

Union Canal

River Clyde Monkland Canal


Other Navigation Canal with lock size unknown Proposed navigation

Loch Ken River Tyne

River Dee

Carlisle Canal

River Wear

River Derwent River Tees

Swale Navigation (unfinished)

Ripon Canal Lancaster

Built-up area


Aberdeenshire Canal

Loch Oich

Other river

River Derwent Navigation Ure Navigation

Driffield Navigation

National boundary

River Ouse Navigation

Canal Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Pocklington Canal Market Weighton Canal


Rochdale Canal Huddersfield Broad Canal

Peak Forest Bridgewater Canal Canal Macclesfield Canal

Trent & Mersey Canal

Llangollen Canal

Chesterfield Canal Erewash Canal

Caldon Canal

Sleaford Navigation

Lichfield Canal

Grantham Canal

Ashby Canal

Birmingham BIRMINGHAM & Fazeley Canal Droitwich Canals Leominster Canal StratfordRiver Severn UponGrand Union Navigation Avon Canal Herefordshire & Canal Gloucestershire Upper Avon Canal Navigation







100 Kilometres

Grand Western Canal Bude Canal Exeter Ship Canal

River Tamar

Tavistock Canal

River Plym

River Dart

Shefford Canal

Stort Navigation

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Lee Navigation Regent's Canal

Wiltshire & Berkshire Canal

Croydon Canal

Avon Navigation Basingstoke Canal

Andover Canal River Itchen

Chard Canal

River Stour Navigation

Grand Union Canal

Wendover Arm

River Thames

Dorset & Somerset Canal Glastonbury Canal River Parrett

River Lark

Bedford Link

Aylesbury Arm

Gloucester & Sharpness Canal Thames & Severn Canal Stroudwater Navigation

60 Miles Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

Old West River River Cam

Oxford Canal

Kennet & Avon Canal

River Torridge

Little Ouse River

Middle Level Navigations

Great Ouse Navigation

Buckingham Arm

The Broads

River Wissey

River Nene Navigation

River Severn

Crumlin Branch


River Nar

Leicestershire & Northamptonshire Union Canal Market Harborough Arm

Lower Avon Worcester & Navigation Birmingham Canal

River Wye

River Welland Navigation

River Glen

Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

Neath Canal

Witham Navigable Drains

Trent Navigation

Derby Canal

Coventry Canal

Montgomery Canal

Glamorganshire Canal

Fossdyke Navigation

Birmingham Canal Navigations

Shropshire Union Canal

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Louth Navigation


Weaver Navigation

Swansea Canal

River Ancholme Navigation

River Trent

Huddersfield Narrow Canal St Helens (Sankey) Canal

River Hull

Avon Navigation

River Rother (Western) Navigation Portsmouth & Arundel Canal


River Medway

River Wey

River Stour

Wey & Arun Canal Rye Harbour

Baybridge Canal River Arun

River Adur

River Ouse

Southwick Canal

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

Š 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 community

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

22 Loch Dochfour Loch Ness Aberdeenshire Canal

Loch Oich

Caledonian Canal


Managed by British Waterways Managed by Environment Agency

Loch Lochy

Managed by Broads Authority Other Navigations Waterway restoration & construction under planning or consideration River Tay River Earn

Crinan Canal

Loch Lomond

Burnturk Canals

Other river

River Forth

Built-up area

Forth & Clyde Canal Union Canal

River Clyde


Monkland Canal

National boundary EDINBURGH

Loch Ken River Tyne

River Dee

Carlisle Canal

River Derwent Bassenthwaite River Derwent


River Wear

River Tees River Tees


Swale Navigation (unfinished) River Derwent Navigation Ure Navigation

Ripon Canal Lancaster Canal

River Ouse Navigation

Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Driffield Navigation

Pocklington Canal Market Weighton Canal


Rochdale Canal Huddersfield Broad Canal

St Helens (Sankey) Canal

Peak Forest Bridgewater Canal Canal Macclesfield Canal

Trent & Mersey Canal

Llangollen Canal

Chesterfield Canal Erewash Canal

Caldon Canal

Montgomery Canal

Sleaford Navigation Grantham Canal

Ashby Canal

Lichfield Canal Birmingham BIRMINGHAM & Fazeley Canal Droitwich Canals Leominster Canal StratfordRiver Severn UponGrand Union Navigation Avon Canal Herefordshire & Canal Gloucestershire Upper Avon Canal Navigation



60 Miles

Bridgwater & Taunton Canal

River Torridge Grand Western Canal




100 Kilometres

Bude Canal Exeter Ship Canal

River Tamar

Tavistock Canal

River Plym

River Dart

Old West River River Cam

Oxford Canal

Shefford Canal

Stort Navigation

Wendover Arm

Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation

Lee Navigation Regent's Canal

Wiltshire & Berkshire Canal

Croydon Canal

Avon Navigation Basingstoke Canal

Andover Canal River Itchen

Chard Canal

River Stour Navigation

Grand Union Canal

River Thames

Dorset & Somerset Canal Glastonbury Canal River Parrett

River Lark

Bedford Link

Aylesbury Arm

Gloucester & Sharpness Canal Thames & Severn Canal Stroudwater Navigation

Kennet & Avon Canal


Little Ouse River

Middle Level Navigations

Great Ouse Navigation

Buckingham Arm

The Broads

River Wissey

River Nene Navigation

River Severn

Crumlin Branch


River Nar

Leicestershire & Northamptonshire Union Canal Market Harborough Arm

Lower Avon Worcester & Navigation Birmingham Canal

River Wye

River Welland Navigation

River Glen

Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

Neath Canal

Witham Navigable Drains

Trent Navigation

Derby Canal

Coventry Canal

Glamorganshire Canal

Fossdyke Navigation

Birmingham Canal Navigations

Shropshire Union Canal

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Louth Navigation


Weaver Navigation

Swansea Canal

River Ancholme Navigation

River Trent

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

River Hull

Avon Navigation

River Rother (Western) Navigation Portsmouth & Arundel Canal


River Medway

River Wey

River Stour

Wey & Arun Canal Rye Harbour

Baybridge Canal River Arun

River Adur Southwick Canal

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 reserves.

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. Succession 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. 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 invertebrates.

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 complanata). 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 assemblages. Navigable rivers, lakes, broads and canals also support a number of invertebrate species that are sufficiently endangered to be protected under legislation or policy. Fish 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. Mammals 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 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

International 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 Conservation


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 Area


EU Birds Directive (92/43/EEC as amended). Sites are classified by UK Government on the basis of agreed criteria on their bird populations.

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 Governments.

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 Reserve


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 Natural Beauty/National Scenic Areas (Scotland)


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


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 interest.


Built-up area National boundary Torvean Landforms

Internationally designated site - RAMSAR, SAC, SPA Nationally designated site - SSSI


South Laggan Fen

Dullatur Marsh



River Derwent

Leeds-Liverpool Canal LEEDS Rochdale Canal Hollinwood Branch Canal

Huddersfield Narrow Canal


Derwent Ings Lower Derwent Valley

River Hull Headwaters

Pocklington Canal Leven Canal

Melbourne & Thornton Ings

Chesterfield Canal

Map 4.1 Internationally and nationally protected sites of the inland waterways

32 Waterway

River Dee & Bala Lake Montgomery Canal, Aston LocksKeeper's Bridge

River Dee (England)

Cromford Canal

Prees Branch Canal Newport Canal

Montgomery Canal

Grantham Canal Kinoulton Marsh & Canal

The Broads Ouse Washes Stallode Wash Fenland Wicken Fen

Cam Wash

Old River Severn, Upper Lode River Wye / Afon Gwy


Chasewater Ashby Canal Nene Washes Heaths Cannock (Whittlesey) Kilby-Foxton Canal Extension Alvecote Pools Wadenhoe Canal Fenland Marsh BIRMINGHAM

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

Cattawade Marshes

Coombe Hill Canal





60 Miles




100 Kilometres

River Kennet

Thatcham Reed Beds

Basingstoke Canal Walland Marsh

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 Canal)

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 Mosses (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 Canal)

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 Sites Pocklington Canal (SAC, SPA/Ramsar) River Derwent (Yorkshire) (SAC, SPA/Ramsar) Rochdale Canal (SAC) River Dee (Cheshire) (SAC) SUC Welsh Branch (Llangollen Canal) (SAC, Ramsar) 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, Thurne (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 waterways. 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. Hydrology 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 over-abstracted. 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. 36

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 origin. 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 Îźgl-1 total phosphorus (TP) for naturally eutrophic systems and 35 Îźgl-1 TP for mesotrophic systems. Above these levels, biological damage becomes progressively more likely.

Heavy metals and other toxic chemical compounds

Urban: industrial effluent, urban run-off, sewage effluent. 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 erosion.

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 gudgeon. 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. Introduction 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 Waves 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 plants. 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.

Sediments 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 dragonflies. 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 cross-sections. 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 30째, 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 propellers

May be rare in adult fish (that avoid the passage of large boats), but may be significant for eggs and larvae.


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 (bmy) on ecosystem




Birds & Mammals

Largely clear stillwater system, with accumulating sediments and progressively 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 species.

Can support diverse invertebrate communities in emergent vegetation.

Declining fish population as channel becomes shallower.

Habitat for some waterbirds and mammals.

0 - 500

Only periodic mechanical and hydrodynamic damage to plants from propeller and hulls.

Plant species diversity high. Uncommon submerged plant species thrive.

Diverse invertebrate community in marginal and aquatic vegetation.

Mixed population with tench, pike, stickleback and eel.

Good range of habitats for water birds and mammals.

500 - 2000

Increasing channel disturbance from boat currents causes damage and uprooting of sensitive aquatic plants.

Some key uncommon aquatic plant species decline and are lost. Good marginal fringe still retained. Overall plant richness high, maximising at roughly 1000 bmy.

Diverse invertebrate community in marginal vegetation.

Mixed population with tench, pike, perch, roach, rudd and eel.

Good range of habitats for most water birds and mammals.

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 abundance, depending largely on the availability of marginal plant habitats.

Roach, tench, pike bream, perch. Decreasing biomass.

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 sedimentation.

Vegetation fringe patchy or absent in many canals. Aquatic species absent or mainly limited to those with submerged or floating leaves.

Impoverished communities. Few invertebrate species and usually few individuals.

Small/stunted roach, gudgeon, few perch. Carp where stocked.

Limited range of permanent water birds and mammals.

0 (non-navigated)



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 Source Antifouling paints

Water pollution from boats Detail 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).

Dredging 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 drains. 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 waterways. 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 2002).

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 Dredging can have positive effects on wildlife value, particularly in canals, as it: • enlarges the channel, reducing the intensity of boat disturbance; • 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 plants; • 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 accumulated; • removes sediment-bound nutrients, particularly phosphorus. 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 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 operations.

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.


Conclusions 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 managed. 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 interest.

• 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 important. The case studies deal with a range of waterway types including: • 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 proposals. Conclusions 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 project. 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 status. 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. 53

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 stage. 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

AND Development and maintenance of waterway infrastructure

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

AND Development and maintenance of waterway infrastructure

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 waterway infrastructure

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 AND Development and maintenance of waterway infrastructure

Provision of compensatory habitat/ restoration of habitat

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 process; • openness, honesty, trust and inclusiveness; • sharing of credit for successes, outcomes and implementation; • common information base/sharing of information; • 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 interpretation; • 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 above.

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 repainted; • 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 organisations.

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 drives.

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 implications. 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 modification

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 protection

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 protection


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 waterways.

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 operation.

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 animals.

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 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 community;

• 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., 2001). 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 implications.


• 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 measure


In-channel reserves

• 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. Off-line reserves

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 waterways.

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.

Management control

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 enhance

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.

Recognise opportunities

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.

Protecting rare aquatic plant communities

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.

Communicati on to ensure consensus

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.

Management plans:

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 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, LIFE. 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

users available at

Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions 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).

Recommendations 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 techniques. • 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.

1 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 authorities; • 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 methods; • 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 proposals; • 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 projects; • 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 consultations. 72

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 purposes 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.

British Waterways, 2001. British Waterways and Biodiversity: A framework for waterway wildlife. British Waterways and The Wildlife Trusts.

AINA (Association of Inland Navigation Authorities), 2003. Demonstrating the value of waterways: A good practice guide to the appraisal of restoration and regeneration projects. AINA, 37pp.

British Waterways, Waterways 2025: our vision for the shape of the waterway network. British Waterways.

AINA (Association of Inland Navigation Authorities), 2003. Safeguarding the waterway environment: priorities for research. Report of the AINA Working Group on the Environmental Impacts of Waterways Uses. AINA, 44pp. AINA (Association of Inland Navigation Authorities), 2003. Making more of our waterways. AINA, 20pp. AINA (Association of Inland Navigation Authorities), 2005. Managing water resources: a good practice guide for navigation authorities. 20pp. Arlinghaus, R., Engelhardt, D., Sukhodolov, A., and C. Wolter., 2002. Fish recruitment in a canal with intensive navigation: implications for ecosystem management. Journal of Fish Biology, 61: 1368-1402. Boedeltje, G., Smolders, A.J.P., Roelofs, J.G.M. and J.M. van Groendael, 2001. Constructed shallow zones along navigation canals: vegetation establishment and change in relation to environmental characteristics. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 11: 453-471. Boulton, A.J., Boon, P.J., Muhar, S. and G.M.Gislason, 2000. Making river conservation work: integrating science, legislative policy and public attitude. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol., 27: 661-668. Brierley, S. J., Harper, D.M. and P.J. Barham, 1989. Factors affecting the distribution of aquatic plants in a navigable lowland river, the River Nene, England. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management, 4: 263-274. British Marine Federation. 2006. Environmental code of practice: Practical advice for marine businesses, sailing clubs and training centres. Produced in partnership with the Royal Yachting Association and the Environment Agency as part of the Green Blue initiative.

British Waterways, 2005. Inland waterways and sustainable rural transport. British Waterways and the Countryside Agency, 61pp. British Waterways, 2005. Code of practice for works affecting British Waterways. British Waterways, October 2005, 84pp. Broads Authority, 2005. From darkness to light: the restoration of Barton Broad. CIWEM, 2005. Policy Position Statement: Recreational use of inland waters. Defra, 2003. Strategic review of diffuse water pollution from Agriculture. Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs, London, 85pp. Defra, 2005. Securing the Future. The UK’s Sustainable Development Strategy. Defra, 2006. Sustainable Development Indicators in your pocket (see DETR, 2000. Waterways for tomorrow. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, London. See: m DETR and NAW, 2000. Environmental Impact Assessment: A guide to the procedures. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and National Assembly for Wales. Eaton, J.W., 1989. Ecological aspects of water management in Britain. Journal of Applied Ecology, 26: 835-849. Eaton, J.W., 1996. Canal ecology and its management. Proceedings of the World Canal Conference, Birmingham, 26-28 June, 1996. British Waterways, Watford, UK, 6 pages. Eaton, J. W., 1996. Effective environmental management and the importance of canals as an environmental resource. Proceedings of the World Canal Conference, Birmingham, 26-28 June, 1996. British Waterways, Watford, UK.


Eaton, J. W., O’Hara, K., Pygott, J. R. and J.A. Staples, 1989. The Effects of Boat Traffic on the Ecology and Fisheries of Canals. Progress report on research for the British Waterways Board. Liverpool, UK. May 1989. Eaton, J.W. and D.R. Hatcher, 2003. Impact of Navigation on Wildlife: A Feasibility Study on Creating a Methodology for the Impact Assessment of River Navigations. Environment Agency R & D Technical Report W3-001/TR1. English Nature, 1996. Canal SSSIs - Management and planning issues. English Nature Freshwater Series No.2, Report for EN by Environmental Management Consultants, Bradford, UK. English Nature, 1997. Wildlife and fresh water: an agenda for sustainable management. Environment Agency, 2000. Sustainable recreation on waterways - Assessing user activity on canals and other inland waterways: a comparison of three survey methods. R&D Technical Report W3-017/TR. Environment Agency, 2004, Your Rivers For Life: A strategy for the development of navigable rivers 2004-2007. Garrad, P.N. and R.D. Hey, 1987. Boat traffic, sediment resuspension and turbidity in a Broadland river. Journal of Hydrology, 95: 289-29. Garrod, G. and K. Willis, 1998. Using contingent ranking to estimate the loss of amenity value for inland waterways from public utility structures. Environmental and Resource Economics, 12: 241-247. Gregory, S.V., Boyer, K.L. and A.M. Gurnell, (editors) 2003. Ecology and management of wood in world rivers. American Fisheries Society symposium series 37. Guy, C., 2005. The recovery of macrophytes after dredging in three canals designated as SSSI. A dissertation submitted to the University of Bristol in accordance with the requirements of the Masters of Science degree in ecology and Management of the Natural Environment in the Faculty of Science. September 2005. Hatcher, D. R., 2000. Sustainable Nature Conservation in Canals. Thesis submitted in accordance with the requirements of The University of Liverpool for the degree of Doctor in Philosophy. September 2000.


Hendry, K. and A. Tree. Effects of Canoeing on Fish Stocks. Environment Agency R&D Technical Report W266. Research Contractor: APEM Ltd. HMSO, 1999. The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999. S.I. 1999:293. Hodgson, B.P. and J.W. Eaton, 2000. Provision for the juvenile stages of coarse fish in river rehabilitation projects. In I.G. Cowx. (editor), Management and Ecology of River Fisheries. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 318-328. Hughes, S., 1998. A mobile horizontal hydroacoustic fisheries survey of the River Thames, UK. Fisheries Research, 35: 91-97. IEEM, 2006. Guidelines for ecological impact assessment in the UK. Institute of Ecology and Environmental Manangement. See IWA (Inland Waterways Association). Practical Restoration Handbook. See: IWA (Inland Waterways Association). Technical Restoration Handbook. See: IWAAC, 2001. Planning a future for the inland waterways: a good practice guide. IWAAC, London, 79pp. IWACC, 2005. Just add water: how our inland waterways can do more for rural regeneration. IWAAC, London, 69pp. IWAAC, 2006. Inland Waterway Restoration and Development Projects in England, Wales and Scotland. Third Review Report. IWAAC, London, 59pp. IWAC, 2007. The Inland Waterways of England and Wales in 2007. IWAC, London, 40pp. Lambert, S.J., Thomas, K.V, and A. J. Davy, 2005. Assessment of the risk posed by the antifouling booster biocides Irgarol 1051 and diuron to freshwater macrophytes. Chemosphere (article in press). Landamore M.J., Birmingham R.W., Downie M.J. and P.N.H. Wright, 2005. Ecoboat - Boats for a sustainable future on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. Report for the Norfolk and Suffolk Boatbuilders Association by the School of Marine Sciences and Technology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Landamore M.J., Birmingham R.W., Downie M.J., Mesbahi E. and S. Jackson, 2006. Life Cycle and Cost-Benefit Analysis of Selected Technologies for Sustainable Inland Boating. Stage 2 Report of the Ecoboat project for the Norfolk and Suffolk Boatbuilders Association by the School of Marine Sciences and Technology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Monahan, C., and J.M. Caffrey, 1996. The effect of weed control practices on macroinvertebrate communities in Irish canals. Hydrobiologia, 340(1-3): 205-211. December 1996. Moss, B, 1997. Conservation problems in the Norfolk Broads and rivers of East Anglia, England - phytoplankton, boats and the causes of turbidity. Biological Conservation, 12: 96-114.

PIANC (International Navigation Association), 1996. Reinforced vegetative bank protections using geotextiles. Report of Working Group 12 of the Inland Navigation Commission, PIANC, Brussels. PIANC (International Navigation Association), 1997. Conference Report Reims: geotextiles and geomembranes in river and maritime works. PIANC, Brussels. PIANC (International Navigation Association), 2002. Recreational Navigation and Nature. Report of Working Group 12 of the Recreational Navigation Commission, PIANC, Brussels. (Note: also contains additional bibliography on conflict and recreational users).

Moss B., Madgwick J. and G. Phillips, 1996. A guide to the restoration of nutrient-enriched shallow lakes. Report for Environment Agency, Broads Authority, LIFE.

PIANC (International Navigation Association), 2003. Ecological and Engineering Guidelines for Wetlands Restoration in Relation to the Development, Operation and Maintenance of Navigation Infrastructures. Report of Working Group 7 of the Environmental Commission, PIANC, Brussels.

Murphy, K.J. and J.W. Eaton, 1982. The management of aquatic plants in a navigable canal system used for amenity and recreation. Proc. EWRS 6th Symposium on Aquatic Weeds, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, pp.141-151.

PIANC (International Navigation Association), 2003. Guidelines for Sustainable Inland Waterways and Navigation. Report of Working Group 6 of the Environmental Commission. PIANC, Brussels.

Murphy, K. J. and J.W. Eaton, 1983. Effect of pleasure-boat traffic on macrophyte growth in canals. Journal of Applied Ecology, 20: 713-729.

PIANC (International Navigation Association), 2006. Environmental risk assessment of dredging operations. Report of Working Group 10 of the Environmental Commission, PIANC, Brussels.

Murphy, K., Willby, N.J., and J.W. Eaton, 1995. Ecological Impacts and Management of Boat Traffic on Navigable Inland Waterways. In: D.M. Harper and A.J.D. Ferguson (editors). The Ecological Basis for River Management. J ohn Wiley & Sons, Chichester. Pages 427-442. [The literature review on which this is based is included in the main bibliography of the book on pages 525-590.] Nature Conservancy Council, 1989. Guidelines for the selection of biological SSSIs (updated by JNCC see ODPM, 2005. Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation. The Stationery Office. Petts G., Heathcote J. and D. Martin, 2002. Urban Rivers: Our Inheritance and Future. International Water Association Publishing and Environment Agency.

PIANC (International Navigation Association), (in press). Consideration to Reduce Environmental Impacts of Vessels. Report of Working Group 27 of the Inland Navigation Commission, Brussels, Draft May 2006. PIANC (International Navigation Association), (in press). Bird Habitat Management in Ports and Waterways. Report of Working Group 2 of the Environmental Commission, PIANC, Brussels. Pinder, L.C.V., 1997. Research on the Great Ouse: overview and implications for management. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management, 13: 309-315. Pygott, J.R., O’Hara, K. and J.W. Eaton, 1990. Fish community structure and management in navigated British canals. In W.L.T. van Densen et al (editors): Management of Freshwater Fisheries. European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission, Pudoc, Wageningen. Pages 547-557.


Schutten, J. and A. J. Davy, 2000. Predicting the hydraulic forces on submerged macrophytes from current velocity, biomass and morphology. Oecologia 123: 445-452. Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government), 2002. Scotland’s Canals: an asset for the future. Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. The Special Wildlife Interest in Canals. Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence, Annex 1, The United Kingdom Parliament, February 2006. Strachan R. and T. Moorhouse, 2006. Water vole conservation handbook, 2nd Edition. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford. TNO, 2004. Stocktaking study on the current status and developments of technology and regulations related to the environmental performance of recreational marine engines. Contract ETD/FIF.20030701. Report 04.OR.VM.057.1/RR by TNO Automotive for the European Commission, January 10, 2004 University of Brighton, 2002. Water-based sport and recreation: the facts. School for the Environment, University of Brighton. Research report for Defra. University of Liverpool, 1989. The effects of boat traffic on the Ecology and Fisheries of Canals. Progress report for British Waterways. Urban Design Alliance, 1998. Liquid Assets: Making the Most of Urban Watercourses. Institution of Civil Engineers. Verheij, H, 2006. Hydraulic aspects of the Montgomery Canal Restoration. Report for British Waterways, March 2006. Vermaat, J. E., and R. J. Debruyne, 1993. Factors limiting the distribution of submerged waterplants in the lowland River Vecht (The Netherlands). Freshwater Biology, 30(1):147-157. Wakelin T. and A. Kelly, 2007. Broads Authority: Sediment Management Strategy. The Broads Authority, Norwich. Ward, D., Holmes N.T.H., and P. Jose., (eds), 1995. The new rivers and wildlife handbook. RSPB, NRA and RSNC. Wilkinson D, 1992. Access to inland waterways: recreation, conservation and the need for reform. Journal of Planning and Environmental Law, June 1992: 525.


Willby, N. J, 1994. Management of Navigable Canals for Nature Conservation and Fisheries. Thesis submitted in accordance with the requirements of the University of Liverpool for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, March 1994. Willby, N.J., and J.W. Eaton., 1993. The distribution, ecology and conservation of Luronium natans (L.) Raf. in Britain. Journal of the Aquatic Plant Management Society, 31: 70-76. Willby, N. J. and J.W. Eaton, 1996. Backwater habitats and their role in nature conservation on navigable waterways. Hydrobiologia, 340: 333-338. Willby, N.J., Pygott, J.R. and J.W, Eaton, 2001. Interrelationships between standing crop, biodiversity and trait attributes of hydrophytic vegetation in artificial waterways. Freshwater Biology, 46: 883-902. Willby, N. J. and J.W. Eaton, 2002. Sustainable Canal Restoration: Plant Conservation in the Restoration of the Montgomery Canal to Navigation. Report for British Waterways, March 2002. Willby, N. J., Eaton, J. W. and S. Clarke, 2003. Monitoring the Floating Water-plantain. Willis, K.G., and G.D. Garrod., 1999. Angling and recreation values of low-flow alleviation in rivers. Journal of Environmental Management, 57: 71-83. 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

International Legislation


The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially Waterfowl Habitats 1971 (The Ramsar Convention)

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 Directive)

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.


International Legislation


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 Environmental 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 Assessments 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 2001/42/EC

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)


National Legislation


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 amended)

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 Conservation (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 Assessment Regulations

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.


National Legislation


Pollution Control and Water Management Environmental 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 1994

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 1991

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.


National Legislation

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) (Classification) Regulations 1997 and The Surface Waters (Fish Life) (Classification) (Scotland) Regulations 1997

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 1991

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 ( Defra ( Environment Agency ( Joint Nature Conservation Committee (

Natural England ( Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( Scottish Government ( Scottish Natural Heritage (


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

Floating WaterPlantain

Bern Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP

Significant populations in a number of canals e.g. Rochdale Canal, Montgomery canal.

Potamogeton compressus

Grass-Wrack Pondweed


A significant proportion of the remaining UK population is located in canals e.g. Montgomery and Grantham.

Potamogeton acutifolius

Sharp Leaved Pondweed


Mainly in south-east England.

Chara baltica

Baltic Stonewort


Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.

Chara connivens

Convergent Stonewort


Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.

Chara intermedia

Intermediate Stonewort


Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.

Nitellopsis obtusa

Starry Stonewort


Upper Thurne Broads, mainly Martham Broad.

Austropotamobius pallipes

WhiteClawed Crayfish

Bern Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP

Populations in a number of canals.

Bidessus minutissimus

Water Beetle


Occurs in the Wye.

Donacia bicolora

A Reed Beetle


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.

Pisidium tenuilineatum

Fine-Lined Pea Mussel


Canals and lowland rivers north to Yorks.

Pseudanodonta complanata

Depressed River Mussel


Occurs (at least) in the rivers Ouse, Waveney, Yare, Derwent (Yorkshire), Wye, Brue, Arun and various canals and drains.

Vertigo moulinsiana

Desmoulin’s 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


River Shingle Beetles


Exposed riverine sediments, which support this species group, occurs on some navigable rivers e.g. Wye, Soar.

Great 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

River Lamprey

Bern Convention, Habitats Directive

Rivers Ouse/Ure, Derwent, Dee and Wye.

Lampetra planeri

Brook Lamprey

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

Atlantic Salmon

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

Amphibians Triturus cristatus




Latin name

English name Legislation/Status


Barbastella barbastellus


Bonn Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP

An uncommon bat that sometimes feeds over water.

Myotis bechsteinii

Bechstein’s Bat

Bonn Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP

Ancient woodland species.

Myotis daubentonii

Daubenton’s Bat

Bonn Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA

Occurs throughout Britain and feeds over rivers, lakes, ponds and canals.

Myotis mystacinus/brandtii

Whiskered/Br 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

Natterer’s Bat

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

Nathusius’ Pipistrelle

Bonn Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA

Very rare, perhaps under-recorded, bat. In southwest England found over lakes and rivers.

Pipistrellus pipistrellus

Pipistrelle 45 kHz

Bonn Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP

Common bat on canals and rivers (see Lancaster Canal case study in Appendix 5).

Pipistrellus pygmaeus

Pipistrelle 55 kHz

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.

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

Greater Horseshoe Bat

Bonn Convention, Habitats Directive, WCA, BAP

A rare species found in South-West England and South Wales that sometimes feeds over water.

Rhinolophus hipposideros

Lesser Horseshoe Bat

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


Birds Alcedo atthis



Widespread on canals and navigable rivers.

Hard oligomesotrophic waters with benthic vegetation of Chara spp.

Norfolk Broads

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 CallitrichoBatrachion vegetation

Rivers with water crowfoot plant communities

Habitats Directive, BAP (chalk rivers)

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 BAP

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 sticklebacks.

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 unknown.

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 levels.

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 WCA BAP

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.

Amphibians 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.

Fish 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.

Mammals Bats associated with navigable waterways


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 programme.


Species name

Relevant legislation and status


Bern Convention

(Lutra lutra)

Habitats Directive WCA BAP

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.

Birds Kingfisher (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 substrates.


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, 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, which in turn was based on Kotler (1988) and Sidaway (2005)

• 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 Organisation


Web Address

British Sub-Aqua Club

The Divers’ Code of Conduct

British Surfing Association

Code of Conduct

British Water Ski

Statement of Purpose and Environmental Commitment %20Environ%20Commitment.doc

British Water Ski

General Code of Conduct of Cable Tow Water Skiing tabid=35

British Waterways

Waterways Code waterways_code.html

British Waterways/ Environment Agency

The Boater’s Handbook – Basic Boat-Handling and Safety

Environment Agency

Golden Rules for Anglers /257916/259296/?version=1&lang=_e

Inland Waterways Association

Guidance Notes

Marine Conservation Society

Seashore Code

Marine Conservation Society

Underwater Photographers’ Code of Conduct

Marine Conservation Society/CCW/ English Nature

Conservation Code for Sea Anglers

National Angling Alliance

Code of Conduct for Coarse Anglers

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Canoeing & Kayaking g_english.pdf

Pembrokeshire County Council

Pembrokeshire’s Personal Water Craft and Speed Boat – Code of Practice

Royal Yachting Association

Environmental Guidance for Boat Users

Salmon and Trout Association

Salmon and Trout Trust

Thames Water

River Thames Users Code _thames.pdf


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, undated).

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 together.


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 ( at its creation in October 2006. Best of Both Worlds – 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: le%20pages_tcm6-71385.pdf 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, Cheltenham. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2003. Rural England: Summary of Responses. Responses to Question 4. See website:


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: 20Access/CASSummary.pdf. Fletcher, J. (undated). Publicity Material. In IWA (Eds.), Technical Restoration Handbook. See website: Chap18.pdf 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, Nottingham. 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: Chap15.pdf 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: CL_Priorities_MSP_16Sept05_final.doc 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: Chap16.pdf

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. 105

Appendix 5

Case studies


Case study 1

Ashby Canal Coalville M42









Contributors - roles: Geoffrey Pursglove, Ashby Canal Project Officer Organisation(s): Leicestershire County Council (LCC) Email: or Website: and

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 aquatics. 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 (SAC). 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 Stalham Hoveton The

Norwich Broads Acle

Loddon Bungay

Contributors - roles: Andrea Kelly, Conservation Officer (Waterways strategy) Organisation(s): Broads Authority Email: Website:

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 program; • 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 Flexbury

Bude Point

Bude A3073









r Ne




Contributors - roles: Charlie David, Public Space Manager Organisation(s): North Cornwall District Council (NCDC) Email:

Partners: Local interest groups, landowners, Devon and Cornwall County Councils, Environment Agency, South West Lakes Trust, Local Community Groups.


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 (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 Alloa



M9 M80



Dumbarton RT H FO







Glasgow Paisley




Livingston Motherwell


East Kilbride





M74 Irvine

Contributors - roles: Dr Olivia Lassière, Environmental Scientist Scotland Organisation(s): British Waterways Scotland (BWS) Email: Website:

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. 118

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 biodiversity; • 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 hedgerow.

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 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 Leicester


Huntingdon Coventry Rugby Northampton

Redditch Cambridge Bedford Banbury

Milton Keynes Aylesbury


Luton Stevenage Bishop’s Stortford GRAND UNION CANAL

Watford Swindon




Contributors - roles: Mike YouĂŠ, Environment and Heritage Manager Organisation(s): British Waterways, West Midlands Waterway Email: Website:

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 necessary. 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 King’s Lynn

Spalding Stamford

Downham Market






Wisbech Peterborough









Cambridge M11

Contributors - roles: John Adams, Waterways Development Manager Organisation(s): Environment Agency Email: Website:

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)


Yorkshire Dales

Lancaster Forest of Bowland Clitheroe


M6 M55




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: Website:

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 viability. 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 Reaches. Currently, it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the communication or consensus building methods.


Case study 8

Montgomery Canal Llangollen













Contributors - roles: Stephen Lees, Project Manager, Montgomery Canal Restoration Organisation(s): British Waterways (BW) Email: Website:

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.


Bridgnorth 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 Welshpool. 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 Valley. 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 sections. 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 development. 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: management_plan/conservation_management_plan.html Waterscape:


Case study 9

River Thames g Bedford Banbury

Milton Keynes

Luton Stevenage

Aylesbury Oxford Swindon


Watford Slough

Reading Newbury Basingstoke

Woking Guildford


Contributors - roles: Eileen McKeever, Thames Waterway Manager Organisation(s): Environment Agency Email:

London Royal Crawley Tumbridge Wells

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: and

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 1995.

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 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: Website:

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 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 foundations. 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 restoration. 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 ecologists. 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

Tel: 020 7253 1745 Fax: 020 7490 7656 Email:

City Road Lock, 38 Graham Street London N18JX Tel: 020 7253 1745 Fax: 020 7490 7656 Email:


Navigation and aquatic wildlife  

IWAC Report

Navigation and aquatic wildlife  

IWAC Report