Stop The Loss of Waterways Heritage

Stop The Loss of Waterways Heritage

07 May 2020

Part One of Heritage Report Launched

We have launched the first part of a two-part report which aims to highlight the significance of waterways heritage across the UK. The report is part of our on-going campaign to protect waterways heritage, the need for which was uncovered as part of our Value of Inland Waterways report authored by Nicki Schiessel Harvey, which launched last year.

We have joined forces with the Historic Narrow Boat Club, National Historic Ships UK and the Railway & Canal Historical Society, who have endorsed the report, and with Historic England who has provided support and research evidence.

The report is focusing on the need for better protection of waterways heritage assets but is also calling on navigation authorities, councils, planning authorities, developers and builders to consider waterways heritage in any future development plans for local waterways and adjoining land.

Britain’s waterways form a vast, open-air network of working canals and rivers, connecting city and countryside, alive with boats and enjoyed by millions. As a heritage asset it is unsurpassed in scale and accessibility, telling the story of Britain’s industrial past as well as being important to its future, in terms of tourism, physical & mental health and our national sense of identity. We have discovered that many of the unique and diverse heritage features that make the waterways so special are not protected. Vast numbers have already disappeared and those that remain are at great risk of being lost. 

We are highlighting our concerns and calling for a greater level of protection for waterways heritage features, over and above the 2,800 larger structures that are already listed through the Historic England register. These include 70 scheduled ancient monuments and five UNESCO world heritage sites.

When viewed in isolation, the removal of a strapping post here or a starting pin there doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when each of these is added up, it has a detrimental impact on the heritage of our entire inland waterways network. Insensitive development is changing the face of our waterways.

Having said all that, we are certainly not asking for the waterways to become a museum. In fact, we want the very opposite. The waterways network needs to continue to be a usable and valuable asset now and into the future. All we are asking is that its history is protected and included in development plans rather than being overlooked or removed.
Another concern that the report uncovered was the dramatic loss of traditional skills. IWA is working with National Historic Ships UK to develop training courses for anyone who is interested in learning waterways skills so that these can continue into the future. More information about these courses will be announced once available.

Part two of this report will be released in the summer and will go into more detail about the value of waterways heritage using a series of in-depth case studies alongside other resources for use by our Branch Heritage Officers.

To read Part I of IWA's Waterways Heritage Report please take a look here

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