Structures or Craft impeding the Waterway

It is an IWA principle that no navigations should be obstructed by structures either floating or founded on the bed of the navigation, which reduce the original design width. This is seen as tantamount to filling in part of the navigation and building on it.

Photo: Floating gardens at Paddington Basin, photo by Roger Wilkinson

IWA recognises that exceptions to this principle may be appropriate in certain situations but each one must be considered on its own merit and if accepted must not be seen as setting a precedent for future development.

Structures taking up part of the navigation may impact on the passage and/or mooring of boats, either now or in the future and may restrict other one off uses such as the organisation of local event.

Where such structures have been introduced in the past, design has generally been poor, based on prefabricated units located on floating pontoons. Such structures tend to degrade faster than their equivalent on land and maintenance is more difficult resulting in a progressive deterioration of the visual aspect. Servicing, access and refuse disposal are further problems, which are not easy to resolve for floating structures.  Even when such structures are designated with a limited life, in practice this is not always adhered to as removal or replacement is problematic.


Edgbaston Tunnel, Worcester & Birmingham Canal - this case has been discussed and IWA has submitted comments so it is purely noted here as an example of the channel being reduced from double to single boat width. IWA is pleased to note that the proposed towpath extension would be cantilevered out, maintaining the water if not the navigation width, and allowing the full width to be retrieved at a later date.

Paddington Basin - the proposals to increase the public realm by reducing the water area and introducing landscaping are against the IWA principle and the local IWA Branch has submitted an objection. It is a particular concern in this location where maximising moorings is essential to mitigate against the general loss elsewhere in London.

Salthouse Dock Liverpool - suggestions have been put forward to develop floating commercial structures as a link between Liverpool City and the Albert Dock Complex. Although at an early stage this will have to be monitored to ensure that these extremely popular visitor mooring are not prejudiced. The appearance of visiting boats in Liverpool Docks has been a success story and the continuing demand suggests that more berths are required.

Boats used for permanent commercial use

Although IWA considers that converted boats are more acceptable than building based structures, IWA will voice a concern if these are not appropriate or they block water space that could be better utilised.

As an example, the office barges in London do not appear to have been a great success and their value is questionable in locations surrounded by an oversupply of office accommodation.

Floating food outlets, for example in Bancroft Basin, Stratford-upon-Avon, are also questionable when they take up vital visitor moorings whilst providing a facility that could easily be accommodated on adjacent land. We recognise that this brings considerable income to the navigation authority and encourages the public to visit and enjoy the waterways, but we will object if the balance of these outlets to visitor moorings is wrong.

Members may recall IWA’s successful objection to a planning application for a Chinese restaurant in Gas Street Basin, Birmingham many years ago. It is hoped that with a more responsible attitude, historic and iconic locations such as this are not under threat from such projects but all IWA members must remain vigilant.

We are aware that Canal & River Trust has recently advertised for additional commercial opportunities at honey-pot sites and whilst we recognise the need to increase income from new sources, this must be balanced against the needs of all waterways users.

Navigation Committee encourages branches and members to be vigilant against any such proposals and to consider carefully whether their benefits overweigh any loss of water space amenity. Navigation Committee will continue to monitor these on a national basis.

Download the PDF

Structures or Craft impeding the Waterway (95KB, A4, 2 pages)