In 1951, IWA unsuccessfully opposed the closing of the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal.
Concerns were expressed at the start of 1953 that the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive had plans to transfer canals that were not "required commercially" to local authorities or other bodies. These included some legally abandoned waterways such as the Cromford Canal, Grantham Canal and Llangollen Canal. Other canals included in the list were the Ashton Canal, Peak Forest Canal, Lancaster Canal, Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and the southern section of the Oxford Canal. In response to this the Association continued to advocate full use and development of the whole waterways system for the benefit of all types of user and for the establishment of a National Waterways Commission covering all navigations as well as a public enquiry into the best ways of developing them.
In March 1955, the Government's Board of Survey reported and recommended the disposal of 771 miles of waterway including some canals like the Huddersfield Narrow and Barnsley canals that had already been abandoned and closed to traffic, along with the Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield and many other now-widely-used waterways. In response, IWA advocated a National Waterway Conservancy to look after all inland waterways, and pointed out that it is cheaper to restore and use waterways than to eliminate them.
1959 bought a new threat to the canal when British Waterways excluded it from the scope of the general cruising licence and discouraged its use.
1961 started with local authorities calling for the closure of the Ashton Canal. A protest cruise was organised for Whitsun, which British Waterways tried to advert by withdrawing the canal from the scope of its pleasure boat licences. Despite this, a reduced scale cruise of 15 boats went ahead but were stopped at Lock 12 by a burnt and dismantled lock gate.
In 1968, volunteers led by Graham Palmer undertook a massive clean-up and restoration to support the then Peak Forest Canal Society. IWA, and others, also issued British Waterways with a writ over the neglect of the Ashton and Peak Forest canals.
In 1970, IWA offered £10,000 and unlimited voluntary labour towards the restoration of the Ashton Canal. This was also the year that these volunteers became the Waterway Recovery Group.
Following agreement on funding from the local authorities in 1972, IWA, BW and other voluteers were mobilised to take part in the restoration of the canal. In May 1974 the restored Ashton and Peak Forest canals were reopened.
In 2004, the Hollingwood Manchester & Stockport Canal societies were formed to prom,oste restoration of the Hollinwood and Stockport arms of the Ashton Canal.