Canal restoration & effects on wildlife

It is important to take the environment into consideration before you start restoring canals and waterway structures. Remove trees, setting up your site, excavating and demolishing structures such as bridges, building and locks can damaged habitats if not properly managed.

Before you start restoring your canal:

  • Be aware of current legislation.

  • Before you start work you should carry out an Ecological Survey to identify species along your canal. Take this information into consideration when writing your Construction Plan and include how to protect species, manage them or remove them. This survey should be carried out early in your planning process to avoid delays or unforeseen costs.

  • Be aware of any SSSI's, Natura 2000, conservation areas within or nearby the boundaries of your work.

  • You should contact relevant body to advise you on mitigation measures for any protected species or give you permission to remove hedges, trees or deal with invasive species.

  • Obtain any licences, permissions required to move species or disrupt their habitats - or employ a qualified person to carry out the work.

  • Time your work so it doesn't effect birding nesting season, hibernation or breeding season.

On Site Considerations

  • Ensure your volunteers are appropriately briefed on ecological issues on site and their role in protecting, removing or managing them. This information can be included in the site induction.

  • Consider day to day impacts of your restoration work - disturbance to animals and birds from noise, vibrations or dust.

  • If you are removing vegetation (trees and shrubs) check for Tree Preservation Orders  and do not carry out work large scale clearance work between March and October (birding nest period).

  • If you are excavating sections of canal be aware of the impact on the habitats of protected species such as water voles and badgers. Make sure mitigation methods have been carried out before work starts. Removing soil can also damage the local seed bank.

  • Demolition or restoration of structures such as bridges can mean a loss of habitats for bats and other animals/birds. Make sure surveys of the structure have been carried out before work starts.

  • Dredging or dewatering can also damage wildlife habitats. If you are planning dredging work avoid fish breeding and bird nesting times, also avoid winter when plants are less visible. When dewatering a section of canal consider where you are going to pump the water (do you need consent/permit), is the water polluted and therefore shouldn't enter a clean watercourse, do you need to carry out fish rescue? Click here for more guidance on dewatering.

  • Are materials being stored approriately and away from sensitive areas or watercourse to prevent contamination? Set up designated cement/lime mixing and washing areas to avoid contamination of groundwater and water courses. If you have fuel on site store it appropriate containers to prevent leaks and have spill kits readily available.

  • Review processes and adapt if new ecological issues arise on site.

Useful Links

Natural England - Protected Species

IWA's Guidance on Wildlife Conservation

Guidance on Bats