THE Canal & River Trust has published a report into the state of the waterways heritage, covering financial years 2017/18 and 2018/19.
The Trust formally checks for changes in condition, defects or hazards along each stretch of canal at least once every two months. These inspections show that incidents affecting waterways heritage stood at 626 in 2017/18 and 635 in 2018/19, down from 800 recorded incidents in 2016/17. The most common cause of damage was vandalism (42% and 41% in 2017/18 and 2018/19, with half involving graffiti).
Less frequent, but significant, are incidents of damage caused by impact from vehicles or boats. In 2017/18 40% of all such incidents were caused by boats, reducing to 19% in 2018/19. Vehicle collisions typically damage canal bridges, and in 2017/18 there were 63 reported incidents, rising to 85 incidents in 2018/19.
The Report takes a closer look at the number of the Trust’s assets that are on the Heritage at Risk registers. In 2017-19 there were three sites on the Historic England register: Birmingham Roundhouse; Whaley Bridge Transhipment Warehouse, and Hanwell Flight in London. The Engine Arm Aqueduct was removed from the register following repair work, and work to restore the Roundhouse and the Transhipment Warehouse have continued over the period.
Volunteers play an important part in supporting the Trust’s heritage activity and over the period have been involved in all areas, including historical research, making heritage assessments and conservation management plans, practical works, and recording historic structures.
The Trust continued to work with Historic England and the Department for Communities and Local Government towards a National Listed Building Consent Order, with ministers confirming they were happy to proceed with the next step towards awarding the Order. The Order, the first of its kind, would allow the Trust to make repairs to its masonry, brick structures and listed locks without having to gain individual consents, allowing repairs to be made more quickly and saving both time and money.
Richard Parry, chief executive at the Trust, said: “As the Trust enters its eighth year it is heartening to look back across the period 2017–19 and reflect upon our heritage activity. This has included well-attended open days, ongoing partnerships with other charities like the Transport Trust and the National Trust, and the outstanding contribution our heritage volunteers make year-on-year. A vital part of the Trust’s strategy is to connect people with the nature and heritage of the waterways on their doorstep, increase community involvement and inspire young people. In this report there is much to celebrate, as we showcase our work of conserving the waterways heritage that contributes so much to the delight and wellbeing of our visitors and supporters.”
The Waterways Heritage Report is available on the Trust’s website here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/specialist-teams/caring-for-our-heritage/heritage-report