BOTH the Canal & River Trust and Inland Waterways Association have welcomed the Government’s recent announcement about its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023.
The waterways network has been described as ‘ready-made to provide a vital role’ in meeting the target of having everyone living within 15 minutes’ walk of a blue or green space. Both organisations have called for this to be recognised with continuing investment.
CRT chief executive Richard Parry commented: “Canal towpaths are already the most accessible and free space for many communities, on the doorstep of nine million people.
“A legacy from our industrial past, canals now flow as arteries of nature throughout towns and cities, often through the country’s most deprived communities where health inequalities, green space deficit and lack of gardens are most pronounced.”
The IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the importance of waterways for protecting the environment and providing access to nature for those living in urban areas.
It states: “Canals and rivers offer homes for wildlife to flourish, while at the same time providing opportunities for people to see plants, insects, and birds that they wouldn’t normally experience in an urban environment.
“With the impact of climate change canals are providing the water transfer highways to ensure London and other areas being severely affected by reduced rainfall have sufficient supplies to meet the growing demands.”
Richard Parry referred to the trust’s recent study with Kings College, London, which showed that the real time effect of spending time on canals comes with a 6% improvement in mental well-being, compared to just green spaces alone.
However he pointed out: “The nation’s Georgian-built canal network, still used by thousands of boats, is old and increasingly vulnerable to the threats of a changing climate. Our ongoing mission is protecting and enhancing the canal network for the benefit of this and future generations.
“This requires the support of all who use, donate and volunteer on our waterways. It also demands a continued commitment from government who, in the coming weeks, will make a crucial decision about the vital funding that they provide to help keep alive this unique network of canals, rivers, docks and reservoirs.
“So, while we welcome the Government’s plan for new and enlarged nature reserves, it must also, for a relatively modest continued financial commitment, continue to fund and help support nature for the millions of people who use and rely on the linear canal ‘nature reserves’ on their doorstep for everyday health and well-being.”
The IWA statement added: “Enhancing and restoring our waterways is vital to achieving the Government’s target of having everyone living within 15 minutes’ walk of a blue or green space. But this ageing infrastructure will require an ongoing financial commitment to survive the increasing threat of climate change and rising costs.
“We call on the Government to recognise the value of our waterways in achieving these environmental targets, and to invest in them for the future.”