iwa waterways for today 3

iwa waterways for today

benefits to local communities

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the benefits of the waterways to the LOCAL COMMUNITY

Having looked at both the economic and environmental benefits of the waterways, we are now looking at the benefits for the LOCAL COMMUNITY as outlined in the IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today, which highlights 12 Major Benefits of Britain’s Inland Waterways network.

The benefits for the local communities are wide ranging. They create active travel corridors that connect communities and provide free, inclusive and level routes for walking, jogging, cycling and more.

Connecting Communities

Due to their industrial past, the waterways often run through towns and cities, providing traffic-free passage for residents to get out into the countryside and vice-versa. Those in more rural areas can use the towpaths for easy access into towns and villages. Within cities, the waterways should be considered as sustainable transport networks, contributing towards zero carbon, economic recovery and changing behaviour patterns.

Benefits of Inland Waterways to communities

The regeneration of inland waterways can spur local communities into taking ownership of “their” river or canal, seeing it as a community asset that needs to be protected and improved. It provides a sense of place and civic pride. This is particularly true since the Covid pandemic, where many people discovered their local waterways for the first time and began to realise what a positive environment it can be.

Education and Inspiration for Young People

The inland waterways offer real hands-on education opportunities particularly in science, technology and maths subjects but also humanities and the arts. Outdoor classrooms and visits to local waterways provide a unique opportunity for school-aged children to see the built and natural heritage of their waterway – at near zero cost to the education budget. The waterways can bring history to life for young people.

learning in outdoor classroom

Creating Jobs, Training and Apprenticeships

It's not just school-aged children that benefit from visiting the inland waterways, the learning can be inter-generational and they can provide opportunities for employment, training and apprenticeships. These include jobs in tourism and leisure or the hospitality sector. Restoration projects also offer training and work experience opportunities. Often run by volunteers, restoration sites must comply with all construction, environmental, heritage, health and safety legislation and processes. They have proved valuable for people looking to retrain before seeking employment in the construction industry, civil engineering and other fields including boat design.

benefits of waterways to local communities - apprenticeships

Some statistics in the report include:

  • Of the 76 places now designated as cities in England, Scotland and Wales, 41 are on a navigable waterway. Restoring up to 500 more miles would add another seven cities, connecting them to their neighbouring communities
  • Improving towpaths attracts high numbers of visitors to an area. Canalside paths in Birmingham saw a 128% increase in use by cyclists between 2012 and 2016
    Research by the Blagrave Trust found that almost all outdoor learning interventions have a positive effect
  • Understanding and appreciating what has gone before is essential for creating a more sustainable planet
  • A study carried out 10 years after the Millennium-funded restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale canals found that around 500 jobs had been created

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to the Environmental benefits of the waterways please visit our WEBSITE

Join us next time to look at the benefits that the waterways provide for IMPROVING PEOPLE’S LIVES.

This entry was posted in Editorials on by .

About Jo Henderson

Jo writes on behalf of the Inland Waterways Association, the membership charity that works to protect and restore the country's 6,500 miles of canals and rivers. IWA is a national organisation with a network of volunteers and branches who deploy their expertise and knowledge to work constructively with navigation authorities, government and other organisations.