The charity making life better by water


The term 'heritage' encapsulates a broad and rich diversity on our waterways. It encompasses their histories, buildings and historic landscapes, as well as assets such as the historic route and associated landscape of a waterway, locks, slipways and minor items such as mileposts and bollards. Our network is home to Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments, Conservation Areas and many thousands of potential archaeological sites.

We take a pragmatic view of the importance of heritage and recognise that a balance must be struck between development and conservation. Adaptive re-use, alteration and occasional demolition may be necessary to deliver successful development. Good contemporary design may well become the heritage of the future.

Heritage and development

Planning for heritage conservation in any development scheme is controlled by legislation. It is therefore important that the process for determining the relevance of heritage and archaeology to mooring development proposals is clearly understood and consistently applied. The notes below outline the process and you should also refer to the Feasibility - Archaeology and historic structures page to review the initial assessment work which should have been undertaken.

In addition to normal development controls, specific protection is provided for Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and archaeological sites.

At the outset of any development proposals it is essential that a suitably qualified professional performs a rapid assessment that identifies the following:

  • heritage designations - e.g. Listed Buildings etc
  • archaeological designations - e.g. Local Authority based Historic Environment Record (HER) registered sites, which may be non-statutory but can still require investigation
  • non-statutory heritage - e.g. local listings, or items recorded in the British Waterways Architectural Heritage Survey

Where heritage assets are identified, a nominated heritage adviser should prepare a short heritage impact assessment. This will identify the effect of development proposals upon existing heritage. Complex sites or buildings with high heritage value are likely to require a conservation statement or conservation management plan.

Development sites where potential archaeological deposits have been identified (although this is not common) will require an archaeological desk-based assessment. This should be performed by an archaeologist who is a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and may point to the need for further archaeological investigations and recording (e.g., evaluation by trial trenching, watching brief, full excavation). For complex sites this work may be in addition to a conservation statement or conservation management plan.

It is important that a development project manager and their suitably qualified professional engage with Local Authority conservation and archaeology staff and/or with the relevant statutory agency (e.g., English Heritage in England, Cadw in Wales) at the earliest opportunity. To begin with, this may involve no more than informal discussion, but establishing a dialogue is essential. The heritage designation regime is complex and can be problematic if managed poorly.

Where Listed Building, Scheduled Monument, or Conservation Area Consent applications need to be made to a Local Authority or Government department/statutory agency, these should be prepared with advice from a heritage adviser.

Successful development in the historic environment may require ongoing input from a heritage adviser and should demonstrate clear adherence to heritage processes and sustainable re-use, adaptation, or conservation of heritage assets where appropriate. Interpretation of a historic environment where development has taken place can greatly enhance the visitor's experience and attract additional customers to a site. Refer to the Design- Landscaping and Marina Layout page for more information on visitor interpretation.

Useful references and links

Last Edited: 16 February 2022

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration