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Landscaping and marina layout

The landscape quality and setting of a new marina or mooring facility will contribute to its success and is an important consideration during the planning application. Schemes should be designed to suit their landscape and waterside setting and visual impact should be considered as part of the design and planning process. We place significant importance on this issue and will comment on the quality of the design during the planning application.

We can advise on the landscape and related design issues which should be taken into account in order to help steer the scheme in the right direction. Issues such as topography, existing trees and vegetation, and adjacent land uses and boundaries should all be considered at an early stage so that they can inform and guide site planning and design, including access and security arrangements.

We encourage you to create not just a 'boat park' but a visitor destination on the network which will attract a broad range of visitors wishing to use your site's facilities and explore the local waterway.

A range of specific guidance is available from professional bodies and consultants. Refer to the end of this section for useful references and links.

Mooring and facility layout

Mooring layouts and associated facilities inevitably vary from site to site and there is no standard design which caters for all circumstances. For instance, site topography, exposure, and views into and across the site are likely to influence and affect layouts, and options usually need to be developed to make best use of the anticipated waterspace.

As a rough rule of thumb, minimum approximate provision is around 94 boats per hectare of water, with approximately a similar area for parking, landscaping, access works and, potentially, disposal of on-site excavations. The shape of the basin and the need to control access by non-boaters, as well as any security requirements, will help determine whether individual pontoons or a system of walkways with finger jetties will be most appropriate.

Where possible, it is beneficial to separate different mooring types and to locate boaters' facilities where they can be accessed by both the main mooring customers and by passing boats on the waterway without this group needing to enter the mooring. A degree of flexibility should be allowed to cater for growth or changing demand, and it is advisable to grade mooring lengths with smaller boats at the furthest point from the entrance, and larger and visiting boats nearer to the entrance.

Proposals for moorings and marinas also need to take account of a range of associated factors, such as spacing between boats, length of pontoons, turning circles, prevailing wind, location of mooring points, pedestrian access, safety and security, berthing, and access to facilities. Facilities could include water supply, refuse disposal, electrical points, fuel supplies and car parking/hard standings. All need to be considered as an integral part of the scheme, and a high quality and well-designed marina should help develop both custom and income.

A growing part of the waterway business is trail boats and thus the provision of an adequate slipway to meet this demand could be useful. It may also contribute to supporting any boat repair business at the site.

Refer also to the Feasibility - Local market assessment page for more information on facilities and services.

Hard and soft landscaping

A landscape architect should be engaged to design external and landscape work, but should also be used to contribute to the initial site planning process.

The hard and soft landscaping of the site should be a fundamental part of its design and may well contribute to a successful planning application. The character of the waterway corridor and the relationship of the proposed marina with the wider environment must be considered. Your submission should therefore identify how the proposal has responded to, for example, any site designations or prominent or important visual features. Landscape proposals should include boundary/fencing treatments, car parking arrangements and screening, design and layout of footpaths and routes, and the quality and specification of appropriate materials.

A useful reference is the 'Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Assessment' published and promoted by The Landscape Institute.

'The External Works Compendium' published by is a useful annual publication which lists products and specialist services for the external environment, including contractors and suppliers for water-based work.

'A Code of Practice for the Design, Construction and Operation of Coastal and Inland Marinas and Yacht Harbours' produced by The Yacht Harbour Association and the 'Environmental Code of Practice' produced by British Marine are also useful references.

The following issues should also be addressed:

Views to and from the waterway

Creation of a new mooring scheme, with a new entrance to our network, often involves opening up views to and from the waterway which may be visually intrusive. This may need to be mitigated through landscape and screening work, which would also provide some privacy and security to boat owners.


Trees are valuable visual features and form important canal-side wildlife habitats. Developments should take account of all existing trees on our land or adjacent land. Trees should only be removed where there is no other practical option. Any trees lost in developing the site should be replaced as part of the overall plan for the site.

Planting schemes

Planting schemes should only include species of British seed source (native provenance) and should match those occurring naturally in the area.

Where the planting scheme will affect the boundary of the canal/river corridor the scheme should be agreed by us. The planned locations of planting schemes should also take account of existing valuable habitats, such as grasslands. The BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) online handbook is useful for conservation-led works.

Treatment of invasive plant species

Any invasive plant species, such as giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, and Japanese knotweed, must be removed prior to development to prevent spread onto and along the waterway corridor. Eradication of these plants requires specialist knowledge and any material generated will be classified as special waste and will require specialist disposal facilities which should be provided by the Local Authority.

Soft waterside edges

Wherever possible, soft vegetated waterside edges should be considered. These help create visual interest and can break up the impact of any hard engineering works. They also help to establish aquatic marginal habitats. A range of bio-engineering techniques is available, and we can advise accordingly. A number of well established marinas now incorporate soft edges.


Sensitive use of lighting should be applied, particularly in rural or remote areas, and light 'spillage' from the marina should be avoided in order to maintain local character, prevent stress on nocturnal wildlife and to benefit watchers of the night sky. However, in other locations, improved lighting may be seen as a benefit, aiding security and access.

Lighting schemes should consider guidance from, for example, the Institution of Lighting Professionals and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.


Signs should not be visually intrusive from the waterway. You should liaise with our local office regarding the size, design and siting of any signage adjacent to our navigation, prior to its installation.

Access and parking

Access for your customers and the public around your site and facilities should provide equal services for people with a disability, and provide clear signage and orientation.

The Fieldfare Trust / BT Countryside for All guidelines are a useful reference for public access provision. Information on the Disability Discrimination Act can be found at

Also refer to the sections below about creating a welcoming site and interpretation.

Designing a welcoming site

The creation of a welcoming site will contribute greatly to the success of the business, particularly in a competitive mooring and leisure market. By catering for a broad range of visitors, including your core boating customers, visiting boaters and the general public, you should be able to generate greater revenue streams and satisfy the needs of each group with careful design and on-site management.

Visits to a range of other mooring sites and marinas will give you an insight into the issues to consider for your core mooring customers. Useful references include British Marine and there are courses in marina management and customer management.

To attract the wider public to your site it is important to firstly consider what type of visit you can offer (e.g. quiet or active recreation, watching the boating activity, a family meal or a stop-off for walkers) and to which groups (e.g. families, young couples, coach outings, passing boaters or walkers).

You will then need to identify what facilities to provide, such as a restaurant, café, ice cream/coffee kiosk, boat hire, walking trails, bicycle hire, play equipment, toilets, parking or visitor moorings.

Some basic principles to make visitors feel welcome and want to return include:

  • clear signage to your site from the highway and local routes
  • obvious entrances (by boat, car and on foot) which are named and welcoming
  • car parks which are easy to find and where visitors feel safe to leave their cars
  • a pleasant, relaxing and safe site ambience
  • easy orientation around the site with clear signs and accessible paths
  • appropriate facilities for your visitors, with clean toilets and friendly staff
  • information on the activities around the site and beyond, so visitors can plan their day and make the most of your site, including leaflets, maps, menus, etc

Most Regional Tourist Boards run one-day accredited training courses in customer service for leisure and tourism operators (see link below).

Interpretation is a very useful tool for engaging visitors to your site. Visitors to any destination expect information and signing but also wish to engage with, and have a deeper understanding of, the place they are visiting. For more information, refer to our Interpretation Briefing Note (see link below).

Last Edited: 01 August 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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