The future of canals

This summer we celebrates our tenth anniversary. We’d like to thank all our volunteers, donors, partners and supporters for their assistance in helping to look after this 250-year-old network.

Man steering boat with flight of locks in the background Caen Hill Locks

Reinventing the canals

This year also sees us continue our dialogue with government about the future funding of the network beyond 2027 when the current grant agreement ends.

Making up the oldest industrial network of its type in the world, the canals across England and Wales have been reinvented and play a crucial role, including helping with some of the biggest issues we face as a society today. However, an ageing network, subject to extreme weather and a changing climate, needs continued funding and support from government if we are to keep the reservoirs, aqueducts, towpaths, locks and embankments safe and available for all.

The Times Newspaper, 23 May 2022

In Today’s Times (23 May 2022), chief executive Richard Parry responds to a Times archive article re-printed at the end of last week about funding for canals, something that was also a live topic of conversation in Neville Chamberlain’s government 100 years ago in 1922.

Sir,

It was fascinating to look back 100 years (Times archive May 19) at the conversation in Neville Chamberlain’s government about filling in canals and turning their routes into roads. In the subsequent decades, hundreds of miles were indeed abandoned. However, thanks to campaigners, restoration groups and funders, many have been restored.

Once the arteries of the industrial revolution, today’s canals carry more boats and are used for leisure by more people than ever before. On the doorstep of millions, they provide vital green and blue space in towns and cities, tackling health inequalities and improving wellbeing. They bring nature, support biodiversity and help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Caring for this extraordinary 250-year-old infrastructure requires a substantial programme and secure funding. This year, in the Canal & River Trust’s tenth anniversary, we are in crucial conversations with government to extend funding to safeguard the future of the network. The conversations from 1922 echo down the years as we make the case for the sustainable future of the nation’s waterways and prepare for the next chapter in their remarkable history.

Richard Parry
Chief Executive
Canal & River Trust