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Economic wellbeing

Waterways can offer a platform to provide conditions for growth and act as catalysts for regeneration.

Granary Wharf

Economic benefits of canals to consider in your plan:

  • encouraging the use of waterways as tourism attractions
  • promoting waterways as catalysts for urban renaissance and as tools for improving urban and housing offers
  • promoting waterways as catalysts for rural development, regeneration and diversification
  • encouraging the development and improvement of waterway infrastructure in support of small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs
  • promoting innovative uses of the waterway infrastructure – eg. the use of towpaths as telecommunication routes
  • encouraging the improvement, development and restoration of waterways, including new waterway links

Waterside development, regeneration and restoration

Canals can act as a catalyst for the development of the property alongside them. For example:

  • improvements to canal environments have been shown to bring forward the development of previously vacant or underused sites
  • their linear form means that canals can also help integrate discrete development schemes
  • attractive development can enhance the vibrancy and vitality of an area
  • property developments at waterside locations command a premium value when compared to other schemes
  • the uplift in land values brought about by development that positively addresses waterside locations can assist in making sites more viable for redevelopment

There are many regeneration schemes which include waterways.

For example

In west London a Mayoral Development Corporation has been established for the Old Oak and Park Royal area. Approximately 24,000 new homes and 55,000 new jobs, along with HS2, Crossrail and London Overground stations, are planned. Around 4.3 km of the Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm runs through the area. The draft local plan (2016) states “The Grand Union Canal is one of the defining features of Old Oak and Park Royal and provides significant opportunities to shape the regeneration of Old Oak and the enhancement of Park Royal”.

For example

Canal restoration schemes can also deliver a range of benefits. Working with the University of Northampton we’ve produced a report about the positive effects of restoring waterways on local communities – the economic, social and environmental benefits.

Read the full report
Read a review of the report

There are several examples of adopted local plan policies relating to waterway restoration schemes in Local Plans: Delivering inland waterway restoration projects in England and Wales.

Supporting the sustainable growth of the visitor economy

Canals have successfully formed the basis for leisure and recreation-driven regeneration across the country.


Restoration works to the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale Canals (2001 and 2002) has resulted in the growth of some 500 jobs in the local recreation and tourism economy, supported by around 2 million additional visits to the canals and towpaths each year.

Last Edited: 19 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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