Response by the Canal & River Trust
iCE – National Needs Assessment
RESPONSE BY THE CANAL & RIVER TRUST
04 March 2016
Background information on the Canal & River Trust
The Trust is a company limited by guarantee and registered as a charity and was launched on 2nd July 2012 taking over responsibilities from British Waterways and the Waterways Trust in England and Wales. Under the transfer of functions:
(1) local planning authorities and Planning Inspectorate are now required to consult the Canal & River Trust on applications for planning permission in the same way as British Waterways were previously consulted;
(2) all the operational and investment property of British Waterways in England and Wales has now
vested in the Trust; and
(3) all the statutory duties of British Waterways in England and Wales have been transferred to the Trust - to maintain the safety and structural integrity of waterway infrastructure, water supply, discharges and drainage, waterway management and maintenance operations, including maintaining water levels for navigation purposes; to protect and safeguard the natural environment, landscape character and built heritage of waterways; as well as to encourage public access to and recreation use of the inland waterways.
The Trust is responsible for holding and managing approximately 2000 miles of canals, rivers and linked docks, and reservoirs, along with historic buildings, archives and three waterway museums, (including the National Waterways Museum), on behalf of the nation. These national assets held by the Trust embrace an extraordinary variety of interests, activities and communities including: The UK’s third largest collection of listed buildings and structures; 65 Sites of Scientific Interest; 1000 wildlife conservation sites; and a floating community of around 35,000 boats.
The Trust is proactive in utilising its property assets and joint venture vehicles to bring forward land to deliver regeneration, wider benefits to the community and to attract private sector investment. As a charitable body, all the net rental income and capital receipts generated from our property estate and other commercial activities are used to maintain the waterways.
The Trust believes it has a valuable role to play in supporting the sustainable provision and operation of infrastructure assets and services in a number of areas, including use of the trust’s northern waterways as a catalyst for growth of existing and proposed ports in the region and as a conduit for the transport of goods and waste materials by water, as well as for energy generation. In the London area the Trust is responsible for commercial waterways that have the potential to contribute towards a low carbon / reduced congestion economy in area. In addition the towpaths running alongside the Trusts waterways have the potential to be developed as green corridors for utilities and people – connecting cities and giving people a viable alternative to reliance on private and public transport.
Responses to Questions Posed
- Do you agree with our proposed vision and outcomes? What amendments would you propose?
We support the vision in principle, but it should be extended to cover better utilisation of existing infrastructure assets such as waterways.
Waterways form part of the UK’s national economic infrastructure and help realise deliverables on a number of fronts including energy, transport, communications, water, waste and flooding.
We have set out below, with evidence, how the waterways can contribute towards the vision outlined in the NNA consultation information.
- Energy - Sustainable energy sources
- Waterways can contribute to the low carbon economy through new energy technologies such as biomass capacity; waste streams, for example recycling, reuse and energy from waterway operation and maintenance; and the abstraction of canal water for cooling and/or heating purposes.
- The water flowing through the cities and towns of England and Wales via our waterway network contains enough thermal energy to produce around 640 MW of energy which would heat 320,000 houses. This energy can be extracted using water-sourced heat pumps to provide an incredibly efficient form of heating and cooling. It could also help to reduce the electricity demand and balance electricity supply. A number of businesses now use this low carbon energy source to heat and cool their buildings. For example, The Hepworth, Wakefield, is using water as a low carbon energy source to heat and cool the art gallery building. In London Docklands new developments such as Dollar Bay (under construction) that will comprise 150 new luxury apartments will be using dock water for heating/cooling.
- For District heating networks the waterways can be used as both a source of heat for the network and also for laying the heating pipes along towpaths, crossings etc. We are working on schemes in Chester, Birmingham, Islington, Manchester, Olympic Park, Stoke - all currently at feasibility study stage
- For retrofitting existing buildings with low carbon heating & cooling – at the cooling datacentre, part of GSK’s HQ in Brentford, water from the Grand Union canal is being used for heating and cooling and we are currently looking at a University in Leicester to replace existing inefficient gas boilers with a canal water based system
- Transport - Sustainable transport
- Strategic Sustainable Transport / Connectivity – Waterborne Freight opportunities
The Trust’s Commercial Waterways in Northern England
In 2012 the Trust set up a Freight Advisory Group (FrAG) in order to stimulate the use of the commercial waterways and in 2014 this group recommended further investigation into ‘Priority Freight Routes’ where there is the opportunity for these waterways to be used for commercially viable and sustainable freight transport. For more information please see the link below to the FrAG report:-
In addition to the recommendations in 2014, a recent review of infrastructure studies and a consultation with barge operators and their trade association suggests that in principle the Aire & Calder Navigation could be improved to accommodate barges of Euro Class II to navigate from the ABP ports of Hull, Grimsby, Immingham and Goole to a new inland port at Leeds for storage of goods and onward transportation to the North West of England.
Investment to construct new wharves, minor channel dredging, enhancements to Bulholme and Castleford Lock and improvements to air draft at a number of key bridges would create a new coherent, feasible, more viable and more resilient transport option between the northern cities, the Humber and Europe. Not only would the investment help increase the competitiveness and the resilience of the Northern Powerhouse with respect to transport but it would also stimulate the creation of new jobs in the freight and logistics sector and provide a feasible and financially viable alternative to imports and exports to and from southern ports, ultimately helping to improve air quality and congestion on the UK’s south – north arterial road network.
A recent report produced on behalf of the Canal & River Trust by the consultant MDS Transmodal suggests that Euro Class II barges with dimensions of 61m length, 6.1m beam. 2.5m draft and 3.6m air draft which can be sourced from the continent could be used on the Aire & Calder Navigation with the obvious benefits of carrying capacity – 32 TEU / >650 tonne dry cargo.
Investment to upgrade the commercial waterways to accommodate Euro Barge Class II container barges must be supported by the creation of inland port facility(s) to service them, they are inter-dependent in delivering the economic and environmental benefits for the three City Regions. In our view, a moderate investment would demonstrate a quick win towards the ambitions of the Northern Powerhouse delivering value for money economic and environmental benefits.
The Canal & River Trust has already assembled the land and has planning permission in place to deliver an inland port in Leeds (Stourton) and has already received support at European Funding EOI stage. We have partners in place to help deliver and operate this infrastructure and the technical work on these proposed improvements scoped.
In London, the Trust believes that the environmental impact of the construction phase of Crossrail 2 and be reduced by taking advantage of the River Lee Navigation (a Commercial Waterway).
The Trust’s waterways in London with the River Lee Navigation ringed in red
The Trust has engaged in preliminary conversations with the Crossrail 2 team regarding the opportunity of using the River Lee Navigation as a freight transport corridor to move materials (both construction materials and waste) from the tunnel portal in the Tottenham area out onto the River Thames, via a transfer facility that could be constructed in the Bow area of East London. We would very much like to continue this dialogue and would suggest that the National Infrastructure Commission/Crossrail 2 team commission a feasibility study to look at this (and other) options in more detail. Our experience of projects of this nature in the past has led us to conclude that this feasibility study work needs to be undertaken several years ahead of the proposed start of construction.
- Local Sustainable Transport - Connecting people, places and opportunities – Half the population live within five miles of a waterway in England and Wales. With this proximity in mind, the network of canal towpaths and riverside paths form sustainable transport routes for walking and cycling and provide the opportunity to improve connectivity within the cities and towns and beyond, whilst improving air quality, lowering carbon dioxide levels and reducing congestion on local roads.
- Communications – Digital connectivity - Creating 4G and 5G Smart Cities and Towns.
- Digital and telecommunication technologies strengthen communities, improve economic growth, enhance services and reduce energy consumption and environmental emissions. Currently the Trust is working with 15 Telecommunications companies, including Sky Networks, Vodafone, Virgin, BT, EE, and Tata Communications to utilise the waterway corridors – with the potential to accommodate even more. There is a real opportunity to maximise existing waterway networks and provide the opportunity for new and improved infrastructure around densely populated areas, such as the routing of infrastructure for district heating schemes and increasing mobile density to create 4G and 5G towns and cities. There is also the opportunity to use towpaths as conduits for fibre connectivity.
- The Trust has already published (in 2015) its own Water Resources Strategy to help it deliver a long term security of water supply to the inland waterway network we manage. The Strategy looks ahead as far as 2050, taking into account future pressures on our water resources such as climate change, new legislation and increased boating numbers, as well as explore the opportunities for water transfers and water trading. The Government acknowledges that by 2050 (actually much earlier than that but for the purposes of this consultation) population growth and climate change will place increasing pressure on our water resources and water will become more scarce. The Trust's water resource infrastructure including the sources of water (reservoirs, boreholes, feeders) and our waterways as a distribution/transfer network will play a vital role in bringing competition and trading into the reformed water market. This will deliver increased resilience to the UK's water resource infrastructure, alleviate pressure in water scarce catchments and provide lower customer bills.
- The Trust’s waterways have the potential to act as water distribution networks that do not require the construction of large reservoirs in overcrowded areas of the country.
- The Trust’s waterways provide a network of options for the transportation of waste materials.
- Flooding - Reducing flood risk to development
- With careful design the waterways can provide sustainable options for site drainage from future developments. This may allow developments that would otherwise not be viable due to flood risk concerns. The managed nature of canal water levels, and the ability of our waterways to potentially accept surface water run-off, may also assist in wider consideration of flood mitigation measures. The Canal & River Trust is keen to work with others to explore opportunities through research and modelling.
- What will be the main drivers of demand for UK national economic infrastructure over the next 35 years that we should consider in our assessment?
- Future demand will be driven by the desire to de-carbonise our infrastructure and provide more sustainable options. Increased workforce flexibility will be a key driver and so tackling congestion while still providing affordable transport solutions will be key.
- As the knowledge economy grows and our dependence on high speed, high capacity resilient data connections increases the demand for cross country data corridors will increase.
- What will be the main constraints on the UK's ability to provide sufficient UK national economic infrastructure assets and services over the period and what solutions or mitigations of those constraints should the UK adopt?
- What nationally significant investments in capacity or changes in policy & regulation should we prioritise to deliver these outcomes and deal with these drivers of demand?
- The Trust believes that now is the time to look again at the potential of the waterway network to play it’s part in an integrated plan for the country’s infrastructure.
- With modest short term investment in areas such as capacity enhancements, increasing headroom under bridges and wharfage improvements, the country’s waterway network could provide a more viable and resilient transport option for a wide range of commodities
- In what areas can demand management or other forms of behavioural change make a significant impact? What are the blockers and enablers for realising these opportunities?
- How can greater cross-sectoral decision making be encouraged?
The Trust would prefer to work with a single organisation that could coordinate the delivery of infrastructure improvements. We have experience in working with infrastructure delivery bodies. We are a body with statutory powers (e.g.Permitted Development) and funding that can focus solely on delivery.
We have a track record as an effective and reliable delivery partner in a range of engineering infrastructure projects of differing complexity and scale. In addition we have significant experience of working in partnership with a range of statutory, regional and local stakeholders and communities e.g. HS2, Crossrail, and London 2012.
- What opportunities and challenges are presented by devolution of infrastructure decision making?
- What new and emerging technologies and disruptive trends should we consider in producing this assessment?
- How can we improve public engagement in infrastructure decision-making?
Ensure that the public is able to understand the importance of national infrastructure planning and decision making and has an understanding of the (often conflicting) issues that need to be addressed and that there are often several suitable solutions to a particular problem, but only one can be implemented.
Develop techniques to engage with communities. Act on information provided and provide feedback to communities. Ensure that consultations are genuine and not just communication exercises designed to inform people about what has been decided. The Canal & River Trust, through its extensive network of volunteers, specialist engagement staff and “on the ground” experience is ideally suited to working with the National Infrastructure Commission on developing new and innovative ways to engage with local communities.
For further information please contact
National Infrastructure Services Manager
Canal & River Trust