Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC’s) cabinet has approved £50k to kickstart a new five-year County Council waterways strategy to promote and protect the county’s waterways.
The strategy, which is being developed by WCC in partnership with the Canal and River Trust - with additional input from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust - has two key aims:
- To promote and protect the county’s waterways as a rich habitat for wildlife and a desirable setting for residents, visitors and businesses.
- To connect people and places via the waterways network.
A key element to the plan is a county-wide towpath survey which will provide the information needed to maximise the potential of the County’s canals and rivers. The extra funding will be sought to improve signage, accessibility and lighting for walkers, wheelchair users and cyclists.
The county has more than 100 miles of towpaths - which saw increased use for daily exercise during coronavirus lockdowns. The strategy will build on this and encourage greater use of the waterways for leisure activities and family events; as well as through exploring and sharing the history of the waterways.
Cllr Heather Timms, the portfolio holder for Environment, Climate and Culture, said: “The waterways network - which passes through all five districts and boroughs - is a massive asset for wellbeing, ecology and tourism as we develop post-pandemic recovery plans.
“The waterways strategy will also address issues around the impact of climate change on natural habitats and species diversity. Our waterways have connected people and places throughout history - and will continue to do so. Once main arteries for transporting goods, they are now used primarily for leisure, and provide important wildlife habitats.
“We must protect and promote them as vital assets for communities across Warwickshire, both now and for future generations.”
Engagement with other key stakeholders, including river trusts and the Environment Agency, as well as community groups across the county, is ongoing.
The Waterways Strategy is shaped around WCC’s three priorities:
- Health and wellbeing
- Sense of place
- Economic vibrancy.
Funding for the Strategy comes from the Place Shaping and Economic Growth Fund.