Grand Union Canal Placemaking

The Canal Placemaking Study sets out a clear vision for the Grand Union Canal, and its role and character as the regeneration of the area takes shape. It provides guidance for dealing with issues such as safety, cleanliness, biodiversity and different uses of the towpath, as well as a clear approach to moorings and canal-based activities. It has been developed in partnership with the Canal & River Trust.

Our vision for the Grand Union Canal consists of six key objectives:

  • Lively bridges - Public activity should be clustered at bridges where people cross the canal and can access the towpath. These should provide opportunities for improved public spaces, access to a variety of nearby permanent or temporary moorings, and support activities for the community.
  • Good canal routes - The canal should be a public space for everybody. Access should be easy and legible and bring communities closer to the water. Access from the wider area should be clearer through signage and other interventions. These should recognise the value of the canal's slower 'pace' in relation to its surrounding context and future development and its place in a wider network of routes including alternatives for cyclists who are commuting.
  • A Boaters paradise - There is a growing community of residential boats along the canal in Oak and Park Royal, but today this is predominantly informal and lacks supporting infrastructure. This study recognises the potential benefits of a well organised boating community to support the vision for the area.
  • Good industrial edges - Large parts of the area surrounding the canal in Park Royal will remain industrial, lined with businesses which today typically don’t engage with the canal positively. Rethinking the ‘backs’ of businesses located along the canal can help to make the canal in Park Royal ‘friendlier’ and improve its biodiversity value and provide wellbeing benefits to workers, local community and visitors.
  • A continuous green thread - The canal’s ‘wild’ quality, particularly precious in the city, should form an uninterrupted green edge to the canal, adjusting to its context. It will range from larger nature reserves, pocket parks and planted edges, to floating reed beds, and enrich the area as a site of environmental education.
  • A thriving canal community - Opportunities for local businesses and communities to volunteer and engage positively with the canal should be developed. The canal's diverse communities should be helped to care for it in a way that is structured around shared values, behaviours and expectations. Being part of this community should be a pleasure.

The study builds on the vision outlined in the Draft Local Plan and provides additional detail where useful. It will inform future policy and development proposals across the OPDC area. 

The study report consists of two parts:

  • A research publication outlining the qualities of the canal, drawing on the various interviews and discussions with local community
  • A technical publication outlining the vision, implementation strategies, and case studies

Key dates

  • Baseline research: February 2019
  • Engagement workshops: February 2019
  • Community Review Group: February 2019
  • Place Review Panel: March 2019
  • Draft report: April 2019
  • Public presentation: October 2019

Getting involved

Thank you to those who have given their feedback on this project, public engagement on the Canal Placemaking Study has now ended.

OPDC and the design consultants engaged with the wider community on the following occasions: 

  • 22 November 2018: Canal Placemaking Seminar to learn about managing and developing water spaces, attended by Local Authorities across London.
  • 4 February 2019: Presentation to the Community Review Group 
  • 7 and 8 February 2019: Public engagement workshops in partnership with the Canal and River Trust 
  • 25 March 2019: Feedback session to the OPDC Community Review Group 
  • 24 September 2019 Canal Placemaking Seminar attended by Local Authorities across London to present OPDC's strategy and encourage knowledge share.
  • 3 October 2019: Canal Placemaking strategy public launch, community were invited to attend to speak to the experts, ask questions, listen to the podcast and pick up a printed copy of the strategy. 



This project is supported by £50,000 development funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund 

Project team

OPDC Lead: Jan Ackenhausen, Principal Urban Designer
Design team: DK-CM in association with JCLA, Spacemakers and Europa 

About In the Making

In the Making is a collection of activities that OPDC will deliver to shine a light on the positive changes happening now as part of this once-in-a-lifetime regeneration opportunity, delivering everyday improvements with local communities. 

Share this page