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Policy SI16 Waterways - use and enjoyment


  1. Development Plans should protect and enhance waterway infrastructure to enable water-dependent uses.
  2. Development proposals that increase the provision of water sport centres and associated new infrastructure will be supported if a deficit in provision has been identified locally and if the infrastructure does not negatively impact on navigation.
  3. Development proposals for cultural, educational and community facilities and events should be supported and promoted, but should take into consideration the protection and other uses of the waterways.
  4. New mooring facilities should be:
    1. supported as part of development proposals, but should be off-line from main navigation routes, in basins or docks, unless there are no negative impacts on navigation
    2. managed in a way that respects the character of the waterways.
  5. Major development schemes adjacent to waterways should consider the provision of new moorings.
  6. Existing access points to waterways (including slipways and historic steps) and alongside waterways (including paths) should be protected and enhanced.
  7. Development proposals along waterways should explore opportunities for new, extended, improved and inclusive access infrastructure.
  8. Development proposals should improve and expand the Thames Path and the towpaths and provide better linkages to the transport network. This will require collaboration with relevant partners including the London boroughs, the PLA and the Canal and River Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as landowner, developer and community representatives. These paths will be public and not private spaces.

New development should utilise the waterways for transport purposes where possible, but also for active water-based leisure, and for informal waterside recreation or access. In order to make the maximum use of London’s waterways a range of supporting infrastructure is required including jetties, moorings, slipways, steps and waterside paths and cycleways (piers, wharves and boatyards are addressed in Policy SI15 Water transport). Waterways infrastructure can directly enable water-based recreation and sports including rowing, canoeing and sailing. New water sports centres may bring such activities together, and development proposals should consider the affordability of these activities for Londoners. Waterways infrastructure can also facilitate the enjoyment of wildlife, landscapes, heritage and culture. There could be particular scope for new infrastructure within specific Opportunity Areas.

There has been a significant increase in the number of boats on London’s waterways (from 2,000 in 2010 to 5,000 in 2016), with a notable increase in central and eastern parts of London’s canal network. There is a deficit of residential, leisure, visitor and commercial moorings to meet the increase in demand. The Canal and River Trust is producing a London Mooring Strategy which will provide an overview of the number of people living on boats on the canal network. It will identify zones for potential additional moorings. Some community-based projects to create residential moorings may be considered as community-led housing (part A.4 of Policy H2 Small sites). In addition, a number of creative businesses such as artists’ studios and post-production facilities are located on boats.

Historic steps and slipways to the Thames foreshore are vital for enabling access for activities and events. The Thames Path and the towpaths are particularly important in terms of providing safe access for a large number of Londoners along the waterways, facilitating their enjoyment of the river as well as providing health and wellbeing benefits. Development proposals provide a significant opportunity to improve and expand the Thames Path and the towpaths, and to develop better linkages to the transport network. This requires prioritisation and collaboration between local, strategic and institutional partners. Borough River Strategies and Thames Strategies should support these opportunities.

Complementing development proposals for cultural facilities and events, the Mayor’s Cultural Strategy for the River aims to increase Londoners’ engagement with the river, including an increase in night-time use and engagement with under-used areas. It also provides information on the heritage and importance of the River Thames to London.

London’s waterways are often an appropriate setting for public art and performance. People generally like to gather by the waterside and opportunities for this should be encouraged. The waterways are also a valuable educational resource with organisations promoting water-based educational programmes. This should also be encouraged.