Report calls for new use classes and planning guidance to support waterways development

The government should develop more flexible planning use classes and introduce new guidance to support "unusual uses" such as floating homes and lidos, a report examining ways to improve London's waterways has recommended.

The Regent's Canal in north London (pic: Uri Baruchin, Flickr)
The Regent's Canal in north London (pic: Uri Baruchin, Flickr)

The report, Making the most of London’s waterways, has been published today by regeneration and housing network the Future of London. 

It says that London’s waterways are undergoing a renaissance but face growing pressures from development and conflicting demands for use.

"The challenge is to work effectively across organisations and balance the multitude of demands within these limited public spaces," the report says.

Among its recommendations, the report says the planning system needs to be more flexible to allow unusual uses on waterways.

It gives an example of such a use as "floating homes and lidos" which it says could generate money to spend on waterways.

Future of London’s project lead for the year-long study that led to the report, Amanda Robinson, said she had heard from public sector practitioners, alongside architects and designers, that there is interest in these sorts of uses, "but the fact they don’t have a ‘home’ in planning/building ‘types’ makes it difficult to deliver them".

She added: "The benefits of having clarity on these uses could mean potential (albeit small-scale) solutions for homes (such as floating houses); more options for leisure/recreation/wellbeing and boosting local economies and long-term income sources - through floating lidos or similar - and/or on-water spaces for community use and benefit. This could open waterways to more people, and more varied uses."

The report says that short-term initiatives or pilot projects – "with before and after monitoring to measure impact" – could be used by councils to "help make the case for policy change or permanent interventions".

It recommends that central government "develop land use classes and guidance" for such uses.

Elsewhere, the report recommends that councils carry out "borough-wide waterways studies to identify opportunities that can be incorporated into local plans or supplementary planning documents (SPDs), with neighbouring boroughs involved to ensure coordination across boundaries".

It also says that councils should use local plans, SPDs, conservation area designations and masterplans "to identify waterway enhancements and funding options and to set out requirements for developing on/near water".

Councils and developers should also use new development "as an opportunity to add, improve or connect waterside paths or to address severance caused by waterways, such as by building new bridges," it says.

The report was written in conjunction with consultancy Arup, real estate firm Avison Young, and developers Hadley Property Group and Pollard Thomas Edwards.


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