A study looking at new ways to use the river and canal system around Bath has been launched this week to identify projects to transform and revitalise the waterways.
Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, and Wessex Water will work together in the jointly funded Water Space Study, with the support of ongoing research from the River Regeneration Trust.
Historically rivers and canals were heavily used for industry, business and trade, but they are now used increasingly for leisure and wellbeing, sports and recreation, so the study will gather new evidence about how the waterways are now being used.
Engaging with local communities, it will look at the diverse range of opportunities along the River Avon between Bath and Keynsham, and along the Kennet and Avon Canal between Deep Lock and Limpley Stoke Viaduct.
The Water Space Study will also be informed by the continuing work of the Council and the Environment Agency to investigate options for managing flood risk.
Councillor Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Cabinet Member for Community Services and Chair of the Strategic River Group, said: “All of the project partners are keen to engage with everyone who has an interest in the river and canal within our communities, including businesses, the construction industry, landowners, sports clubs, boaters and local groups.
“We want to make sure that local people play a key part in finding more ways for everyone to safely enjoy our fantastic waterways in a way that benefits the environment and the local economy.
“This study initiates what we hope will be an exciting enhancement and transformation of how Bath uses its water spaces.”
The study will look at all aspects impacting on the river and canal, including boat moorings, river navigation by boats, leisure and recreation opportunities and wider wildlife and habitat enhancements.
The project partners will be working with local consultancy firm Atkins, which has been involved in many environmental-based river restoration work and marina developments, including the rejuvenation of the London 2012 Olympic Park canal network.
Mark Evans, Waterways Manager for the Kennet & Avon Canal at the Canal & River Trust, said: “This study will really help us to understand what people want and need from Bath’s waterways, from the needs of boating communities to the tourist trade.
“The canal and river are already key features of the city, but there is potentially much more we can do to make the most of them.
“This is the first step in working out what those things could be, and it’s great to have partners on board who are as invested in Bath’s future as we are.”
Dave Laming, Chairman of the River Regeneration Trust, said: “We have been campaigning for five years now for work like this to be done to really make the most of our waterways, so I am delighted to see this study launch this week.
“The river and canal provide an excellent facility for the area, but so much more is possible. This study is a really exciting first step in making real improvements.”
Jeremy Taylor, catchment co-ordinator at the Environment Agency, said: “This is a real team effort. As well as making full use of the water spaces in Bath, the Water Space Study will assist in the development of a sustainable approach to flood risk management within Bath.
“We are all pooling our knowledge and resources to identify both large and small projects that will benefit the community, local economy and the environment.”
The project is due to conclude its recommendations in March 2017. Opportunities for public engagement are being planned for summer 2016.
For information on the river and canal and the Water Space Study, visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/riverandcanal or email RiverAvon@bathnes.gov.uk.