Allan Leighton, Chair of the Canal & River Trust, in his foreword to the C&RT’s Northern Powerhouse Waterways prospectus (cover, left), outlines the potential of the region’s waterways as a resource for all to use, a contribution to competitive, resilient and congenial cities and routes to sustainable growth.
There are proposals to provide an alternative to road freight by upgrading fifty miles of commercial waterways to the EuroClass II standard and developing the inland Port of Leeds to create a corridor from the Humber to Leeds.
With relatively low levels of investment our waterways could be brought back into use as an essential part of our freight transport network.
CRT also recognises that waterways have a significant role to play in building energy and environmental resilience and supporting the transition to low carbon economies.
Waterways can contribute to the low carbon economy. The water flowing through the City Regions via the Northern Powerhouse Waterways contains enough thermal energy to produce around 200MW of energy. This energy can be extracted using water-sourced heat pumps to provide an incredibly efficient form of heating and cooling, reducing electricity demand and balancing electricity supply.
A number of businesses now use this low carbon energy source to heat and cool their buildings. The Hepworth, Wakefield (above), on the waterfront of a length of the Calder which has been ‘canalised’, is using this energy source to heat and cool its art gallery building.
Waterways provide an important wildlife route and mitigate habitat loss, also assisting the genetic exchange of plants.
With careful design waterways can provide sustainable options for drainage from future developments that would otherwise not be viable due to flood risk concerns. The managed nature of canal water levels, and the ability of waterways to accept surface water run-off, could also assist flood mitigation measures.
Will the Midlands Engine work with C&RT to Increase the use of our waterways for commercial purposes by waterborne freight and of our towpaths and riverside paths for recreation or travelling to work? Such a partnership could make a valuable contribution to improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions – a key consideration as air quality in Birmingham is exceeding legal limits, causing chronic ill-health, loss of productivity and substantially increasing the NHS’ workload.