The Independent London Newspaper


It’s no joke, planners are guilty of canal vandalism

Published: 29 June, 2012

• CANALS were built for boats; and towing paths were built for horses. We are lucky to have hosted such a splendid feat of engineering in our borough for the past 200 years.

Yet whenever a plan is conceived to alter the structure or appearance of the canal or its surroundings, it has the potential to rob us of our industrial heritage.

A lot of volunteers spend a considerable amount of their free time searching and scrutinising planning applications to prevent this happening.

You recently published an amusing letter about a cunning plan for giving walkers more space (Put cyclists on pontoon, June 22).

This was probably written in jest, to see what sort of reaction it would provoke, but the sad truth is that there are already planners and consultants who actually contemplate this sort of canal vandalism all the time.

Earlier this year, some landscape consultants proposed widening the towpath under bridge holes, to allow greater numbers of cyclists and walkers to co-exist. Most people were unperturbed by this arrangement, from an engineering viewpoint at least, but it horrified the experienced boaters.

Many of them had spent decades navigating boats through tight angles in varying conditions and they knew straight away that it was wrong to interfere with the navigational designs. So their views deserve to be taken seriously.

No amount of restructuring of pinch-points will make the towpath fit for purpose for cycling against the clock.

The only viable approach is to establish well-signposted, well-used alternative cycle routes.

The canal is under constant threat of exploitation and it needs all the protection we can offer it.

It is one of the few open spaces left in London that operates at a relaxed pace, so let’s not try to downsize it, constrain it or transform it into something it was never meant to be.

Friends of Regent’s Canal
Labour, St Peter’s
Inland Waterways
Association London
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