Friday, 16 July 2010


Almost 200 years to the day that it was first opened, 20 years since the navigation was opened once more, and 10 years after the hugely successful Lottery supported restoration project, the Kennet & Avon Canal could soon reclaim its status as a fully-fledged, working canal. The reclassification, backed by British Waterways, The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and by canal supporters, would see the historic, 87-mile long waterway upgraded from ‘remainder’ status – one step above a derelict canal – to that of a national ‘cruiseway’.

A six week public consultation will begin on Friday 16 July to gauge opinion on the move. Following the consultation, a decision to re-classify will be made by a Minister from the waterways sponsoring government department, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs.

Mark Stephens, British Waterways’ waterway manager, said:

“British Waterways has, in reality, been managing the Kennet & Avon Canal as if it has had cruiseway status since its multi-million pound restoration.

“We think that the formalisation of this status is beneficial to the canal, helping to secure its long term future by legally stating that the canal should be maintained to a level whereby cruising craft, such as narrowboats, can safely navigate the length of the canal. Here at British Waterways we believe that this is the appropriate classification for this popular and much-loved waterway, which this year is celebrating its 200th anniversary.”
Whilst the canal is classified as a remainder waterway, legally, the maintenance requirements are significantly lower, as technically the waterway doesn’t need to support navigational craft.

The reclassification of the waterway during this the canal’s bicentenary year would be especially poignant, and a way to acknowledge the amazing works undertaken by volunteers and partnership groups to save the canal from oblivion and turn it back into a thriving leisure resource, a piece of working heritage and a linear wildlife habitat.
The Kennet & Avon Canal is regarded as a blueprint for successful waterway restoration and regeneration and the restored canal managed by British Waterways, working with volunteers from the local community and local authorities, is one of the inspirations behind plans to establish a new ‘national trust’ for the waterways.

David Rees, Chairman, Kennet & Avon Canal Trust said:

“The Trust welcomes British Waterways desire to change the status of the canal from a remainder waterway to a cruiseway canal. It has long been the ambition of my predecessors to gain this objective for we see this as a commitment from British Waterways to the long-term future of the canal and a public promise to maintain this wonderful historic waterway that brings enjoyment and pleasure to so many people.”
The re-classification notice regarding the change in status will be advertised in a variety of local and national papers, online at and will be posted in British Waterways’ information boards along the length of the Kennet & Avon Canal.

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