Land use


After many decades where canals and rivers were neglected or industrial areas, they are increasingly becoming the focus of development and regeneration, increasing the competition between different user groups and bringing new residents, new uses and new expectations.

Communities have an important role in bringing neglected areas and ‘difficult’ spaces back into use, in undertaking day-to-day management activities, and in local decision making and resolving the tensions between different new, emerging and traditional uses.

Our work with Kingston University on the Limehouse Cut in London looked at the potential for local community-led creative regeneration of an underused stretch of London’s oldest canal. Elsewhere organisations like Jericho Wharf Trust have sought to find a community-led solution to competing development pressures on a canal side site in Oxford, and London Wildlife Trust have worked with developers, the local authority and a water company to open up previously inaccessible reservoir and wetland sites in central London. In Sheffield, the River Stewardship Company is a social enterprise that provides a service to riverside landowners, and the Environment Agency, to manage and improve the local river.

We are keen to work with local authorities, Trusts and agencies to explore how local community control and management can help care for and animate undermanaged and underused waterways, and to resolve the tensions of competing uses arising from development, regeneration and new uses of this important shared resource.

Scroll down to the posts below to read some of our latest work on waterways projects across the country. 

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  • River Stewardship Company

    Maintaining the river for riparian landowners whilst training volunteers and apprentices is how the River Stewardship Company realise their vision of more engaged communities and a healthier river.

  • East Reservoir Community Garden

    Working on Thames Water land at peppercorn rent, the Garden are improving the integrity of the water basin, increasing biodiversity and educating local people about waterways.

  • Jericho Wharf Trust

    For over ten years, the community of Jericho have been fighting to protect and develop a canalside public square. Through their story, we learn how resistance campaigns can use the planning system and work with developers and local authorities to achieve their aims.

Related news and opinion

Blog articles, news and opinion pieces from the Shared Assets team

The People’s Canals?

On the potential for the inland waterways to support new social enterprise and community activity. Read more