Habitat Action Plans


Current Status


Canals are a diverse group of inland waterways constructed for navigational purposes. Most of the canal network in Britain was constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries and enabled waterways to play a leading role in serving the country's transport needs during the Industrial Revolution, moving bulk loads of raw materials and finished good cheaply. Many canals fell into decline, particularly following World War II, and some fell into disuse. Over recent decades there has been a move from use of the waterways for freight distribution to use by pleasure craft and for other recreational purposes including angling, sport and informal recreational uses. Canals are now enjoying a renaissance in their leisure use with the recent restoration of once derelict or fragmented canals, including the Rochdale Canal.

British Waterways are the navigation authority for the canals in Calderdale and have obligations to maintain the canal to defined navigable standards. British Waterways has a corporate BAP with a target for more detailed BAPs to be written at a local level for all canals by 2005.

The canal network managed by British Waterways includes over 100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 1500 local wildlife sites. It is home to species of national and international importance and many that are rare elsewhere in the UK.

The canal and river corridors comprise a mosaic of habitats, providing a combination of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and often forming a ‘green’ corridor into urban areas. For the purposes of this plan only the canal and river channel and waterway bank habitats are taken onto consideration. However, in its corporate BAP, British Waterways recognise the following key habitats and land uses within the corridor; towpath verges, hedgerows, cuttings and embankments, built structures, feeders and streams, reedbeds, field margins, woodland and scrub and adjoining land. The management of habitats within the canal corridor must balance biodiversity requirements with the safety and needs of the canal users.


The Yorkshire and Humber region has a wide variety of canal types, from narrow trans-Pennine canals to industrial river navigations.


In Calderdale there are two canals which join at Sowerby Bridge (Map 1). The canal to the east of Sowerby Bridge is the Calder and Hebble Navigation. This consists of a broad canal channel with short lock chambers to Brighouse, where it links with the River Calder. The navigation returns to a canal channel at Anchor Pit and crosses the Calderdale boundary at the M62. Waterways such as this, comprised in part of a canal channel and in part of a navigable river, are known as river navigations. The canal sections are man made channels excavated along the bottom of the Calder Valley in the 1770s.

Outline map of calderdale showing the routes of canals

There is also a vestige of the Halifax Arm of the Calder and Hebble Navigation, which left the main navigation at Salterhebble and linked the town centre of Halifax.

West of the Sowerby Bridge, the Rochdale Canal runs to the Calderdale boundary at Todmorden. The Rochdale Canal has undergone two phases of restoration. The first was carried out by Calderdale Council during the early 1990’s. The second was completed during the summer of 2002, which completed the restoration of the South Pennine Ring. The Rochdale Oldham section of the canal was designated a SSSI / cSAC for its floating water plantain during 2001. Extensive ecological work was undertaken to ensure that this and other species were protected during the engineering work.

Recent survey work identified floating-leaved water plantain in the summit flight of the Rochdale Canal. This indicates a potential for the plant to be present in the Calderdale section of the canal. Future survey work will identify this.

The general character and construction of the canal channels is similar on both canals. However the surrounding landscapes and habitats range from formal and industrial urban settings to farmland and wooded cuttings.

The canal cuts trough a range of valuable riparian habitat including woodland and semi-improved grassland. The canal provides a corridor, which connects many of these areas.

Current factors causing loss or decline

Threats to the various habitats and species within the canal channel include:

Current action

Legal status

British Waterways are the navigation authority for the canal in Calderdale and are have statutory obligations to maintain the canal to defined navigable standards. The British Waterways Act 1995 also obliges BW to "further the conservation of flora, fauna…of special interest" in carrying out these duties and also to take into account the effect that any proposals relating to its functions have on the environment.

Policy N77 of the Calderdale Unitary Development Plan recognises the importance to protect the habitats in and around the Calderdale's canals.

The Rochdale Canal and the Calder and Hebble Navigation (between Salterhebble and Brighouse Basin) are designated as SEGIs by virtue of their value for plants and invertebrates.

Priority species

The following Calderdale Priority Species are associated with this habitat:


1. Policy and LegislationLead PartnerOther partners
Ensure that UDP policies are in place to protect canal habitatsCMBC (DP)CMBC (CAFU)
Consider the impact on canal habitats when assessing planning applicationsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
Take opportunities through the planning system to restore or create canal habitats. Explore possibilities of long term management agreementsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
2. Site safeguard and managementLead PartnerOther partners
Undertake an environmental appraisal prior to any works and consult with the relevant authoritiesBW-
Ensure that maintenance works do not compromise the conservation status of key habitats and species.BW-
Identify and implement opportunities to enhance or create habitat Example projects: · Fencing of canal-side pasture to protect banks from livestock poaching leading to loss of vegetation, siltation of the channel and loss of water vole habitat.· “Soft “bank protection measures to protect eroding banks.· Appropriate management of riparian treesBWCMBC (CAFU), CF, CLA, FWAG, DEFRA / RDS, EA, EN, HSS, YWT, Canal User Groups eg angling clubs, volunteer and local wildlife groups
Identify any invasive alien species in the waterway corridor and draw up plans for eradication, where possibleBWCF, CMBC (CAFU), CLA, FWAG, EN, HSS, Canal User Groups eg angling clubs, volunteer and wildlife groups
3. Research and monitoringLead PartnerOther partners
Identify the presence and distribution of Calderdale Priority Species within the canal and navigable river corridors and report to the appropriate Lead PartnerBWCMBC (CAFU), EA, EN, HSS, YWT, WYE
Identify and map key habitatsBWEN, YWT
Undertake surveys for invasive species and monitor eradication programmesBWCF, CLA, FWAG, EN, HSS, Canal User Groups eg angling clubs, volunteer and local wildlife groups
Following works on the waterways monitor to ensure benefits to species and habitatsBW-
4. AdvisoryLead PartnerOther partners
Advise riparian landowners on the value of buffer zones, which protect the waterway from diffuse pollution and provide a valuable habitatBWFWAG, YWT, CLA, CMBC (CAFU)
Advise canal leisure users on good practice to reduce pollution, littering etc.BWCMBC (CAFU)
5. Communication and publicityLead PartnerOther partners
Promote the importance of canal and river corridors as a biodiversity resourceCFATC, CMBC (CAFU)
Develop links and work with local groups to promote good management practicesBWCF, CMBC (CAFU)
Education of biodiversity, eg school visits, guided walk, events, interpretationBWATC, CMBC (CAFU)

Key to abbreviations
ATCAlternative Technology Centre
BWBritish Waterways
CFCalder Future
CLACounty Landowners and Business Association
CMBC (CAFU)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Countryside and Forestry Unit)
CMBC (DC)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development Control)
CMBC (DP)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development and Policy)
DEFRADepartment of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
EAEnvironment Agency
ENEnglish Nature
FWAGFarming and Wildlife Advisory Group
HSSHalifax Scientific Society
WYEWest Yorkshire Ecology
YWTYorkshire Wildlife Trust

Plan Co-ordinator: Marie Millward, British Waterways

Last Updated: 30/09/2016