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  • Writer's pictureTallulah

Regenerating Brownfield waterways for greener waterside living

More brownfield sites than ever are being developed in the UK. Given that these sites are ex-industrial they often have waterways running through or adjacent to them. It can be many years before brownfield sites are redeveloped, so their waterways are likely to be in a poor state of repair. This highlights a growing need for waterway regeneration as an important part of new brownfield developments.

Regenerated waterways offer residents and businesses the benefit of more green spaces and add value to a development and its community’s wellbeing. But revitalising brownfield waterways requires specialist knowhow, experience and equipment, something that brownfield developers often lack. This is where The Rothen Group comes in.

Increasing Brownfield Development

In July 2022 the government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced a new fund to stimulate brownfield site development. Local councils are now able to apply for a share of the new £180 million Brownfield Land Release Fund 2, which will help to transform disused urban areas into 17,600 new homes and create around 54,000 jobs over the next 4 years.

A significant number of these new brownfield sites will have an industrial heritage that includes waterways of some kind, often canals. Such waterways will have been an integral part of the old industry associated with the site and have since fallen into disrepair or even become derelict. But to repair and regenerate waterways on brownfield sites takes marine engineering knowhow and equipment.

Specialised Marine Engineering

Often brownfield site developers are often inexperienced when it comes to waterway-adjacent redevelopment works, so they need to bring in marine engineering teams and equipment. The Rothen Group (TRG) specialises in marine civil engineering and inland waterway regeneration and restoration. The company has extensive experience in piling, dredging, bank protection, weed, reed and silt clearance, towpath resurfacing, lock and marina maintenance.

TRG repairs and restores canals with skilled teams of operators using specialised equipment, including floating plant, pile drivers, boat diggers and pontoons , cranes, dredgers and tracked plant.

But the company does more than just restore brownfield site waterways. TRG partners with architects, engineers and developers to ensure that the once abandoned canals become an integral feature of a new development. Community waterways provide social and environmental benefits, helping to increase residents’ wellbeing, for leisure and for work.

One such brownfield site, in Ealing, South London, saw the company undertake an extensive bank stabilisation project on the Grand Union Canal for the Greenford Quay development.

Greenford Quay

Greenford Quay was developed on a former factory site which had been abandoned for years. The Grand Union Canal ran through the brownfield site and had fallen into serious disrepair. The developers wanted to revitalised the canal to form an integral part of a green corridor running across the 26 acre site which consists of almost 2000 mixed residential, leisure, retail and office units.

The site developer, working with the Canal and River Trust, appointed TRG to undertake the work on the Grand Union Canal. The main area of concern was to stabilise the canal bank.

The company began work by installing sheet piles to shore up the existing canal wall, capping them with coping stones made specifically for the Greenford project. Sheet piling is the process of driving interlocking steel sheets into the canal bed to restore bank integrity, preventing it from collapsing into the water.

Greenford Quay Bank

Meeting Specific Project Needs

As part of the new development design, a section of the canal-side was at a raised level. This made the piling work more complex as the piles needed to follow the bank profile as it raised and lowered along the canal. Rothen Group engineers worked the piling to match the development’s architectural style. The company also acid-etched the pile’s coping stones to give the canal wall greater aesthetic appeal within Greenford Quay’s contemporary look.

Floating Plant & Equipment

To carry out bank shoring work TRG use specialised floating plant and machinery including a heavy marine excavator, push tug and hoppers, stone lifters, vibratory and air piling hammers. The Greenford Quay bank work was undertaken from the water side as the bank itself was too weak to support the necessary equipment, and so not to impede the site’s ongoing land works.

TRG completed the Greenford Quay Grand Union bank works on time and on budget, with the whole project taking just 15 weeks.

Canal-Side Links

Restoring the canal not only benefited the Greenford Quay waterfront community in terms of green space, it also provided green infrastructure for the developers to transport materials to the site for completion. It still provides residents and workers with alternative, greener transport links, cycling or on foot, along the towpath, and offers access to the greater UK waterways network.

The Growing Need for Brownfield Waterway Development

TRG’s brownfield canal regeneration expertise ensures the projects that it undertakes are not only carried out to a high standard, but also that the company is able to collaborate effectively with developers.

As more brownfield sites are developed there’s a growing need for abandoned canals and waterways to be regenerated, to become useful again, not as the industrial transport highways of the past, but as new, green spaces that offer canal-side living, working and leisure, and providing more convenient, greener transport links across urban areas.

Click here find out more about The Rothen Group, what we do and how we make abandoned brownfield waterways useful again, or email

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