New project launched to improve Oxford’s waterways

Published: Monday, 7th October 2019

Oxford City Council has launched a new partnership project which seeks to make the most of Oxford’s waterways, setting a new vision for improving the river and canal.

The Oxford Waterways Project brings together the city council, Oxfordshire County Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust, all of whom have responsibility for the waterways and the areas around them. 

Published today (Monday 7 October), an introduction to the project describes how the waterways benefit the city. It sets five themes which will be used to identify improvement opportunities.  These include:

  • City regeneration – improving the way the waterways look and feel
  • Mooring and service provision – reviewing the way the waterways are managed for those on boats
  • Tourism – attracting new visitors to the city and supporting the local economy
  • Active communities – boosting health and wellbeing and engagement with communities
  • Environment – responding to the climate change emergency by protecting and enhancing the environment

Over recent months, the project has already delivered successes across the city:

  • Over 200 hours of volunteer time given by groups such as GoodGym, the Towpath Taskforce and Oxford City Council’s Countryside Volunteers
  • Supporting the county council on its £1.8m towpath resurfacing programme, improving cycle and walking routes
  • Volunteers sowed wildflowers seed alongside the River Thames
  • £350k dredging programme on Oxford Canal to improve navigation 
  • Bank improvements to residential moorings on the Oxford Canal
  • Litter-picking, fly-tipping, abandoned boats and pollution tackled  
  • 1,000 school children received water safety advice in Wild Water campaign
  • Graffiti cleaned from over 100m of walls
  • Over 50 native shrubs planted in the canal corridor to promote biodiversity and prevent graffiti

Looking forward, the Oxford Waterways Project partners are looking to deliver further improvements, including:

  • Improvements to areas at Hythe Bridge and Folly Bridge, including new bins, benches, plantings and exploring the potential for a new café
  • Canal towpath resurfacing
  • Developing new walking trails and visitor attractions
  • Working with the NHS to encourage healthy activity on the waterways
  • Working with schools on a new “citizen science” water testing project
  • Creating “nature corridors” alongside the waterways
  • Encouraging people from the whole city to enjoy the waterways spaces

The partnership is now asking the public to share their ideas for improving the waterways, no matter how large or small, by emailing

“Oxford is built on the waterways and we gain so many benefits from them. 

“They are part of the city’s identity and attraction. They provide open spaces for leisure and exercise, homes for communities that live afloat, and valuable natural habitat and biodiversity right in the heart of our city.

“We have gathered the right partners around the table, set out our vision and already started to deliver some real improvements.

“Now, we want to hear from the public for their ideas as to how we go further, improving the waterways for all in our city.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

“We are proud to be a partner in this project, working to improve the Oxford Canal and the wider waterways.

“Now over 200 years old, the canal continues to be an asset to the city. We know that people take great personal pleasure and their wellbeing improves as a result of spending time by the water.

“We have prioritised Oxford as an area where the waterways should be safe, welcoming places for all to enjoy.”

Ros Daniels, Regional Director for London & South East, Canal & River Trust

The Oxford Waterways Project: A Shared Vision document is available to download from the Oxford City Council website.

The public can share their ideas for improvements to the city’s waterways by emailing: