Case Studies - Gas Street Basin, Birmingham

Gas street basin is located in the centre of Birmingham adjacent to several major visitor attractions. The re-development of the area surrounding the canal in the mid-1990’s highlighted a need to provide a higher level of management than provided previously. This case study looks at the site and management controls that have been implemented.

Gas street basin is bounded by a number of large commercial organisations. The design of the development opened up the waterfront to a range of users and visitors to locations such as the Sea life centre, the National Indoor Arena and several bars and restaurants in addition to the normal use of the waterway.

Responsibility for the waterfront rests with British Waterways (now Canal & River Trust). However, due to the complex mix of uses of the waterfront and adjacent property management procedures were developed in partnership with other stakeholders. It was recognised early in the project that successful management would rely on good communication and co-ordination between all interested parties.

Once the design and planning issues had been discussed a visitor safety risk assessment was prepared for the site. The assessment concentrated on the interaction of users of the waterway corridor such as walkers, cyclists and boaters, patrons of the pubs and restaurants and other visitors using the waterfront to gain access to the adjacent visitor attractions.

Key considerations for the assessment included:

  • steep slopes and steps on accesses to the waterfront
  • low parapets on bridges over the waterway
  • moving equipment such as lock gates
  • uneven & slippery surfaces
  • crowd pressure from visitors converging in small areas
  • vandalism to existing lifesaving equipment

Outputs from the assessment were shared with the partners and were used to develop robust management procedures and suitable risk control measures.

When considering suitable risk controls for the site it was obvious that the use of fencing to protect land users would constitute a hazard to users of the water space. Consequently risk controls were selected to allow visitors to enjoy the experience of the waterfront using their life skills where hazards were obvious. Fencing and other hard control measures were limited to areas where the hazards were not so obvious. For example where there were sudden changes in height or direction.

A further key element of the success criteria was the availability of life saving equipment. It was apparent from previous records that such equipment had been frequently vandalised. After careful consideration of the patterns of use, agreement was reached that throw lines would be held by adjacent businesses, as they were open when the need for deployment was greatest.

In addition, information signs were erected to inform visitors of where the nearest equipment is located. Once the management plan and agreed risk controls were in place the local management team monitored incident reports to establish any trends or changes in use. A tally form was developed to allow businesses within the waterway corridor to record brief details of any incidents that occurred. This has allowed the risk assessment and management procedures to be reviewed and improved where necessary.

The risk from parapets on Canal & River Trust waterways is currently being reviewed in relation to: parapet height, parapet width, width of path over bridge, height of fall from bridge, footfall, rural or urban location, local attractions, typical users and the likely consequences. There are a number of basin bridges in the city centre which have parapets below 500 mm and a fall of over 1 metre. They will be further risk-assessed to consider the need and practicality for additional safety controls.

This case study was written by British Waterways and subsequently reviewed by the Canal & River Trust and was published in 2004

This website entry was last updated on 10 May, 2014

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