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  • Writer's pictureSara Vian

An Industry Leader in Canal Restoration

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Patrick Moss at the Somerset Coal Canal

Patrick Moss’ earliest memory was of a pair of working boats on the canal near his home; his mother and father loved the Leeds and Liverpool canal, which they could both see from their homes when growing up and so moved to Marple when they got married because it was walking distance from the Peak Forest Canal; and the annual family holidays were also on canal boats, which in those days was considered as leftfield as doing the Inca Trail!

Patrick describes himself as “standing on the shoulders of a giant” when describing his father, Ian, who, along with his compatriots, imbued Patrick with a passion for inland waterways and ignited his vision of working with canals, but after being advised that the industry was dead (at the time) tried civil engineering instead.

After initially finding civil engineering a little too scientific, Patrick discovered planning and following a week’s work experience at the Stockport Planning Dept at the age of eighteen, became fascinated with the development process and so went on to study City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University, graduating in 1987 (post-grad in 1989).

Patrick began his career working for Atkins, a global engineering consultancy, who as luck would have it, happened to do the first ever feasibility study for the restoration of the Montgomery Canal in mid-Wales, which Patrick had his childhood holidays next to; after seventeen years he then went on to join IMA (Bath) for two years, Peter Brett Associates for three years and then established Moss Naylor Young Ltd in 2011, specialising in canal restoration and local planning and regeneration.

Moss Naylor Young is in a niche of one; the only company specialising in canal restoration by bringing the unique perspective of “seeing it from the water” as opposed to other developers who are usually looking at the water from the land. Patrick sees canals not as accessories but the main components; “not the beads but the string on which the beads are held”.

Patrick is also the Chairman of The Somerset Coal Canal Society (Est. 1992) and The Railway and Canal Historical Society (Est. 1954). His father was past President of the RCHS and both are now trustees; a rare thing indeed to have both father and son on the council together purely on merit.

Canals began to be neglected when railways took over, being nationalised as a going concern in 1948 for profitable business and run by private companies before this. The British Transport Commission’s purpose back then was to maintain a transport system, which went on to become British Waterways before transforming into the Canal and River Trust (Est. 2012), a charity set up to maintain and improve the waterways for the benefit of the nation.

Canal restoration used to just be about undoing neglect but these days it gets rather ambitious as regeneration can involve recreating two miles of canal lost to a housing estate or building bridges under motorways.

Canals yield a return in many ways: a house next to a canal increases in value by 10-20%; holiday boats can command £1000+ per week in rent plus money spent by the holidaymakers in the pubs and restaurants on their travels; mental health and wellbeing is greatly improved because of the peaceful effect of being by still water, in fact it has been proven that every £1 spent on regenerated canals equates to £7 savings to the NHS [a study by Peter Brett Associates, based on the canals in the low lands of Scotland, which regenerated 40miles of canal]; canal systems are also linked up across the country in conjunction with cycles routes restored by Sustrans.

Patrick is now considered an industry leader in his field after being accepted to speak at the World Canal Conference 2017 in Syracuse New York, lecturing on the benefits of live-aboard communities to canal regeneration and local sustainable canal restoration at the World Canal Conference in Athlone, Ireland in 2018.

Moss Naylor Young also work on heritage, local regeneration and planning projects with a passion for making a difference to the local community. Eg. being asked to work with the Dissenter’s Cemetery in Frome to gain consent for the restoration of the Chapel of Rest and the historic gates and railings; the Bath Waterspace Study near Avon Street carpark, which replaced the main road with a cycle track and wild flowers; and also appearing at the Mendip Local Planning Enquiry to lobby for self-build affordable housing which achieved an exception policy, granting self-builds on land which would not normally be granted permission for housing and facilitating a kind of land-based equivalent to living on a boat.

Find out more about Moss Naylor Young

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