Canal wharves in Leeds would be earmarked for industrial use to protect them from housing developments if city council proposals get the go-ahead.
Councillors want to use some wharves to transport goods and waste materials in and out of the city by barge in a bid to reduce freight traffic on the roads.
A council spokesman said: "One barge can carry 750 tonnes of goods, taking a staggering 35 lorries off our roads."
The proposals are due before government planning inspectors in 2011.
They are included in Leeds City Council's newly-published local development framework, which sets out how the local authority would like certain areas of land to be developed.
Planners have identified wharves on the Aire and Calder Navigation Canal which links the east of the city to Goole and the Humber estuary.
A council spokesman said: "Leeds is blessed with a remarkably well-connected and still navigable canal network and, while most people now associate them with pleasure cruises and walks, our canals may once again become major transport links.
"As alternatives to road and air transport become increasingly important, we believe it is vital that we preserve wharves which could be used by companies to bring goods into Leeds and export waste.
"Transport is an important part of sustainable development decisions and planning policy can promote land use where there are opportunities for alternative transport than road.
"To support this, where there are... canal wharves which are, or could be, used for mineral and waste activities it is proposed to safeguard them for that purpose."
The council proposals have been backed by the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) which has campaigned to prevent canalside buildings being turned into apartment blocks.
David Lowe, secretary of the CBOA in Yorkshire, said: "Wharves need to be waterside - housing doesn't."
He urged other local authorities to follow Leeds City Council's "splendid example" of saving wharves from "unsuitable development".
Source : BBC