The man responsible for bringing Birmingham's canals back to life and inspiring other urban areas to do the same will return to the city he helped shape today.

Narrowboat enthusiast Peter White was in charge of canalside regeneration in the council's architectural department during the late 1960s.

He was one of the first people to recognise and promote the hidden potential of Birmingham's derelict waterways, now a crowning glory of its renaissance.

The 63-year-old, who now lives in Devon, will go down in history as the person who originally claimed that Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice.

Such was the power of his quote that it has become the basis for a question in the Trivial Pursuits board game.

Today he will give a talk at a business lunch aboard a canal boat. But such an event would have been unthinkable 40 years ago. "I came to Birmingham to study architecture and discovered the canals through a hole in the wall in Gas Street that looked like a gents lavatory," he said.

"They were all fenced off and out of sight. But when I went through the wall I entered a whole new world." Mr White developed an interest in opening up canals whilst working in Stratford.

It was there that he became increasingly aware of the beauty of this feature of Britain's obscured past.

But convincing the powersthatbe in Birmingham at the time that its canals could be re-introduced into the life of the city was not an easy task.

"There were talks about covering them all up completely," he said.

"They were the bad days. There was no money. But we were able to get things moving."

For decades the city's canals had been used as a dumping ground. Opening them up involved clearing away huge amounts of rubbish.

"In those days they were full of oil and dead dogs," said Mr White. "I wouldn't like to describe some of the muck that was in there."

Despite this, the work continued. As chief architect of the development, Mr White was responsible for the look of the canal area, drawing up plans for traditional bollards, signage and other features.

Three years after starting his job at the local authority, Mr White's success was recognised by British Waterways.

The organisation appointed him its chief architect where he was instrumental in encouraging other urban areas such as London, Liverpool and Gloucester to follow Birmingham's lead.

Returning to Birmingham eight years ago he witnessed the huge boost his work had given the city.

Today he will be able to take in the phenomenal amount of canalside developments and apartments that have sprung up since then. "I am thrilled they have taken up the torch that we lit," he said.

Mr White added: " We worked a bit of a transformation in Birmingham and set the agenda for the whole of the country."