EA Waterways Still Giving IWA Cause for Concern01 March 2017
IWA’s concerns that some EA waterways may have to close in the future due to lack of funding has resulted in Parliamentary Questions being asked. Written Questions were put to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by Northampton South MP, David Mackintosh, with Thérèse Coffey, Waterway Minister, responding on 14th February.
Included in the Waterway Minister’s response was the statement “If there is a safety risk to members of the public then repairs will be undertaken to remove the risk or the asset will be closed.” This response is of particular concern to IWA as it overlooks EA’s statutory obligation under Section 8 of the Anglian Waterways Authority Act 1977 to maintain the main navigable channels and navigation works for recreational navigation. Some further Written Questions, again from David Mackintosh MP, were responded to by the Minister on 20th February. Whilst the statement from the Waterway Minister that “No navigations on Anglian Waterways have been closed permanently since 2006. For health and safety reasons, and to protect the general public and those who use the waterways, the Environment Agency has temporarily closed some assets such as locks and landing stages, that have made some waterways difficult to access for some craft.” is somewhat reassuring, it overlooks the fact that the closure of some locks has in effect made whole lengths of waterway inaccessible for all craft bigger than canoes, such as Harlem Hill Lock on the River Ancholme where the top two miles of navigation is cut off by the lock closure which took place in 2012.
IWA is also concerned about the statement “The Environment Agency will consider the restoration and re-opening of closed navigable waterways depending on the amount of future funding available and the importance, such as the level of use, of the waterway to be re-opened.” In IWA’s view “the level of use” should not be a significant factor in whether or not a waterway is reopened, particularly on those waterways with a statutory right of navigation. Level of use is only indicative of the situation at a particular moment in time, and is something that can change, for example through the creation of new facilities and moorings, in the future.
None of the answers to Written Questions so far give IWA much reassurance other than to confirm that this campaign is essential to securing increased funding from Government for EA waterways, whether or not they are transferred to CRT. Your support for this campaign is critical to achieving this so please do write to your MP if you can.
Over 230 letters or emails have now been written to MPs and local authorities in EA’s Anglian Region, all asking for concerns to be raised with the Waterway Minister. More detailed information about the campaign, and letter templates for writing to MPs and local authorities, can be found in the last Bulletin and on IWA’s campaign web page.
Photo: Mike Daines - Welches Dam, Old Bedford River - will this be a familiar sight in the future?