British Waterways and Defra are considering the creation of two new positions of Special Advisors to the BW Board in order to support the proposed transition of British Waterways’ canals and rivers in England and Wales into the third sector. The unpaid positions will have full Board Member status and would advise and support British Waterways as it works out arrangments for transfer to the new organisation.
While details of the new positions and selection process are being considered, British Waterways has invited Clive Henderson, IWA national chairman, to take on the interim role as Observer to the Board, attending all Board Meetings until the final selections are made.
A House of Commons adjournment debate on the future of the waterways was held on the 7th July 2010.
Responding to the debate led by Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke Central, Richard Benyon, waterways minister, made the following statements which give a clear indication of Government’s thinking with regard the waterways.
‘...What matters is that canals are properly managed and have a sustainable long-term future.
...We want a mutualised product for the waterways, dependent on three clear objectives.
• First, it must have a clear purpose and robust governance arrangements that protect waterways assets and the public benefits that they bring, both now and in the future.
• Secondly, it must ensure that all users, local communities and other stakeholders can hold the new body to account.
• Thirdly, it must ensure that the waterways are placed on a more sustainable footing for the longer term while reducing the ongoing cost to the taxpayer.
I am conscious that this will not work unless that happens. The scale of that asset transfer is probably above my pay grade, but I am absolutely conscious that it has to be done in a way that enables the organisation to operate just as any other organisation of the type I am about to describe could. That is absolutely vital and a given...
...As part of that work, we are considering including the Environment Agency's navigations. I have an open mind on that and want to understand the pros and cons, but my initial view is that it, too, might be suitable for a civil society rather than a Government body to run. That would help to ensure that we had a coherent vision for the main inland waterways of England and Wales...
...I know from meetings I have already had with waterways stakeholders that they have concerns, which they have expressed passionately, about two questions:
• What will happen to British Waterways' property assets?
• Can they influence decisions on the governance model of any new body?
It is clear that British Waterways would need to retain its property assets for a viable civil society model.
On the second issue, much work has yet to be done on the appropriate governance structure.
One model is for a national charitable trust. I recently received a letter that was co-signed by a number of representative waterways bodies, including the Inland Waterways Association and the Angling Trust. The letter welcomed such a model, subject to decisions on governance arrangements and the level of ongoing Government support...
...I know that there is some nervousness about the prospect of change and what it might mean for those with particular interests in the waterways...
...We would have to have a completely new board or council that would shape its own future. It would not be British Waterways by another name, but a new structure, in different hands altogether. We do not aim to impose a particular model for a new civil society body, so we will work up different options in partnership with stakeholders, through workshops, forums and other engagement mechanisms. It is vital to understand the views of all interested parties if we are to reach a successful conclusion to our work on an alternative model for the future management of our waterways. As part of that engagement, I am considering a suggestion recently made to me to include representatives from waterways user groups on the current British Waterways board. We need to be ready for the big change in culture involved in the possible move to civil society...
...As the House will be aware, very tough decisions need to be made in the coming months that will affect public expenditure for the next four years. That will inevitably affect the resources available for inland waterways spend in British Waterways and the Environment Agency...’
See Hansard 7 July 2010 : Column 494... onwards www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm100707/debtext/100707-0004.htm#10070761000184
At a meeting held by Defra on the 15 July, IWA along with other waterway organisations participated in a workshop to consider the benefits and concerns relating to the mutualisation of BW and the possible inclusion of the EA navigations into a new body to manage the waterways.
The workshop indicated that IWA’s lobby towards the inclusion of EA navigations together with BW’s waterways in a new organisation seems to be gaining ground within government and are now under active consideration.
There appeared to be a consensus that there were no ‘show stoppers’ towards a case that the EA navigations should be incorporated into the new body; especially as it currently faced cuts in budget of between 25% - 40 %. EA manager Stuart Taylor, in his opening address to the workshop stated that the current position was unsustainable and that ‘preserving the status quo was no longer an option’. The final decision on any incorporation into a new body, however, will ultimately be left to ministers to decide. However, before this occurs, a fuller cost benefit analysis needs to be made, and further work must be conducted on the governance arrangements for any such organisation.
A further stakeholder workshop to focus solely on governance issues will be held on 2 August. IWA will again actively participate.
Friday 2nd July was the closing date for nominations for both the five vacancies for the nationally elected trustees, and also the three region chairmen post due for election this year.
For the nationally elected posts, there are already three vacancies, and Paul Strudwick and Ian West retire on completion of three-year terms. The appointments for East Midlands and North East & Yorkshire regions were initially only for one year, and so are due for election this year, along with the vacant South West Region.
There were seven nominations for the nationally elected trustee positions: Ivor Caplan, Gordon Harrower, Alasdair Lawrance, Jerry Sanders, Jim Shead, Paul Strudwick and Ian West. There will therefore be a ballot, with papers included in the August edition of Waterways .
There was only one candidate for each of the posts of region chairman for East Midlands, North East & Yorkshire, and South West regions. They were John Pomfret, Peter Scott and Chris Birks respectively.
Rule 19 of the procedures for the election of region chairmen states:
In the circumstance that there is only one candidate for a region chairman post, and there is no region chairman occupying the post at the time that nominations are sought, or for any reason between that time and the time when the ballot result would have been announced had there been more than one candidate, then the one candidate shall be appointed with effect from the closing date for nominations to that post.
This means that Chris Birks was appointed as South West Region Chairman and a trustee of the Association with effect from 'close of business' on 2nd July. Chris's term of office is (initially) for two years (until the 2012 AGM). All the other appointments are for three years (to the 2013 AGM).
IWA's Lee and Stort Branch Organises a Boat Rally as part of the Town Council annual Ware festival .
Current donations £2620
Current Pledges £1220
For more information go to :
for donation leaflets and posters or magazine copy please contact Jo Gilbertson at head office - 01494 783 453 Jo.Gilbertson@waterways.org.uk
Supporters are reminded that any articles or media items soliciting donations must clearly mention our charitable details. For further information please contact head office.
The reclassification, long since campaigned for by IWA, The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and other waterway supporters, and now supported and endorsed by BW and Defra, will if unopposed, see the full, 87-mile long waterway classified as cruiseway under the 1968 Transport Act. At present only those parts that were navigable in 1968 have this status. The rest will be upgraded from ‘remainder’ status ( no legal requirement to maintain navigable ) to that of a national ‘cruiseway’. This would require British Waterways to in future maintain the canal to a level where cruising craft, can safely navigate the length of the canal. ( Which BW currently does voluntarily).
A six week public consultation began on Friday 16 July to gauge opinion on the move. Following the consultation, a decision to re-classify will be made by a Minister from the waterways sponsoring government department, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs.
The re-classification notice regarding the change in status will be advertised in a variety of local and national papers, online at www.katrust.org.uk and will be posted in British Waterways’ information boards along the length of the Kennet & Avon Canal.
The Leek branch of the Caldon Canal is now fully open following a breach in November.
The breach resulted in the collapse of a 15m length of the Caldon Canal embankment and damage to the canal bed and its clay lining. As a consequence approximately 21 million gallons of water leaked across agricultural land and into the River Churnet.
After a period of extensive investigations, carried out by British Waterways’ engineers it was determined that the breach may have been due to an historic weakness related to the installation of a culvert and works have taken place to address this by relining with a new length of culvert to maintain land drainage.
The repair works commenced in early March. The embankment has been repaired with a new clay and earth dam that has keyed in to the existing canal bank. The clay lining of the canal has also been reinstated to ensure the canal remains watertight and a number of sections of embankment have been reinforced to reduce the risk of future leakages.
The works were completed in late June and, following a period of testing to ensure that the repairs were watertight, the canal was reopened on the evening of 5th July.
Moorings are being installed along the Droitwich Barge Canal wich is due to be reopened later this year.
The moorings, will be both for permanent and temporary visitors. www.bbc.co.uk/news/10592639
With some of the worst drought conditions for 100 years, on 13 July, British Waterways announced that it is partially close the 127-mile long Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The closure will take effect from Monday 2 August, and will affect the 60 miles from Wigan in Lancashire to Gargrave in North Yorkshire.
The remainder of the canal will stay open for navigation, however there will be a restricted lock schedule to minimise impact on neighbouring waterways.
The towpaths are unaffected by the closures, although British Waterways is asking all visitors to take extra care to stay away from the towpath edge as water levels fall.
Vince Moran, operations director for British Waterways, explains: “Canals depend upon a complex system of reservoirs and rivers to remain topped up with water however, the lowest rainfall in almost a century combined with high temperatures has left the regions’ water supplies at record low levels. We have been doing all we can over the last three months to conserve water levels within what is a popular and 200-year old working canal, and we would only close it as a last resort. However, our reservoirs are expected to have fallen to 10 per cent of their capacity by the start of August, at which point we must close off the water supply so as to be better able to manage the impact on navigation and wildlife.
“Unless we have significant rainfall within the next fortnight therefore we will be forced to put in stop planks along the canal, and shut off the water supply to the canal from all seven reservoirs from 2 August. We anticipate the restrictions continuing through the current drought but will reopen the canal as soon as sufficient water supplies become available. In the meantime we are contacting all affected customers, including boaters, hireboat companies and angling clubs and will do all we can to minimise the impact on them during this difficult period.”
The Rochdale Canal is also fed by reservoirs, owned by United Utilities, and BW have been working with them very closely to keep the water levels up. There is a risk that increased traffic in the North West will mean that the Rochdale and Huddersfield Narrow Canals are put under additional stress and could potentially lead to closures BW state that they are working hard to avoid this.
For more information read BWs‘ Q&A here www.waterscape.com/features-and-articles/features/drought-updates or call 01942 405700.
British Waterways' 2009/10 Annual Report & Accounts, have been published. They highlight growing momentum for the creation of a 'national trust' to care for the country's historic canals, rivers and docks. The proposal has won widespread stakeholder support and interest from the UK government as an example of delivering Big Society principles.
The Report details a record number of people visiting the waterways and their towpaths (up 26% to 13 million adults) together with a continued growth in the record number of boats (up 3% to 34,944). 91% of people now think that the waterways are an important part of the nation's heritage.
The report also acknowledges that there are increasing pressures on the availability of government funding together with the current annual funding deficit of £30m in England & Wales
Despite commercial activity being adversely affected by the recession (particularly the impact it has had on property development activities), BW restructured its operations and was able to maintain its spend on waterway maintenance and major works at over £100m (£101.6m). This included the replacement of 228 lock gate as well as spend of £3.9m on dredging, £6.8m on vegetation management and £3.7m to man bridges and locks for customers. The percentage of BW’s principle waterway structures in the worst condition was further reduced to 18.7% (down 39% since 2002).
Other highlights in the Report include the opening of Three Mills Lock, the award of World Heritage Status to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the launch of the Waterways Action Squad which attracted 270 youth volunteers in its first six months, and the restoration of Stourport Basins which was selected by popular vote as the best Heritage Lottery project of the year.
British Waterways’ Annual Report & Accounts 2009/10 can be seen at : www.britishwaterways.co.uk/annualreport