Issue date: 5th February 2013
IWA has written to its key waterway supporters in the House of Lords asking for support in relation to the current passage of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
IWA considers one of the key achievements and outcomes of the recent transfer of the waterway network from British Waterways to Canal & River Trust (CRT) to have been the arrangement that holds the waterways in Trust for the nation, and for public benefit in perpetuity, via the Secretary of State.
IWA is very concerned that provisions in the Growth & Infrastructure Bill, specifically clauses 20 to 24, (due to be debated in a Committee of the whole House in the Lords) now puts that achievement and benefit at significant risk. Protections currently provided to waterways (whether as statutory undertaker land or as open space) under the planning system are to be removed or severely diluted by the Bill. In particular, land of statutory undertakers and most open space is to lose the protection of the special parliamentary procedure where a compulsory purchase proposal is objected to.
The threat is of particular concern if schemes in the future, particularly commercially driven ones, may not be so sympathetic to CRT's objects.
In practice, at present, CRT can influence an authority that is making a compulsory purchase with the threat of a Special Parliamentary Procedure (SPP). This inevitably makes the authority treat CRT with greater respect and encourages a constructive discussion of their needs and concerns.
If the Bill is passed as presently worded, CRT would lose the right to the SPP. This is difficult to understand after government has created a special Infrastructure Trust for the waterways to provide this special protection under the stewardship of the Trust. It is even less understandable given that The National Trust will retain the right to call for a SPP on land that it has declared inalienable.
Put in very simple terms, why should the River Lee Navigation, which dates back to 1425, have weaker protections than the River Wey Navigation, which dates back to the 17th century, simply because the latter is owned by The National Trust?