Defra Consultation on New Charity for Waterways

Issue date: 1 April 2011

...But probably not enough money...

Defra has launched its consultation document – ‘A New Era for the Waterways’ –  on how it proposes to transform British Waterways into a third sector body.

IWA has advocated that the right way forward for Britain’s navigable inland waterways is probably for them to be managed by a third sector body, and is pleased that the detailed proposals on how Government intends to change British Waterways into a new civil society body are now available for detailed review and consideration.

IWA will take time to consider the detail of how this transformation is to be achieved with great care, but will aim to share its preliminary thoughts with members and other stakeholders as quickly as possible.

IWA has maintained all along that the funding package needs to be viable, the governance needs to be right, and that the new body should also inherit the Environment Agency navigations.

IWA is therefore, especially pleased that the Government in launching this consultation has now signalled that it shares the Association’s views. Specifically:

The commitment in principle to inclusion of the Environment Agency navigations in 2015; the stated aim that this move to civil society must create a sustainable model for the future of the inland waterways; and the emphasis on governance arrangements that involve local stakeholders in decision making for their waterways.

The Agenda for IWA, is to now consider how these aims can best be translated into a successful civil society body which can flourish in the future. Key aspects of the consultation that the Association will be looking therefore, will be how:

•    the indicative funding stacks up in delivering a sustainable charity. -Currently, IWA firmly believes that the proposed Government funding package is inadequate, despite the additional benefits being in a charity would confer, and that at present this would lead to a significant decline in the quality of the system. We will be pressuring both the Government and the interim trustees to ensure that a better settlement is made.

•    the governance proposals can best achieve community engagement consistent with localism and so that local ‘ownership’ of waterways can lead to tangible benefits for the waterways.

•    the Government is planning to ensure that the Environment Agency navigations can transfer smoothly in 2015/16.’  

Whilst there are proposals and options for freight in the document, no mention is made of how remainder navigations might be treated. IWA will therefore also want to explore in further detail how the status of the commercial, cruising and remainder waterways will be dealt with to meet the charitable purposes of the body in a manner that sustains and enhances existing usage.

The consultation is available for inspection at  http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/03/30/waterways-1103/    It is open until 30 June 2011.