This online meeting of TNUF was, rather like the recent NNUF (previously reported on), yet another example of how not to use the available technology – in this case a voice only system was used, with most users being muted until being asked if they had any queries following EA presentations. Those who said they did were then noted and given time to comment but there was really no opportunity for any proper debate, and most queries answered by “we will take that up after the meeting”.
In truth, most of the material presented was a rerun of the NNUF materials with of course, more reference to the Thames situation. I must say, though, that this time the EA presenters did try not to just read through their previously provided material but to give what proved to be good summaries. The overview of Thames work being undertaken now and in the near future was particularly impressive and it is clear that the additional funding provided was being well used.
This online meeting of NNUF proved to be somewhat difficult as only a few of the attendees were able to make full use of the available video conference tools. Most attendees were limited to a phone-in link with only a few of the 30+ attendees being able to sign into the full conference facilities. (I could sign in for vision but not sound!)
Unfortunately, as we have reported on in the past, the EA fell into the trap of long presentations (often just reading the slides we had received beforehand) and this was made worse on this occasion by the poor communications technology. Much time given to telling us how well they had coped with the difficulties posed by the lockdown: Whilst this was of course true, it did not need almost a quarter of the meeting telling us about it. The communications problems then made it difficult for us to comment.
DEFRA has published its intentions over solid fuels, coal and wood, which are proposed to become the Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020, coming into force on 1st May 2021. The legislation will need to be debated in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force, but the dates for these debates are yet to be confirmed. The Regulations will phase out the supply of traditional house coal for domestic combustion and wet wood sold in units of up to 2m3, and introduce sulphur and smoke emission limits for manufactured solid fuels. The changes will be phased in between 2021 and 2023, with sales of small volumes of wet wood being phased out by 2022 and sales of traditional house coal by 2023. Stoves are not banned and these policies do not seek to prevent their installation or use. The intention is to ensure that people move away from burning more polluting fuels to less polluting fuels (from burning wet wood to burning dry wood and from traditional house coal to smokeless coal and low-sulphur manufactured solid fuels). Details are available at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/air-quality-using-cleaner-fuels-for-domestic-burning/outcome/summary-of-responses-and-government-response.
Mark Tizard asks if it’s now the time for CRT to stop the constant PR spin and admit that they are beginning to lose the maintenance battle.
When navigation restarted in July, I thought we’d need to take account of potential water shortages when planning our cruising routes. Little did we realise that infrastructure failures were going to have a far greater influence. The latest Boaters Update says: ‘As we might have predicted, despite our best efforts, the combined impact of the extensive winter flooding, the long spring dry spell, and the 2-3 months with very few boat movements and hence almost no regular operation of paddles, locks and moveable bridges, has led to an increased number of asset failures, leading to unplanned restrictions on cruising in some places.’ This begs the question: who was doing the predicting? Surely not those walking the towpath, as they were nearly all furloughed. What best efforts? Surely not those working from home. It must refer to the eyes and ears of those continuous cruisers who have, in effect, become the first line of CRT’s maintenance regime. A boater posted this picture of Welford lock on social media with a warning that it looked like it was on its last legs. A few days later, there was a stoppage notice quoting ‘unexpected maintenance’. Unexpected, really!