East Midlands rep report: March 21

Peter Braley reports: On Thursday 25th March I attended via zoom the East Midlands Online Boaters Conference, hosted by CRT. This is the first of these online conferences I have attended and on the whole I found it interesting and quite informative. There is supposed to be a summary and minutes of the meeting being sent out to all attendees but as yet I have not received anything so the following is from memory and a few scribbled notes.

The meeting started with a presentation by Richard Parry, CRT’s CEO.

This consisted of a ‘Road map to recovery’ following the the COVID shutdown. Mainly a mirror of the recovery timetable announced by the government.
How the trust has been affected by the lockdown. Income down £15 million (7%) but brand awareness up by 60% within 1 km of the waterways (wasn’t explained how that figure was arrived at). He then gave a brief précis of some of the current ongoing major infrastructure problems the trust is dealing with at present: 

The December Aire & Calder breach.
After January’s Storm Christoph;
The Shropshire Union breach near Beeston.
The land slip at Soot Hill on the Trent & Mersey.
The Acton and Winnington swing bridges on the Weaver.

And after last year’s February Storm Ciara, the Figure of Three locks on the Calder & Hubble. (Although I see today [the 30th] it has been announced they are due to open on the 12th April).
There was no mention of Toddbrook, as I recall. Or the proposed refurbishment of the Anderson Boat Lift.
There then followed a presentation on more local issues, given by Phil Mulligan, the East Midlands regional director.
He focused on the reopening of Stoke Bruerne, after the refurbishment of the Canal Museum there.
The expansion of the the Foxton Locks site. With a glamping facility (narrowboats on wheels??) and a children’s adventure play area.
He mentioned the ending of the lease of the Top Lock Cafe, saying that both parties had the right to withdraw from the agreement and that CRT had other plans for the building. I have however since seen that the lease has now been extended while the lessee, Gary Hives and CRT enter into talks as to the future of the cafe. I have also noticed that Gary’s daughter Kelly’s ‘Your Stories’ appears to have been removed from the CRT website?
A planned new welcome station at Braunston was also mentioned. But as yet no decision has been made as to the future of the Braunston Stop House. However we where not to worry as the heritage status of the building would taken fully into consideration?
Also mentioned, where plans being considered on how the Nottingham & Beeston Canal or at least the Castle Wharf section, could obtain Green Flag status and plans for the Erewash Canal. I assume focused on retaining its current Green Flag status.
Shortly before a break was called, the meeting was opened up to a few questions from the attendees.
Nick Roberts, a long time boater on the Tidal Trent, asked whether a training scheme could be set up or a detailed set of guidelines be be drawn up for would be users of the Tidal Trent. As this was a particularly tricky stretch of waterway to navigate. Phil Mulligan or it may have been Matthew Symonds, (CRTs head of boating) said that this could be looked into.
I also asked a question about the apparent ongoing situation of the services at Beeston Lock. They appear to have suffered of late, a series of cases of vandalism where the elsan has been left blocked and therefore out of use for extended periods of time.
I was told that this is one of two particular bad sites on the network suffering from this type of vandalism and that the situation was presently being closely monitored.
It was believed that the culprit / culprits must be a boater or boaters as boaters where the only people able to gain access with the appropriate key?
I asked Helen Hut, our Treasurer and private boating rep on the CRT council to ask the same question at the CRT Boater Reps Forum’s recent meeting with Matthew Symond. She was told that the perpetrators where in fact definitely not boaters. A case of mixed messaging?
The Beeston services are currently operable again, having been cleared by CRT contractors but the situation is apparently exasperated by the unusual narrowness of the pipework underneath the elsan which also cross the canal. Presumably underneath.
Concerns where also raised about the growing use of electric scooters along the towpath. Especially with the advent last October of a scooter hire 12 month trial running in both Nottingham and Derby, operated by Wind Mobility. We where told that the situation would be monitored and it was also pointed out that the use of electric scooters on the towpath was in fact illegal.
After a short break the attendees where invited to divide up and join half a dozen small breakout groups headed up by the various CRT members present. These groups had various titles such as ‘well being on the canal’ and ‘my worst boating location’. Within each group we where encouraged to actively participate in discussions pertaining to the title of the group. I was at first a little sceptical as to the relevance of these discussions but actually found them very interesting and a chance to get to know better fellow boaters along with differing approaches to life on the water.
The conference concluded with us all coming back together, listening to a short synopsis from each of the group leaders and discussing some of the points raised.
As I said at the beginning, I found the conference on the whole interesting and quite informative. A bit of a talking shop but a way of getting to know a little of how CRT operate and what they are currently thinking.

Then on 30 March he also attended the first online meeting of the Nottingham Co-Production Group. 
This is a group of 15 to 20 community members who live or work in Nottingham City, close to the Nottingham Beeston Canal. Brought together after taking part in a community survey commissioned by CRT. The idea of this group is to meet online over the next eight weeks and come up with some concrete ideas on how the canal area can be improved to promote ‘Wellbeing’ (yes I know, it’s that catchphrase we’ve all come to love?) but more importantly, how an underused asset can be better utilised for the benefit of those who live, work or visit there.
The hope is that this will contribute to a funding bid that will secure grants to develop the area.
He reports that this is aimed at a far wider demographic than the the boating community but feels it is important that our voice and ideas are heard and represented. So if there are any NABO members who live in or regularly visit the Nottingham canal area and would like their ideas for improving the area for all to be voiced, please let him know by contacting Peter at Peter.Braley@nabo.org.uk