Editorial February 2017

Consultation and funding – a lack of both for some

Editor Peter Fellows compares navigation authorities

Following the complaints throughout last year over lack of vegetation management on the South Oxford Canal, it is good to see that CRT is spending the winter putting the situation right. And it is also good that CRT is consulting widely on a proposal by Birmingham City Council to pay for widening of the towpath through Edgbaston Tunnel. This would reduce the width of the canal, enforcing one-way passage of boats through the tunnel. In NABO’s view, it is totally unacceptable to compromise the navigation in this way and disadvantage boaters (who pay for the waterways’ upkeep) for the benefit of speeding cyclists (who pay nothing) and who could simply be told to dismount and walk through the tunnel.

If CRT is working well to consult its users, unfortunately the same cannot be said of another navigation authority, the Bridgewater Canal Co., owned by Peel Holdings. Last year, without any consultation with users, the company changed the reciprocal agreement with CRT and started charging CRT licence holders £40 if they tried to return along the canal within 28 days. Member, Brian Johnson, has had endless difficulties trying to clarify how the new regulation applies to shared ownership boats, as reported in this issue. But this is not the end of it with Peel Holdings: the company wants to work on a bridge over the canal where a new housing development is planned. But instead of consulting boating organisations about offering ‘windows’ when passage will be possible, it is intending to close the canal entirely from February to May. This is simply not acceptable.

Other less-than-welcome news from navigation authorities includes a breakdown in talks over funding to secure the future of the Basingstoke Canal and possible navigation closures in the Anglian Region because of under-funding of the EA by the Government. Staying with the EA, discussions of a takeover of its navigations by CRT are still progressing, but again Government funding appears to be the sticking point, as reported by Mike Rodd, who attended a recent user forum.

Elsewhere in this issue, Mark Tizard reports on a possible new CRT ‘peer-to-peer’ licence for rented boats and he also summarises NABO’s position on changes to CRT boat licences. The roving trader this month is Brian McGuigan, who runs coal and fuel boats at Four Counties Fuels. Finally, NABO needs to recruit more members and in this issue I have included a pullout section that has some of the events that NABO has influenced over the last year or so. This is intended to show non-member boaters some of the reasons why they should give us their £25. Additional copies of the newsletter will be given out by coal boats as a trial, to see whether this is an effective way to reach potential new members. If you meet non-members in your travels, please give them the pullout with its membership application form – and feel free to tell them what a wonderful job NABO is doing ….!