Report on NINF meeting
The National Inland Navigation Forum (NINF) met at the St. Pancras Cruising Club in February. This forum continues to be a useful meeting point, bringing together navigational bodies including CRT, EA and other waterways – especially important at this time, given the on-going saga about the relationship between EA and CRT. Eight of its member bodies were represented, together with the General Secretary, Michael Stimpson, who reported that the NINF’s finances were sound.
Of special interest at this meeting was the presence, by invitation, of CRT’s Peter Walker, the National Infrastructure Services Manager, who reports directly to the Chief Operating Officer, Julie Sharman, and who has been deeply involved in the in-depth reviews of EA’s assets. Peter expressed CRT’s regret that the decision had been made by the Minister not, at this time anyway, to proceed with CRT taking responsibility for EA’s navigations. While most members of NINF agreed this decision was unfortunate, NABO continues to be one of the few representative bodies that does not support the takeover. This is primarily because of the concern, expressed by many of its members, that CRT has yet to prove it is capable of managing its present responsibilities without taking on additional, very complex ones. However, it was generally felt that all would support CRT taking over responsibility for the Basingstoke Canal from the two relevant local authorities, as this would bring some long-term stability, and it would also support the amazing volunteers who have struggled for many years to keep the canal open.
The Great Ouse Boating Association representative felt that the EA was proving to be totally unable to manage the waterways of interest to its members, and that any move away from EA should be supported. He added that there had been a very satisfactory outcome to EA’s proposal to sell off moorings at Ely, with the local council taking responsibility. Most users were now happy with the situation.
Peter was naturally questioned on the present internal CRT re-organisation, but being one of those senior officers whose job is being redefined, he was not able to add anything new at this stage.
The Historic Narrow Boat Club representative discussed its project to capture information relating to waterways folk who have been involved in the past, and urged NINF members to assist where possible.
There was discussion of CRT apparently selling off sites of heritage significance and the concerns that this raised. Peter Walker described the process and assured members that every effort was made to protect such sites. However, he also added that CRT was facing a massive funding shortfall when the Government grant ran out.