Mike Rodd and Mark Tizard have a catch-up call with Matthew Symonds, CRT’s Head of Boating, joined by his deputy, Rachel Haywood. The main points to emerge were as follows:

  • Approximately one third of CRT staff have been furloughed and the Trust is topping up the 20% to ensure that all staff continue to receive full pay.
  • CRT has given trade/hire businesses a three-month rebate/refund on trade licence costs.
    The trade rebate, the reduction in income from licences, friends and museums, and a fall in property investment rentals/values have resulted in CRT facing some financial constraints, which are difficult as yet to quantify.
  • There are currently no plans to offer a payment holiday for leisure licence holders as it is unclear how many have been impacted. CRT is asking all licence holders who are in financial difficulty to get in touch to discuss a revised payment plan (note: this is a deferral not a withdrawal). Boaters are urged not to cancel their direct debits, as this would cause difficulties for both CRT and the boaters concerned, but to contact the Trust. CRT will also offer advice on how to access other support if it is able to. These plans will be reviewed should the lockdown continue for longer than is currently envisaged. 
  • With a few minor exceptions, the winter stoppage programme has been completed. There was some discussion about extending the boating ‘season’ by deferring winter stoppages to enable boats to cruise later in the year.
  • Matthew reported receiving many emails re towpath safety, many of which had been very vociferous and often abusive. The issue had become more manageable with improved posters and banners, which seemed to be working, and with CRT’s advice that liveaboard boaters could move to quieter areas.
  • The work at Toddbrook is to be planned over several years, and other similar reservoirs have been subject to inspection and lowered water levels. This is not currently expected to have a material financial effect on other engineering works, dredging etc. 
  • Matthew advised that it was too early to understand whether the current emergency would impact future Government grant funding, but it was hoped that the importance of the towpath for exercise and ‘wellbeing’, and CRT’s management of its liveaboard customers would be seen in a positive light.
  • CRT will continue to maintain the Bridgwater and Taunton canal but give up the lease on Gloucester Docks. There are ongoing discussions around CRT managing moorings.
  • BSS discussions are also ongoing with all interested parties. CRT is concerned as a BSS certificate is currently a condition to obtain a licence (the same for most marinas and insurers). All agreed that there might be an impact on licence/insurance/mooring renewals if there is insufficient allowance made for boaters to obtain a BSS certificate and to get any remedial work done once the lockdown is withdrawn.
  • Mike pointed out that the EA appeared to be adopting many of CRT’s practices and Matthew confirmed that CRT is offering advice in many areas when asked. He was also aware that the EA was tendering for management of moorings and enforcement and he would look at the outcomes.
  • Mark noted that the virus had shown how important towpath services are, given that many marinas had closed and some closures might be permanent. He hoped that CRT would take this into consideration in its thoughts about the future provision of facilities (the internal report on this, which was due to be discussed, has been delayed). The two tenders for removal of waste and maintenance of facilities are due to be awarded shortly. This should lead to improvements in areas such as recycling.
  • The report on the