On 3rd March, I represented NABO at the above Forum which brings together relevant EA personnel and representatives of a wide cross-section of users of the Thames, including the eight River User Groups (the RUGs) and many other representative groups. Chaired by the Thames Director, Julia Simpson, the very long meeting was valuable and, above all, illustrated that the new-look EA is making every effort to listen to its key river users in moving its navigational responsibilities forward over the next five years.
Following an overview of recent operational activities, the meeting was given a rundown of the issues caused by the recent flooding and it was clear that all the staff had been working long hours to cope. Reports also discussed the pressure of environmental issues, especially relating to pollution from diesel and solid fuel stoves. Here the EA approach is similar to CRT’s in pointing out the dependence of the majority of boats on diesel/petrol etc. and the huge costs involved if required to change to electric power. It was reported that 2030 was the target to achieve carbon neutral operation right across the Thames.
The financial report was important and the restructured manner in which the information is presented made it very interesting reading. It was also evident that the EA is deeply involved in exploring how financial stability can be achieved. Although it is early days to see the proposed direction, it is apparent that it’s not just boating users who are being focused on!
The various RUG representatives provided valuable feedback on their major issues and it was clear that there are huge problems with a lack of cutting back of vegetation (especially trees). It was also interesting to hear that RUGs have had serious problems getting active involvement from local councils.
The question of the moorings contract, which will cover all of EA’s moorings on the Thames, was dealt with, noting that, although there had been 12 expressions of interest, only two tenders were submitted. It was also made very clear that the EA did not have any specific enforcement methodologies in mind, but was seeking tenderers to propose solutions. There was deep concern that the evaluation of the tenders would not directly involve anyone with boating expertise. The timetable is tight as it is hoped to launch the scheme by Easter this year.