Cotswold Canals Water Transfer Scheme
Proposals are underway to secure the nation’s water resources for the future.
Among the various regional groups, Water Resources South East (WRSE), an alliance of the six water companies that supply drinking water across London and the South East of England, have now submitted draft proposals for addressing the region’s increasing vulnerability to serious water shortages:
WRSE draft Best Value Plan: https://wrse.uk.engagementhq.com/our-consultation
Water resources are under pressure, and this will increase with time.
The proposal, being put forward by the Cotswold Canals Trust, could see up to 300 million litres of water per day being transferred from the River Severn to the River Thames via the canal. Connecting the River Severn to the Thames would not only enhance our natural environment but also be sustainable and would provide wider recreational and social benefits compared to a buried pipeline. Solutions to transfer water to regions with shortfalls are being evaluated but the Cotswold Canals Severn-Thames Transfer is not included in the draft plans even though it delivers so much more.
“This scheme has huge advantages over more traditional solutions like reservoirs and pipelines,” says Ken Burgin, Director at the Cotswold Canals Trust. “We end up with a restored canal, no loss of countryside and less need to keep taking water from the ground in the South East.”
On Tuesday 22 November, the future of the UK’s canals and waterways, with a particular focus on the 2,000 miles cared for and looked after by the Canal & River Trust charity, was debated in the House of Commons.
Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Waterways, initiated the debate, before many other MPs, including Rebecca Pow, the Minister for Waterways, responded.
The debate opened with Michael Fabricant MP setting out the unique contribution to the nation of the Trust and its waterways, from the economic impact through to the huge social and environmental benefits to society.
The future of the UK's waterways debated in Parliament
The debate heard how the Canal & River Trust, formed in 2012 to protect and preserve its waterways across England and Wales, is awaiting the outcome of the UK Government’s review of its funding contract beyond 2027. The current grant is fixed until 2027 and is declining both in real terms and as a proportion of the Trust’s total income. MPs spoke about how, with the increased threat from climate change events not envisaged in 2012, the Trust is increasing its expenditure on the core national infrastructure in its care. Hence, continued funding from Government beyond 2027 is essential to protect the many benefits from waterways, minimise risk to its numerous neighbouring communities and avert the network’s long-term demise.
Michael Fabricant MP explained how the delays to the Government’s review was causing great concern for waterway users and will soon start to hinder the Trust’s ability to plan for the future, with so many important long-term projects to deliver.
I must start by welcoming our new NABO News Editor, John Sadler, who has bravely stepped forward to take over from Peter Fellows, who is leaving the waterways and decamping to live in Ireland! And what a hard act he will be to follow – each year, Peter has somehow managed to develop NABO News to the point where it is now widely recognised as one of the premium journals related to our waterways. Each edition is full of insightful commentaries on the state of the waterways, and provides technical content of interest to all. I know also how much it is both welcomed (and often feared) by the respective waterways’ operators! I often count the days between its publication, and the first reactions from the latter organisations…
I need also to follow up on our AGM, and say how pleased I was to see new people offering themselves for election to our Council. Indeed, it is the first time since I became your chair, that we have a full complement, and what a pleasure this is, to see so much support forthcoming. We are, however, still lacking a General Secretary – so please give that some thought. The duties are not arduous but are essential: it is largely a case of acting as the “postmaster” for all incoming information – some of which just needs binning, but a substantial amount needs to be flagged for the attention of the appropriate councillor or regional representative. We try to have each council member play a distinctive role, and so they need to receive and deal with all relevant material – some of which it is vital for us to react to, especially where it might have an impact on the waterways. We do need always to be seen as a willing “consultant” – for example, by local authorities, as a vital component of any consultation on proposals that might impact on the waterways under their control.
What a time to take up the challenge of editor! Following an experienced editor of many years, I have a lot to learn, not least hundreds of new acronyms. At first sight there seems to be innumerable committees and guidance groups, each with their own agenda and abbreviations.
I have some experience of inland boating starting around thirty five years ago, first with cruisers and for the last seventeen years by narrowboat. Although we did take the last cruiser onto the narrow canals we were always worried by the large steel vessels, although it was enough of a taste to get us hooked!
When we first started boating the River Severn and Sharpness Canal were still in regular commercial use by grain barges from Healings at Tewkesbury and timber vessels. We enjoyed mooring on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal for many years although winter cruising was limited by the River Severn level. Sometimes we even had to wait for the level to drop before embarking on our Spring and Summer cruises. No electronic display of flashing lights then, you just looked at the river level, tide timetable and took the advice of the lock keeper. Partly to avoid the climate change affected Severn, we moved house and boat to the Shropshire Union a couple of years ago. A delightful canal and a house with an end of garden mooring!
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