A time of change - from navigation authorities to electric boating, Mike Rodd sees a busy year ahead for NABO.
Well, at least we did have some time, pre-Christmas, to get out on our boats before the next full lockdown took over. Ours being down in South Wales means that we are continually caught by the infuriating Cardiff Assembly trying to prove its manhood by doing something slightly different from Westminster – with really silly results for us who live in one area but boat in the other! Of course, we all know how serious all this is, so we just hope that the vaccine will mean that we will soon see a sensible way ahead for all of us.
I would like to start by saying how wonderful it is to see the many new faces on your Council – not just the people who are new to NABO’s Council, but also those who have already been very active within the organisation. This allows us to do even more by way of acting as a prime representative for all boaters. And that is so important right at this moment – with CRT currently undertaking two important ‘so-called’ consultations. (‘So-called’ because so often they seem to be mere formalities, with CRT having pretty well decided the way ahead, but needing to be seen to take user suggestions on board.) In this issue, you will see details regarding the extensive work we have undertaken in preparing our submissions, outlining our major concerns about many aspects of recent consultations. They will have impacts on all of us, so please do read our submissions, as well as our comments on the T&C’s readability.
Following the Government’s announcement on 4th January of a national lockdown for England, the EA issued the following updated guidance for boaters:
All navigation on EA waterways should be limited to essential travel only.
Travel on waterways and overnight stays are only permitted where the boat is your permanent residence or it is necessary for work, education or similar reasons. Those who live aboard should limit their travel to access essential services and facilities. Some activities using unpowered boats are permitted as part of daily exercise, limited to once a day and within the Government guidance for exercise.
- There will be no assisted passage on the River Thames and all locks will remain on public power.
- There will be no charge or time limit at any EA moorings.
- There will be no charge for pump-outs.
- The cleaning contract for public toilets is extended until the end of March so that they can remain open. At sites that are not included in the contract, the toilets will remain closed.
- There will be no cash handling at any EA sites.
Updated information is available at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency.
CRT reported: the rules and the impact on boating are largely the same as for the first lockdown last year. All navigation in England and Wales should be limited to essential use only. If you are not occupying your boat you should not take overnight stays on it during this period. Those living aboard are advised to move only a minimal amount to access essential facilities or services. CRT will keep all its facilities open, but there might be closer private facilities that will reduce the distance you need to travel. If an essential journey requires passage through a staffed structure you will need to book well in advance to ensure CRT can facilitate passage. The requirement to move every 14 days is suspended until the restrictions come to an end. If you are self-isolating and don’t have any support networks, get in touch via CRT’s website (https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/contact-us/ways-to-contact-us) or contact your local boat licence support team (https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/buy-your-boat-licence/boat-licence-customer-support-team).
Howard reports from the North East
I took part in a Zoom forum in January, which is the first that the Y&NE have held. It was well attended with 42 participants, including a number of CRT managers. These managers were a mix of local and national, and included: Sean McGinley, Regional Director Yorks and North East; Jon Horsfall, Head of Customer Services Support; Mathew Symonds, National Boating Manager, Leisure Boating; and a number of local Y&NE managers.
In the past, I have attended many such meetings and last night’s was probably the best attended for a number of years. In my opinion it was a success. It followed the usual pattern of individual presentations, mainly concerning local issues, with a sprinkling of national subjects as well. The Zoom format allowed questions to be debated throughout the meeting using the chat facility and in that regard it was, if anything, more productive than the traditional meetings. I think the relative success of the meeting may well lead to more Zoom meetings throughout the year, which may allow for local issues to be addressed more quickly. Time will tell.
Helen Hutt reports on a Zoom meeting of The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways in December.
This was my first experience of the APPWG and it was more interesting than anticipated! Chaired by Michael Fabricant MP, there were three good presentations from Richard Parry, CRT; Adrian Main, Avon Navigation Trust; and John Packham, Broads Authority, all focussing very much on widening the appeal of the waterways and all emphasising how much more money is required to keep them in good shape!
I didn’t get to ask any questions, not surprisingly, but this seems to be a good forum if you can get to the right person. Here’s a short selection:
Lord Dolar Popat asked, on behalf of a constituent, why Cumberland Basin on the Regent’s Canal had not been dredged despite numerous promises. Richard Parry gave no real answer in my view, but he was definitely put on the spot.
Tony Lloyd MP raised the issue of vandalism; it was generally agreed that getting more people to use and love the waterways (initiatives like ‘Let’s Fish’) was helping to combat this.
Lord Bradshaw said that with new housing in the Thames Valley there would be water shortages; the proposal is to install a Severn-Thames pipeline, but he asked whether the Cotswold Canal could be completed and used instead, with many additional benefits. Michael Fabricant thought this should be the topic of another meeting.
Canal blogger, Andrew Denny, asked what was happening with shortage of water on the Rochdale Canal and the potential opening of the Rochdale Town Arm. Richard Parry explained the challenges and hoped the canal would re-open before next summer; he and Tony Lloyd agreed to discuss the Arm project separately.
Roger Stocker of British Cycling commented on the lack of diversity on the waterways (ironic considering all those at the meeting except me were men, mostly white and of a certain age!).