Latest from the Chair


I have the latest NN though the door, and look back to what I wrote there. It appears a long time ago with all that is going on.

Parliamentary Waterways Group

Simon Robins and I attended a meeting in Westminster of the Parliamentary Waterways group. This is a group for interested MPs and DEFRA staff, together with the advisory bodies, trade and user groups.

This month the speaker was Robin Evans from BW. He spoke for 30 minutes, giving a briefing on the current situation and then there were 30 minutes of questions.

I have summarised what he said, and this has been posted on the web site, but I give you my take on this.

Evans spoke easily, and was briefed with numbers some of which that we did not recognise, and were presumably the latest news spin. He is clearly under great pressure to make ends meet with what he has. There were no great surprises in what he said.

For the first time I felt that there were opportunities for local government money to help with the canals, but that these must come with wider continued attraction to the canals of the general community.

The Treasury review of assets is a clear threat to BW and the future earnings. I wrote about this in NN, and Evans confirmed all that I said. If you are inclined, I suggest that you write to your MP and ask for pressure to be applied to the Treasury to leave BW alone (and EA for that matter). The MPs in the meeting said that they had been lobbying the Treasury for hands off BW. There is word around that BW are planning the sell of of property on the Macc, which includes a sanitary station. If you hear of similar things please let us know.

Evans talked about the possibility of special funding for job creation schemes for towpath reconstruction. This appears to fit with the governments policy of spending for employment on green infrastructure. Whilst that doesn’t directly improve navigation, it means that BW can spend what they have elsewhere, and good tow-paths are in everybody’s interest. Let us hope it is successful.

Local Government involvement in canals

Returning to the issue of Local Government involvement in canals, I heard a representative of Milton Keynes Council speak recently on what they are doing on the GU in their patch. It was very impressive. The council have a towpath officer, (50 % of time) organising towpath access and improvements to make sure that the canal was part of the community assets. The work was mainly about towpath surfacing, but also included graffiti, rubbish, wildlife and so on. Whilst this content is admirable, by far the most impressive part was the total ownership attitude, raising money, getting things organised, knowing all the detail of the canal, chasing BW for their part, and providing all the energy. The representative said that he had been able to raise funding from council and planning activities. Why can’t it be done everywhere? Its a shame it can’t extend to dredging.

Boating Costs
John Slee, our Continuous Cruiser representative is preparing an electronic boating cost survey. This will go live in the next month or so. Please do respond when the time comes. It is not meant to be intrusive, but there is a need, in my view, for us to track year on year, what is happening to our costs.

Roving Mooring Permits
BW are still silent on this issue. Last week I wrote formally to BW on this subject, and put them on notice for an answer on their intentions. I’m not holding my breath, but we have to keep up the pressure. Council are still considering the various legal issues on this matter, licensing in general and what is to be done.

Web site

Brian our web master, aided by Stuart, is working on the site and its content. Please do take a look and pass on any comments. Much of the tasty content is going into the members side, so you will need a password. Keep up with progress in NN.