NABO News Editorial Winter 17

Is anyone listening?

Editor Peter Fellows has a little rant

As 2017 draws to a close, it is clear that CRT is focussed on its grant renewal, which will require it to demonstrate to Government that it has widespread popular support. This means promoting the waterways to millions of walkers, cyclists, canoeists and gongoozlers as part of its wellbeing or ‘green gym’ campaign. The 35,000 boaters are incidental to this. As a result, NABO is becoming increasingly concerned that its voice is not being listened to by senior CRT managers and directors. We are no longer a ‘critical friend’; just critical. Members who attended the AGM in November discussed the long list of recent decisions by CRT that have disregarded the advice offered by NABO (and CRT’s National Advisory Groups), and Fly on the Wall recorded some of these for this issue. There is also an article by Jenny Maxwell, reprinted from a Facebook forum, which sums up the frustrations felt by a large number of boaters and boating organisations. We will wait to see if the recent restructuring of senior CRT staff makes any difference. But let’s not hold our breath ‒ none has boating experience and, with the replacement of Trustee, John Dodwell, this means that there are now no boaters on the CRT Board. The EA doesn’t fare any better: having consulted on proposed increases to boat registration fees, it ignored the consultation findings and went ahead with the original proposals for steep hikes in the costs. A diligent boater has also found that EA’s introduction of charges for mooring on the Thames is illegal.

Also in November, we were saddened to hear of the untimely death of Trevor Rogers; Mike Rodd and Geoffrey Rogerson have written of his important contribution to NABO Council over many years.

The problem of air pollution in London has prompted the Mayor to suggest that smoke and fumes from moored boats should be reduced and the Waterway Ombudsman reported two cases of complaints on this issue. NABO has responded to the Mayor’s consultation. There are also reports from our regional reps, Howard Anguish in the North East and Alison Tuck in the West Midlands, and Stella Ridgway sings the praises of Bugsworth Basin on the Peak Forest Canal. Developers are threatening the wharf at Marple Junction on this canal and Alison reports on other proposals to develop two canalside sites in central Birmingham.

I was horrified to come across a website used by sportspeople to record their fastest times, which has cyclists competing to see who can ride fastest along towpaths, including the Worcs & Birmingham canal to Edgbaston ‒ utterly selfish behaviour that can only result in a serious injury or worse. CRT’s decision to reduce the width of Edgbaston Tunnel for boaters, to accommodate a wider towpath, can only help these cyclists go faster.

Whether you’re out on the waterways or planning next year’s cruising, have an enjoyable Christmas and my best wishes for 2018.