The National Inland Navigation Forum (NINF) met at the St. Pancras Cruising Club on 25th February, with eight of its eleven member organisations represented. This forum continues to be a useful meeting point, bringing together navigation bodies involved in the waterways.

The General Secretary, Michael Stimpson, reported that the forum’s finances were sound and he was unanimously re-appointed to his position.

There was, naturally, much discussion of issues relating to the possibility of the EA’s navigational responsibilities being taken over by CRT. Of importance was the report from the recent Thames User Groups’ meeting, where Richard Parry had said that providing all the facts come together, he has to move to a position when, together with the EA’s CEO, Sir James Beavan, he can go to DEFRA to gain acceptance ‘in principle’. It is already costing significant sums of money to effect the investigation and this would be wasted if it does not proceed. He had hoped that this would have happened before the end of last year but there was still no progress. It was felt that the best NINF could do now was to use all its political contacts to urge the Minister responsible to end the uncertainty! Michael Stimpson would also write to Richard Parry to ask what else NINF could do to help move things on.

The possibility of expanding the towpath through the Edgbaston Tunnel, at the cost of narrowing the navigation, was extensively discussed. It was felt by most that this was yet more evidence of CRT bowing to non-boaters’ needs and ignoring those of boaters; and also of not protecting the heritage of our canals. However, the financial realities were recognised.

There was also much discussion of concerns about EA closing some of its waterways due to ‘safety concerns’. The meeting noted the IWA campaign relating to this and requested all members to discuss the matter with their councils. It was pointed out, though, that the three cases cited by IWA, although of concern, were well-known and the locks had been in serious trouble for some years.

The changes to the hire code BSS requirements were reported on and welcomed. It was emphasised, though, that there were still ongoing issues relating to hire-boat handover procedures not always being effective.

Finally, the issue relating to the charging reviews being undertaken by both EA and CRT were briefly mentioned and all member organisations were urged to get involved.

Mike Rodd