On Tuesday 3rd March 2020 I represented NABO at the above Forum which brings together representatives of a wide cross section of users of the Thames, including the 8 River User Groups (the RUGs) and many other representative groups, with relevant EA personnel. Chaired by the Thames Director, Julia Simpson, the very long meeting was valuable and above all illustrated that the new-look EA is making every effort to listen to its key river users in moving its navigational responsibilities forward over the next 5 years.
Following an overview of recent operational activities, the meeting was given a rundown on the issues caused by the recent flooding and it was clear that all the staff had been working long hours to cope. Reports also discussed the pressure on environmental issues especially relating to pollution from diesel and solid fuel stoves. Here the EA approach is similar to CRTs in terms of pointing out the dependence of the majority of boats on diesel/petrol etc and the huge costs involved if required to change to electric power. It was reported that 2030 was the target to achieve carbon neural operation right across the Thames.
The financial report was important and the restructured manner in which the information is represented made it very interesting reading. It was also evident that the EA was deeply involved in exploring how financial stability can be achieved, although it is early days in seeing the proposed direction, but it is apparent that not just the boating users are being focused on!!
The various RUG representatives provided valuable feedback on their major issues and it was clear that there are huge problems with a lack of vegetation (and especially tree) cutting back! It was also interesting to hear that RUGs had serious problems getting active involvement from local Councils.
The question of the moorings contract, which will cover all of EA’s moorings on the Thames, was dealt with noting that although there had been 12 expressions of interest, only 2 tenders were submitted! It was also made very clear that the EA did not have any specific enforcement methodologies in mind but was seeking tenderers to provide proposed solutions. There was deep concern that the evaluation of the tenders would not directly involve any anyone with boating expertise. The timetable is tight as it is hoped to launch the scheme by Easter this year!
5th March 2020