The waterways and ‘building back better’

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!).