Waterways on the Politics Show

This Sunday, 10th July, at 11a.m., The Politics Show for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire will be reporting "on the huge job of handing the network over to a new "National Trust" of canals by next spring. Securing a bright future for our 200-year-old system or just a way of cutting costs."

The BBC website says:

"The entire state owned and operated network is to be handed over to a charity that is being specially set up to run what has now become a vast part of our leisure and tourism industry.

The charity – closely modelled on the National Trust – is expected to take control next spring amidst concerns from influential voices in Yorkshire that the government will cast off the canals without enough cash to ensure they keep afloat.

That is denied by Richard Benyon, the junior environment minister, who has piloted the changes through the consultation period which ended in June."

"The influential Huddersfield Canal Society says that is not good enough. It fears that routine maintenance and future development of the network will suffer."

"Nigel Stevens, who runs the holiday barges company Shire Cruisers, from a marina at Sowerby Bridge near Halifax, has a different view.

He says successive governments have already squeezed its subsidy – down from £70m a few years ago to around £40m now.

He rejects suggestions that in times of economic hardship canals are unlikely to be given much priority for government funding.

"The government is playing games, but nobody else is. I feel a better agreement will eventually be achieved because the canals are too important to ignore," he told me.

"Most canal users already pay fees and licences so the tax payer should chip in for those that receive a benefit from them being well maintained but are unable to contribute anything – tourists, walkers and cyclists use the towpaths and visit the marinas but there's no way to charge them.""