Yorkshire & NE Local Waterway Forum on 23rd October

Howard Anguish attended the Yorkshire & NE Local Waterway Forum on 23rd October, held at Fearns Wharf, Leeds.


National Issues:

The introduction was given by Regional Director, Sean McGinley, who talked us through the Regional Structure Update, which included a map showing boundaries, together with an organogram showing role allocations within the region. Two of the seven managerial posts, Licence Support and the Regional Towpath Fundraising Co-ordinator, show a shared function with the NW.

A short section on boater reports drew attention to boater income and expenditure, which has previously been demonstrated using various pie charts and histograms at the CRT AGM, which I am sure most boaters are familiar with. Sean also pointed out that the Visitor Centre and general attraction of Standedge Tunnel was losing money and that this may be somewhere which requires a rethink to make it more attractive.

This was followed by a long and detailed review of the upcoming Clean Maritime Plan. We were advised to watch out for the consultation documents and call for evidence, which are expected to be issued in November, with an emphasis on the need to engage in it to put forward any views and objections. Although the plan is primarily aimed at commercial shipping, it was made abundantly clear that it will also incorporate inland waterways, including all craft, and will consider aspects such as emissions and pollution. This could have a direct and serious impact in the long-term on the changes required to boat propulsion – electric versus diesel – and to boat heating – electric versus gas and solid fuel. Present indications are that the national UK target should be zero emissions by 2050 and that plans to achieve that must be in place by 2025. This subject is obviously going to be of major importance in the coming years and, although we may consider that it is a long way off, we will have to give serious thought about what the future may bring and the repercussions to the boating community. We should also give great consideration to any historic craft exemptions and carbon offsets etc. that we would like to see.

Stuart McKenzie, CRT’s local Harbour Master, spent a little while reporting on the progress (or lack of) in his attempts to integrate strong steam updates and current open/closed gate situation reports. He has been finding difficulty in trying to get different existing systems to speak to one another, but he will report back at the next forum with hopefully more positive news.

Finally, Sean McGinley gave a presentation on the recent Toddbrook Reservoir near-disaster. Although the event took place in the adjoining NW Region, Sean was brought in to ease the pressure on the NW Director and so was deeply involved in the events as they unfolded. It was interesting to hear his report, although we didn’t hear anything that hadn’t been covered exhaustedly in the press. He was asked about the many Freedom of Information requests which had resulted in around 90% redaction and agreed that this seemed to be a move which had only helped to raise concern about what had been blacked out, and he did say that he had raised this point with the CRT senior management.