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Trent and Mersey Canal near Burston, Staffordshire

Approaching Long Meadow Bridge, No 87. This is an accommodation bridge between pastures by the River Trent (off to the right) and the railway (off to the left). No public route crosses the canal here.  © Copyright Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

  Volunteers get £28m and the job of cleaning up England’s waterways

Posted by Waterway Watcher on February 11th, 2012

Volunteers get £28m and the job of cleaning up England’s waterways

04 February 2012

Defra has created a £28m Catchment Restoration Fund to fund volunteers who want to reduce pollution in rivers and canals.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has created a £28m Catchment Restoration Fund to fund volunteers who want to reduce pollution in rivers and canals.

But there is a question over whether the main threats to the health of watercourses, which are reduced flow and diffuse pollution, can actually be tackled by volunteers.

The fund is part of a £92 million Defra commitment to clearing up England’s rivers and lakes and improve the landscape through which water flows.

Making the announcement, Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “We’ve all seen examples of rivers choked up with rubbish and weeds and the devastating effects on wildlife and the scenic beauty of these precious places.

“With only a quarter of our lakes and rivers currently providing a home to a wide range of birds, fish and mammals, there is still much more we can all do.”

He celebrated the return of the otter to several waterways, and said he hoped “communities and charities” would take up the offer “and I hope it will lead to us soon celebrating the same sort of success for other treasured wildlife, such as water voles, kingfishers and salmon”.

The money covers work over three years, providing up to £10m each year, in 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The fund will support work that aims to:

• restore more natural features in and around waters

• reduce the impact of man-made structures on wildlife in waters, or

• reduce the impact of small, spread-out (diffuse) sources of pollution that arise from rural and urban land use.

The Environment Agency will administer the fund. Formal applications and expressions of interest for projects starting in 2012/13 are invited by 29 February 2012. A second phase of applications for funding in 2012/13 will run until 18 May 2012.

It covers all rivers, groundwater, lakes, canals, estuaries, coastal waters, wetlands and protected areas such as Bathing Waters, Drinking Water Protected Areas and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest with water related features.

The overriding threat to waterways’ health

The Environment Agency itself issued a study last month which characterised the worst threat facing many watercourses as being simply the water drying up.

The report said that over-abstraction and the predicted impact of climate change could see, by 2050, river levels in England and Wales in summer drop by 80%, with rivers “transformed into puddles of warm, stagnant mud”.

The study, The Case for Change: Current and Future Availability, uses more up-to-date figures and is more precise in its forecasts than an earlier one produced by the Agency, and concludes that “important habitats could be lost”.

Reduced river flow concentrates pollution in the remaining water, worsening its effect on aquatic life. Principal pollutants are no longer due to ‘points of pollution’ from individual industrial sites, since these have mostly been eradicated. Instead they are of ‘diffuse’ sources, such as hydrocarbons in run-off from roads and car parks, and nitrates from fertiliser use.

The lead applicant for the EA funding must be a charity or an organisation with charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purpose. Local authorities or private sector companies can be involved in delivering a project, but only as partners.

A key condition of obtaining funding is “to aim to achieve improved status or prevent deterioration in one or more quality elements in one or more water bodies in England through reductions in pollution, improvements in ecological or morphological conditions, OR, aim to achieve objectives for a Water Framework Directive Protected Area in England.”

Defra therefore hopes that volunteers will use the fund to do the job of cleaning up pollution, but it is open to question whether diffuse pollution and reduced water flow can successfully be tackled by work of this kind.

Deregulation of the environment

The move is in line with Defra’s ongoing attempts to shift the burden of responsibility for protection of the environment from government bodies and business to charities and volunteers in communities.

Other moves in this direction include the transformation of British Waterways into a charity, which is no longer subject to the same degree of public scrutiny.

The timetable for this was confirmed earlier this week by Environment Minister Richard Benyon, along with a promise of £1bn of taxpayers’ money to help it look after England and Wales’ network of 200-year old canals and rivers.

He said that giving the new Canal & River Trust charitable status “will mean new opportunities for revenue through donations, charitable grants and legacies, increased borrowing powers, efficiencies and volunteering activity”.

A further clue to Defra’s philosophy on deregulation this week was the refusal of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman to deny that “environmental red tape” will not be slashed under Cabinet Officer Oliver Letwin’s zealous campaign to “reduce the burden on business” of all legislation.

Mrs Spelman was questioned repeatedly by Labour MP Joan Walley, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Tory MP Zac Goldsmith of theEnvironmental Audit Committee.

It was put to her that at a 12 January meeting, Letwin told senior Defra officials, and representatives from both the Environment Agency and Natural England that he wanted all environmental guidance to be replaced with a single 50-page document.

The request was reportedly met with “disbelief” by those present.

Mrs. Spelman responded by saying she was “not in a position to confirm or deny the story. I was not at the meeting”.

The rush to enter the lock

Cromwell Lock. The lock gates open, the lights go green and suddenly there is this mad rush to get into the lock. But there’s plenty of room for all.  © Copyright Jonathan Thacker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Cromwell Lock

Monday 20 February 2012 – Monday 12 March 2012

UPDATE (15 February 2012): Due to unforeseen circumstances, this stoppage has been delayed for a week. The work is now currently planned in for three weeks starting the 20th February.

Intermarine, on behalf of British Waterway’s Major Works Team, will be re-decking and altering the upstream floating visitor mooring pontoons. This will be whilst concurrently extending/altering/re-decking the downstream lock approach mooring pontoons.

During this restriction, Intermarine will advise craft owners upon visiting site of safe passage.

We apologise for any inconvenience which may be caused, although best attempts will be made to keep disruption to a minimum.

Please expect delays of up to 1 hour maximum.

During work to the moorings, mainly the floating mooring above the lock, all craft are asked to please refrain from mooring here until the work is fully complete.

 Please note this restriction will cover the eventuality of potential problems and issues with water levels.

Approaching Cromwell Lock

Looking northwards and downstream towards the lock. The large arrow and floating barrier on the right direct boats into the lock channel. The lock-keeper’s house is just in view on the left.  © Copyright Trevor Rickard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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