Tag Archives: River Weaver

Canal News – Parliamentary Waterways Group on Future Of The Inland Waterways

Canal News

Posted by Waterway Watcher on January 20th, 2012

Caldon Canal – David Jackson

 Parliamentary Waterways Group on Future Of The Inland Waterways


The All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group held a hearing on 8 December to provide the Waterways Minister, Richard Benyon MP, with the opportunity to respond to the Group’s Memorandum – “The Future of the Waterways”.

This was published and submitted to the Government in July, focussing on appropriate governance and financing for the Canal & River Trust which is planned to come fully into being in April 2012, inheriting responsibility for British Waterways’ inland waterways network.

The Memorandum was prepared after two hearings into these issues in order to provide a Parliamentary response to Defra’s consultation “A New Era for the Waterways” on the Government’s proposals for moving inland waterways into a new charity in England & Wales.

The hearing also gave the Minister and the charity’s Transition Trustees the opportunity to provide a broader report on progress to deliver a fully operational charity in 2012.

The hearing was chaired by the Rt Hon Alun Michael MP and attended by a number of MPs and representatives of a wide range of organisations which play important roles in relation to our canals and other waterways.

This communiqué has been approved by the All Party Group as an accurate summary of the discussion and the Group also approves its publication and distribution to waterways stakeholders and other interested parties.

Anglesey Basin, Chasewater – Wyrley & Essington Canal

Government Statement

Key issues covered in Richard Benyon’s statement, as a response to the All Party Group Memorandum, were Canal & River Trust governance and financing, and waterways classification.

Governance: the Minister reported that progress had been made on what both Government and the Trust’s Transition Trustees believed was the right model on governance for the Trust to begin life.

There was now a target for 50% of the Council to be elected over time. On membership, the Trustees had decided that the charity should not have a membership for fund-raising purposes, believing that other means of raising funds and stimulating voluntary giving were more effective for fundraising than a formal membership.

Funding: Richard Benyon could not say what government funding was going to be for the Trust since negotiations had not yet concluded. But he acknowledged that the negotiations were complex, including the issues of adequate maintenance of the canal network, mitigation of possible future liabilities arising from environmental or other legislative requirements and the staff’s pension arrangements.

He stressed that the Government was committed to a sustainable and prosperous future for the waterways, and that it wanted to give the Trust the best possible start that it could. He expected to be able to make announcements in the New Year.

Waterways classification: this had become an issue. The Inland Waterways Association had raised concerns about the proposed amendments to the system for classifying waterways in the Transport Act 1968 because it was concerned that the Trust would seek to reclassify “cruising” waterways to “remainder” waterways.

He gave an assurance that any application from the Trust to reclassify a waterway would be subject to a full cost benefit analysis and wide consultation with those likely to be affected as required by the Transport Act. In addition, he was sure that the Trustees would consult the charity’s Council and the relevant Waterways Partnership before embarking on such a significant course of action that would impact on a large number of its users. These mechanisms would help to ensure a robust and transparent process on a re-classification of any of the charity’s waterways.

In answer to specific questions from Members of the All Party Group present, Richard Benyon added:

  • He did not want or expect to see closures of any waterways, as that would not be constructive. The Government wanted to ensure that in the medium term there was scope for a reduction in the percentage of assets that were in poor and very poor condition. He added that the Government wanted the existing network to be both maintained and enhanced.
  • On ownership, in response to the suggestion that part ownership of a charity under for example, co-operative arrangements, delivered local ownership and commitment, Richard Benyon commented that he could see that possibility, locally and as a part of natural evolution.

CRT Transition Trustees

Some Transition Trustees were present, including the chairman, Tony Hales and Lynne Berry who chairs the governance committee of the Shadow Board.  The Chief Executive of British Waterways, Robin Evans, was also present. The All Party Group invited them to comment.

Tony Hales said that that the Trust would be reviewing it’s governance in 3 years and that would be the time to reflect on the suggestions made with regard to ownership.

On finance, he said that commercial activity would be the most significant contributor, and that the Trustees were comfortable about the future prospects for this commercial activity.

The Trustees were also confident about the forecasts for the contribution for voluntary income and donations, which were expected to reach £6-8m after 10 years. There were also potential contributions to be made by other government departments, local government and bodies such as Transport for London and the Olympic Delivery Authority.

It was a question of determining the benefits they receive from the network so that they recognised that a contribution was justified.

However, he reiterated the view of the Trustees that the £39m per annum offered initially by central government was not enough. The finance package overall needed to be enough to secure the network’s assets in the long term and ensure that day to day maintenance was carried out together with network dredging; and to ensure that pensions were safeguarded.

He recognised the duty of  Trustees to be in a position to satisfy the Charity Commission that the Trust was sustainable.

Lynne Berry reported on public benefit. It had been evaluated at around £500 million but that didn’t fully reflect issues such as the social return and the well being benefit etc. Trustees were currently developing the public benefit model to embrace these wider issues.

Specific issues raised were:

  • What mechanism there was to secure heritage with the new charity? The Heritage Lottery Fund needed to become engaged so that grants could be explored for heritage issues. There were serious challenges for the museum’s archives which were under pressure from both users and historians whose needs might be different.
  •  Had potential new income streams been identified for the Trust?
  • Was the valuation of the British Waterways property portfolio [£450 million] realistic?
  • What incentive was there for the Trust to change its governance in the future?

Gloucester Museum

The responses were as follows.

Heritage: there was a museums representative on the Council, who would report on developments for museums and visitor attractions. The archives were regarded as a serious issue. They represented a major cost and storage and accessibility of paper archives was a problem but no less so for electronic archives which were still a significant cost. The Trust would continue to aim to make the archives available and it was an issue that needed to be settled for the future.

Income: at this stage the Trust’s long term commercial plans had to be subject to an element of confidentiality. But there was future potential for water cooling for buildings sited near the network, especially as many now had to make a 20% renewable energy contribution. In addition there were opportunities from micro power generation at weirs and locks.

Property Valuation: the property values were assessed annually according to the “Red Book” and this assessment is reviewed by Grant Thornton (the British Waterways auditors). It was regarded as a robust valuation.

Trust Governance: it was thought that the volunteer-led Trust would lend itself open to future evolution as necessary.


The hearing closed with an offer from Richard Benyon to return to the Group to give a further report when the financial negotiations were concluded.

The offer was welcomed by the Group and it was thought that this future hearing was likely to take place early in the New Year.

Alun Michael closed the proceedings commenting that it was not unheard of for charities to go wrong, volunteer led or otherwise. It would not be an easy transition. It was going to be very challenging and there was profound interest from MPs on all sides of the House, and there was general support for the proposed model. The transition would be scrutinised with great interest.

Canal News from Waterscape

Canal News from



Why is canal tunnel on the move?

Netherton Tunnel

The last tunnel built at a cost of over £300,000 it opened on the 20th of August 1858. It was built with two tow paths and wide enough for two boats. Thus is eased congestion in the narrow Dudley tunnel that had to be legged through. Its over 2.5km long, straight and now unlit. Take a torch!

  © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

29th Nov 2011

Engineers from British Waterways are investigating after some sections of the Netherton Tunnel near Dudley were found to be moving.

The tunnel, on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, is 150 years old. Monitoring over the past few years has shown that the lining of the centre sections is moving, causing some of the bricks to bulge and crack.

Over the next two weeks, tunnel experts will be carrying out detailed ground investigations to find the cause of the movement. They will take samples of the earth and rock surrounding the canal tunnel by drilling bore holes at various intervals along the crown (roof) and the side wall sections. These samples will allow specialists to test what material surrounds the tunnel. This, together with other detailed surveys, will help them determine the nature of the movement and the possible cause.

Expert investigation

British Waterways’ senior manager Dean Davies said: “The Netherton Tunnel is well known to suffer from ground movement, and we do monitor this on weekly basis. We are currently concerned about the amount of movement happening in the centre section of the tunnel, which is a common weak spot in tunnel design. We need to carry out further investigations to find out exactly what may be causing the ground above and below the tunnel to move.

“The tunnel is still structurally sound. However, we need to start looking into this problem now and also decide how best to stop the movement getting any worse. Ultimately, we want to ensure the tunnel lasts another 150 years”

During the works, the canal will restricted to boat traffic at various intervals and the west side towpath will remain closed. For details of restrictions, check the waterscape stoppage pages or sign up for email alerts.

Netherton Tunnel and Tividale Aqueduct

Coming out of the northern end of Netherton Tunnel, Dudley, looking towards Tividale Aqueduct, which carries the Wolverhampton Canal Level over the Netherton Tunnel Branch.

  © Copyright Martin Clark and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 Lock Keeper of the Year


British Waterways’ employee is top of the locks

Saltersford Locks on the River Weaver

The River Weaver here divides as the original course of the river crosses the canalised Barnton Cut, more or less at the locks. The Trent & Mersey canal runs close and parallel near the top of the wooded bank in the background. Public footpaths run between the river and the canal towpath and along the river bank upstream to the Winnington swing bridge and (the North Cheshire Way) Dutton Locks downstream.

  © Copyright Mike Harris and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

1st Dec 2011

The Hotel Boat section of the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators (APCO) has awarded Bryn Jones, a British Waterways’ lock keeper on the River Weaver with its annual Lock Keeper of the Year award.

Bryn has worked for British Waterways for almost 30 years and has over 20 years’ experience as a lock keeper. He is familiar with the whole of the River Weaver navigation, working as relief lock and bridge keeper before taking responsibility for Saltersford Locks.

Recipients are nominated and voted for by all APCO Hotel Boat operators so that they can recognise the support and assistance they receive as they take holidaymakers around Britain’s inland waterways. The award was presented at the Association’s recent national AGM, held this year in Llangollen at a hotel beside the River Dee.

Neil Thomsett and Gill Cookson, joint chairs of the Hotel Boat section of APCO, presented the award to Bryn, who was joined by British Waterways North Wales & Borders colleagues Wendy Capelle and Stephen Maguire.

Fantastic ambassador for the River Weaver

The River Weaver near Anderton, Cheshire

The deciduous woodland is part of the Anderton Nature Park east of the famous boat lift. The narrowboats will use the lift to join the Trent and Mersey Canal fifty feet higher in level.

The River Weaver is navigable in its lower reaches, and flows in a curving route anti-clockwise across west Cheshire and into the Manchester Ship Canal. Before that canal was built the river flowed into the River Mersey at Weston Marsh.

  © Copyright Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Neil thanked Bryn for all his hard work, great humour and invaluable information, saying: “The Weaver navigation is such a lovely river – beautiful Cheshire countryside, fascinating industry and the drama of descending the Anderton Boat Lift and entering the vastness of Saltersford Lock. Bryn is always on hand to answer holidaymakers’ questions and help hotel boat crews as he works us through.

“Saltersford is a big deep lock and our safety is paramount for Bryn, whilst he imparts amazing statistics and history to our clients marvelling at the 1.4 million gallons of water the lock holds. Meanwhile he is a fantastic ambassador for the area around the Weaver, showering holidaymakers with tourism information and guiding us to local amenities. Plus anything he doesn’t already know he will find out and pass on as we return up river.”

Bryn was delighted to receive the award and adds: “I am honoured to win the award on behalf of the Weaver team, it is a first for the river and it is wonderful to hear how the experience of boating the River Weaver and the service that British Waterways gives is so appreciated by the hotel boat holidaymakers and crews.”


Chairs appointed for Canal & River Trust Waterway Partnerships29th Nov 2011

The Canal & River Trust has appointed chairs to a number of the Waterway Partnerships that will play a role in the management of canals and rivers across the network.

Chairs have been appointed in Manchester & Pennine, North Wales & Borders, South Wales & Severn and Kennet & Avon. The chairs for the Partnerships in the West Midlands and North West, who have, to date, been trials, have been asked to and have agreed to continue.

A chair has also been recruited for the Museums Partnership, which will be the successor to The Waterways Trust Museums Management Board.

Supporting local waterways

Tony Hales, chair of The Canal & River Trust said: “I am delighted that such a high calibre of people have come forward to chair these important positions of governance within the Canal & River Trust.

“Each will prove to be well placed to champion the interests of their local waterways. The Waterways Partnerships are integral to the stewardship and development of the network, providing new perspectives and insights, opening up new resources and ideas, and giving local people a greater opportunity to support their local canals and rivers: something that is integral to the success of the Canal & River Trust.”

Chairs are now being sought for the remaining Waterway Partnerships in the North East, Central Shires, East Midlands, South East and London and recruitment for the All Wales Partnership is continuing.

Calling on volunteers

The Canal & River Trust is also calling on volunteers who want to actively support the two-century old canal network to join their local Partnership and get involved and advise on how the waterways are used and looked after. Each Partnership will consist of at least eight volunteers who will be drawn from the local community and who will collectively have a broad spectrum of expertise relevant to the development of the waterways.

Experience in fundraising, volunteering, finance, planning and regeneration, boating, environment, heritage, engineering, community engagement, and working with partners in local government are all relevant.

All positions on the Partnerships will be unpaid, but agreed expenses will be reimbursed.

Those interested in joining a newly appointed chair on their local Waterway Partnership or in applying for one of the remaining positions of chair will be able to find role descriptions and application details at www.waterscape.com/trust from Thursday 1 December.

Applications for membership open on Friday 9 December 2011.