Tag Archives: Waterway Watcher

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 – Waterway Watcher – Help save historic canal boat in Stourport

Canal News

Waterway Watcher

Help save historic canal boat in Stourport

Posted by Waterway Watcher on January 10th, 2012

9th Jan 2012

An appeal has been launched to restore a historic canal boat at Stourport Canal Basins. The Bramble was donated by British Waterways to local group Stourport Forward.

Volunteers from Stourport Forward plan to refurbish the Bramble so that it can be used for education and possibly boat trips. Some of the volunteers also give their time to the British Waterways Historic Working Fleet, so they are able to bring their heritage expertise to the project.

The appeal, which is being run by local community newspaper The Shuttle, aims to raise enough money to give the boat a new prop shaft, carry out mechanical and electrical work, new covers and fenders, and carry out mechanical and electrical work. The volunteers also intend to repaint the boat and furnish the interior with historical replica items.

Life on a working boat

Jim Amos, the Stourport Forward volunteer in charge of the Bramble Appeal said: “This is such a wonderful opportunity to restore Bramble for use as a historic working canal boat on site.

“Visitors will be able to step inside the recently restored canal boat, see the way that the boat would have been furnished with rag rugs, lace plates and even a table that converts into a bed and learn about what it would have been like to live in tiny living quarters and the physical labour involved in working on a canal boat in times past.”

If you would like to donate to the Bramble Appeal, make cheques payable to Stourport Forward Limited and send them to Jennifer Meierhans, at The Shuttle, 6 Towers Buildings, Blackwell Street, Kidderminster DY10 2DY. Please include your contact details as Stourport Forward would like to respond with letters of thanks to all those supporting the appeal.

If you can help with materials for Bramble’s refurbishment, contact Jennifer Meierhans on 01562 633346.

For more details of the appeal, contact Shuttle editor Clive Joyce on 01384 358282.

Canal News – Update from Canal & River Trustees by Water Watcher

Update from Canal & River Trustees, Dec 2011

Posted by Waterway Watcher on December 22nd, 2011

22 December 2011

The Transitional Trustees of the Canal & River Trust report:

1. Introduction

Since our last update in October we have continued to make good progress in forming the Canal & River Trust and, as 2011 draws to a close, we thought it would be useful to bring you up to date. A huge amount has been achieved over recent months towards transforming British Waterways in England & Wales into the Canal & River Trust. While the Parliamentary process looks as if it will now take longer than we had previously been advised, putting pressure on an April launch date, all the building blocks needed to establish the new Trust next year are falling into place.

Our knowledge and understanding of the waterways continues to grow apace, and we are grateful to all those inside and outside BW for their willingness to discuss openly the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We have been hugely encouraged by the growing support and commitment to the Trust amongst stakeholders and the public and passionately believe that this enormous goodwill will be the bedrock on which we can all build a better and more stable future for our waterways.

2. Government Funding

We said in our October statement that we needed to persuade Government to increase their offer of £39m a year for 10 years. This remains one of the most important unresolved pieces of the Trust’s jigsaw. It is all taking a lot longer than either party would wish but given the challenge this is perhaps not surprising. We are still in detailed discussions with Defra that we hope to be able to bring to a conclusion early next year. We are pleased to report that all the meetings with Defra have been constructive and understanding.

At a recent All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group meeting the Waterways Minister, Richard Benyon, confirmed that the discussions were ongoing and being conducted in a professional and cooperative atmosphere. He expressed confidence that an agreement would be reached and reiterated his commitment to give the Canal & River Trust “the best possible start within the current funding restraints of government”. The Chair of the APPWG and MPs present were all positive about the creation of the Trust and expressed their encouragement for a fair and reasonable settlement to the funding discussions.

To read the full article go to :  http://www.waterwaywatch.org/

Staffordshire Police set up local Canal Watch


 Staffordshire Police set up local Canal Watch


Staffordhire Police have started a brilliant new initiative on Facebook, a canal watch. Visit and contribute by surfing to http://www.facebook.com/StaffordshireCanalWatch. Perhaps by supporting this service we can encourage other police forces to take boat crime more seriously.

I have suggested to the organisers of Staffordshire Canal Watch that they also start a Twitter page and have asked them to send Waterwaywatch regular bulletins so that we can publish them here too.

They have requested help for the following incidents:

Can you help??
We are appealing for witnesses after a woman had her handbag stolen. This happened yesterday, Tues 23 August, at approximately 6.35pm. The woman got onto the towpath at Cromer Road and was heading towards Abbey Hulton. The offender was a male on a red bike wearing a black hoody, cycling the other way towards Hanley.
Any information please ring us as soon as possible on 0300 123 4455, quoting log number 642,23/8/11.

On Sunday 4 September, there was a report of anti-social behaviour on theTrentandMerseycanal. Groups of youngsters were sitting on benches, nearWyggeston Street,BurtononTrent, clearly under the influence of drink or drugs.

Local officers ask that if anybody witnesses such behaviour, to ring Staffordshire Police on 0300 123 4455.
Any problems relating to litter (especially bottles or glass), fly-tipping or other environmental issues can be reported to British Waterways on 01827 252000.

In early hours of Mon 5 September, damage was caused to 2 boats moored up on theTrentandMerseycanal in Alrewas area. The canvas on one boat was slashed and there was a footprint on the window. Youths were heard and seen walking past, in drink, during the night and the man on the boat heard a bang and discovered the damage in the morning. Anyone with any information about this or who is victim of damage to their boats within Staffordshire, please ring Staffordshire Police on 0300 123 4455.

A boat was reported broken into on Tues 6th Sept. The boat was moored up on theCaldonCanal, 1/2 mile from The Boat Inn and bridge no.45, Cheddleton area. Nothing was stolen however a fire extinguisher was set off inside.

Officers are asking that anyone living near the area or using the canal towpath regularly is extra vigilant and reports any suspicious people around the boats to us on 0300 123 4455. In an emergency always dial 999.

Damage has been caused to the window of a boat on theTrent & Mersey Canal, Trentham area. A small window on the boat was smashed, possibly on the evening of Tues 6th. It is not known how it happened. Can anyone in the area, living near the canal or using the towpath, please be vigilant. Anything or anyone suspicious, please report on 0300 123 4455.

If anyone has any information about this damage or any incidents listed on this page, you can ring Crimestoppers annonymously on 0800 555 111 too.

The organisers tell me that Canal Watch is fully supported by British Waterways and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. For fire safety advice onboard your boats and free smoke alarm fittings, please call 0800-0241-999 or go to www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk

They offer the following tips to help keep your property safe:

– Make sure valuables are kept out of sight
– Turn off gas and fuel supply valves when not in use
– Report suspicious behaviour to the police
– Fit good quality locks and alarms to your boat
– Fire can spread quickly, even on water. Alarms and detectors could save your life

Anyone who is an existing member of Canal Watch (and of course, those who want to join in future) can now have one of our information packs. These contain fire and safety information, window stickers, 2-3 suspicious incident report forms, contact details for Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and hints on what details to have handy if you should have to ring the emergency services from your boat, to help those services find you quickly.


Canal News – Money floods in for waterways

Caldon Canal

Money floods in for waterways

 Posted by Waterway Watcher on July 31st, 2011

The Dewsbury News of 30 July 2011 reports that local waterways have been given a funding boost.

The Big Lottery Fund has donated £174,000 to a project that will use the Calder and Hebble Navigation and River Calder in Dewsbury to address a range of social issues in the town.The Dewsbury Water Linked project will be run over three years by Kirklees Council and British Waterways.

British Waterways’ enterprise manager Graham Ramsden said: “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this stage but we’re delighted to have secured the funding.

“Dewsbury’s waterways are a fantastic resource and this project will use them to address some of the key issues we face in the area.

”The scheme will host activities and events to help people find work, combat unhealthy lifestyles and deal with community unrest.

The Dewsbury Water Linked project promises to help members of different of ethnic and social groups to work together on environmental projects, such as building habitats for the town’s wildlife.

It will also provide activities for young people, such as cycling, canoeing and walking, and they will be encouraged to use the waterways as a healthy, eco-friendly route to school.

There will also be opportunities for adults to improve their employment prospects through training sessions and develop more skills by volunteering.

An officer will soon be appointed to oversee the project, with a view to starting the activities in September.Mr Ramsden said: “The canals not only provide a physical link between communities but also give a shared sense of belonging and ownership.

“This project will help to bring people together and improve the quality of life for people of all ages and backgrounds.

“The project is a great example of how canals continue to play an important role in our daily lives.River Calder, Hebden Bridge

 Looking downstream from Station Road, towards the weir on the River Calder.

  © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Canal News – The Big Society cruises up local canals, Yorkshire way.

The Big Society cruises up local canals

Rochdale Canal – The bridge carries Tower Hill Road.              © Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Posted by Waterway Watcher on July 9th, 2011

In an article “The Big Society Cruises up Yorkshire’s Canals’, Len Tingle, Political Editor in Yorkshire suggests that it might come as a surprise to some that one of the first chunks of “big government” being taken over by the Big Society will be our 200 year old canal network.

As most waterways supporters know, 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 new waterways charity (NWC) – loosely modelled on the National Trust  – is expected to take control next spring amidst concerns from influential voices in Yorkshire and other parts of the 2,000 mile inland waterway network. The concern is 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 at the end of June.

Bequeathed millions

“Firstly we are gifting to the new charity £400m worth of property,”  Benyon told Tingle when he interviewed him for the Politics Show for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire

“Its always been there subject to any government having a dawn raid to grab those assets and sell them for other purposes. Now they are going to the charity and no government in the future will be able to touch them.”

The charity will be able to gear up against that and increase their income from that property portfolio.”

“In fact, rental income from the huge amount of canalside property will be a major part of the future income of the new charity. More will come from existing licences and fees paid by canal users”, said Benyon.

Funding fears

But waterway stakeholder user groups  point agree with Tingle’s point that this will still leave a substantial funding gap. Insiders say that the gap appeared in 2006 when DEFRA, at the time with David Miliband at the helm, dramatically and suddenly cut waterways budgets and since then British Waterways (BW) has been running with a £30 million annual maintenance deficit. This deficit exists with a current grant from government of around £50 million but the deal offered by government for the new charity is only an annual flat-rate subsidy of £39m for the first 15 years of the charity. Tingle suggests that after that the charity will probably be on its own.

The influential Huddersfield Canal Society (HCS)  says that is not good enough. It fears that routine maintenance and future development of the network will suffer.Standedge Visitor Centre

© Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tingle reports that Alan Stopher from HCS met him at the entrance to the amazing Standedge tunnel which was built 200 years ago to take the Huddersfield narrow canal under the Pennines to Lancashire.

Governance of the New Charity

“That is the big issue for us,” Stopher said. “We are concerned about governance of the new body and whether it can take on board the work of enthusiasts in the same way as the National Trust. Volunteers are the key to the canals future financial success. They will be asked to help cut costs by “adopting” sections of canal and carrying out routine maintenance such as weeding banks and re-painting locks”.

The new charity will be created by mutualising  British Waterways (BW), the government organisation which has run the canals since the 1960s. Tingle reports that, BW’s director of enterprise in the North, Julia Sharman, is confident the new charity will be a success. She believes the financial settlement is adequate:

“We need to put the waterways on a secure financial footing and we need to be able to plan for the future. From day one of the new charity we will have a funding arrangement that will last for 15 years minimum. That in itself will give us a far better position”, she said.Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Mossley

© Copyright huddersfield canal mossley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Too important to ignore

But BW’s own reported figures backed by a report by consultants KPMG and most waterway stakeholders do not agree with Sharman’s optimistic opinion on the key funding issue.

Tingle’s report goes on to quote Nigel Stevens of  Shire Cruisers.

“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”.

Nigel, who runs the holiday barges company Shire Cruisers from a marina at Sowerby Bridge near Halifax, is one of the industry insiders that has a different view to Sharman. Tingle reports that he says successive governments have already squeezed its subsidy – down from £70m a few years ago to around £50m now.  He rejects suggestions that in times of economic hardship canals are unlikely to be given much priority for government funding. I feel a better agreement will eventually be achieved because the canals are too important to ignore,”  he told Tingle.Rochdale Canal Lock 1, Sowerby Bridge – This is the start of the Rochdale Canal. Beyond the lock is the end of the Calder and Hebble Navigation that runs eastwards.

  © Copyright michael ely and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

“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”, said Stephens.

Waterway Watch comments:

Stephens’ view reflects the opinion of most waterways stakeholder groups and insiders. It is estimated that BW spend over £15 million each year on peripheral maintenance issues like keeping towpaths clear for local users like walkers, cyclists and anglers; rubbish removal; repairing bridges damaged by local traffic;  clearing  up the results of anti-social behaviour, etc. – all issues that would normally be paid for by local authorities. The current £39 million on offer by government makes no contribution to such important, but clearly local, costs and this will only add to the £30 million maintenance deficit.

The new charity will take on all of the statutory responsibilities of British Waterways that are described in the Transport Act of 1968. This and related acts legally binds BW – and therefore its successor the new charity – to maintain the cruising and commercial waterways in a state suitable for navigation and so, as has been happening since the cuts of 2006, the funding shortfall has left BW with no option other than to ensure that the navigation is safe and spread the funding shortfall by cutting back on the maintenance of less critical issues like towpath maintenance, optimal dredging and general good practice like preventative maintenance of many of the thousands of 200 year old navigation structures like bridges, locks, embankments, culverts, aqueducts etc.  Waterway Watch and most if not all stakeholder groups believe this at best a Penny-wise, Pound foolish policy that will cost more in the long term and is probably also risky because it significantly increases the chances of something critical failing.  As a public body BW is to all intents and purposes an arm of government and so has little choice to get on with the budget it inherits from DEFRA but it is another matter if the new charity is expected to take on the same duties with even less funding if the £39 million currently on offer is not increased. This critical negotiation is initially in the hands of the Transitional Trustees but whatever is agreed must also gain the approval of the Charity Commission. We face interesting times ahead.No 2 Lock Sowerby Bridge

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

Canal News – Updated, June 8th

First ever head of fundraising appointed for new waterways charity

Posted by Waterway Watcher on June 1st, 2011

1st Jun 2011

Ruth Ruderham has been appointed as the first ever head of fundraising for the New Waterways Charity, which will manage the canals and rivers in England and Wales.

This latest announcement follows last week’s news that transition trustees have been selected for the charity, which is expected to launch in 2012.Ruth has more than a decade of fundraising experience and will come to the new waterways charity from Christian Aid, where she has helped the organisation to grow income beyond £100m for the first time in its history.

She has also previously worked at Friends of the Earth and Crisis.

In 2005 Ruth was named Professional Fundraiser of the Year.

Simon Salem, director of marketing at British Waterways, says: “The nation’s 200-year-old canals need a sustainable plan for their future, which is why we have been championing the move to charitable status for some time. Voluntary fundraising will be an important part of this and I extend a very warm welcome to Ruth, who joins the team with an outstanding record in fundraising growth, strategy and, most importantly, income. Ruth will lead the waterways charity into a new era of voluntary giving. It’s one of the most exciting fundraising challenges around right now.”

Exciting plans

Ruth says: “I am delighted to join British Waterways at this critical stage in the history of the waterways and it is an incredible privilege to be the first fundraiser the new charity will ever employ.

The plans that British Waterways have already developed are really exciting and I can’t wait to start recruiting supporters of this unique and important cause.”

Ruth will further develop the voluntary fundraising strategy for the new charity which has been put together by British Waterways and specialist Think Consulting.