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Campaigns Focus

THE THREAT TO ANGLIAN WATERWAYS The background

The Anglian Water Authority Act of 1977 provides a Right of Navigation on most (but not all) of the waterways in EA’s Anglian Region. However, minutes of a meeting last year to discuss the proposed transfer of EA navigations to the Canal & River Trust (obtained by a Freedom of Information request) show that EA could renege on this duty if “unable to fund the repair and maintenance of the assets”. Three locks in the Anglian region are already closed, with EA maintaining it is unable to reopen them due to current funding restraints. It is only a matter of time before further navigation assets are closed, potentially on waterways that are well used and provide links or throughroutes to other waterways, a situation that IWA regards as unacceptable.

What’s happened since?

Correspondence with EA at the highest level has done nothing to allay IWA’s concerns. Nor have a series of questions posed on our behalf in Parliament. Indeed, in February the Waterway Minister stated: “If there is a safety risk to members of the public then repairs will be undertaken to remove the risk or the asset will be closed.” Thérèse Coffey went on to say: “The Environment Agency will consider the Summer 2017 013 campaign focus SH.indd 13

restoration and re-opening of closed navigable waterways depending on the amount of future funding available and the importance, such as the level of use, of the waterway to be re-opened.” IWA’s position? This simply isn’t good enough. The “level of use” should not be a significant factor in whether or not a waterway is reopened, particularly on those waterways with a statutory right of navigation. The Association also maintains that level of use is often low only because waterways have been so poorly maintained in the past as to make navigation extremely difficult – or even impossible – for all but the smallest craft. IWA national chairman Les Etheridge said: “Dr Coffey has expressed a keen interest in our waterways on a number of occasions since taking office, so we can only think that she has been incompletely briefed by EA officials as to the seriousness of the present funding crisis, which we have been warning about for years. “We know EA’s navigation teams are doing what they can under difficult circumstances. What IWA is doing is making clear to the minister that, regardless of whether EA waterways are transferred to the management of Canal & River Trust, they need to receive increased funding from Government to halt the progressive deterioration that is currently taking place.”

IWA’s campaign

IWA has delivered a comprehensive listing to the Waterways Minister of current closures on EA waterways, some of which date back to 2006 and redefine the concept of “temporary closure”. It is also campaigning for the waterways run by the Environment Agency to be transferred to CRT. Subject to a satisfactory funding package, this would enable Anglian waterways to benefit from improved maintenance through long-term asset management plans, third party funding opportunities and the economies of scale to be gained from being part of a larger navigation authority. IWA’s view is that whether or not this transfer happens, more money must be secured for their upkeep. Anything else is simply unacceptable given the benefits that waterways provide to the nation in terms of health, recreation, tourism and regeneration. The River Nene at Fotheringhay.

Brian Mansbridge

T

he Environment Agency recently revealed it’s prepared to close rivers to boaters on ‘health and safety’ grounds, instead of securing proper resources for their maintenance. Help IWA in its campaign to prevent EA ignoring its legal obligation to maintain navigation rights on much of its Anglian network.

Are Anglian boating scenes like this, on the River Great Ouse at St Ives, in jeopardy?

Tim Lewis

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20/04/2017 11:36

IWA Waterways Magazine - Summer 2017