Canal Boat - - This Month -

Bas­ingstoke’s plans; North-west link shut un­til June; Avon fees de­fended; the high cost of bridge bashes; Tun­nel Vi­sion ap­peal; act now on HS2 threat; WRG asks the fam­ily; lock­ies wanted

PRO­POS­ALS TO TRANS­FER the Bas­ingstoke to the Canal & River Trust are un­likely to come to fruition in the fore­see­able fu­ture, fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions which found the idea ‘un­af­ford­able’.

Ever since its re­open­ing in 1991 fol­low­ing restora­tion work, the canal has strug­gled for main­te­nance fund­ing. A ‘gen­tle­men’s agree­ment’ be­tween Sur­rey and Hamp­shire county coun­cils (who took over own­er­ship) and other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties sel­dom pro­vided ad­e­quate fi­nance, es­pe­cially when the smaller au­thor­i­ties failed to pay their cal­cu­lated con­tri­bu­tion.

The de­te­ri­o­rat­ing state of the canal led to fears for its fu­ture, but in 2012 a £4m pack­age from the county coun­cils en­abled over­due main­te­nance to be tack­led. How­ever, there re­mains a £ 6m back­log, and the wa­ter­way’s long-term sur­vival also de­pends on more on­go­ing fund­ing.

A re­port com­mis­sioned by the county coun­cils re­duced 11 op­tions to a short­list of four: (1) statu­tory min­i­mum in­ter­ven­tion; (2) re­tain­ing the sta­tus quo of tar­geted main­te­nance; (3) in­vest­ment to achieve a ‘steady state’; and (4) trans­fer to CRT.

The re­port con­cluded that op­tion (1) did not meet the key ob­jec­tive of a sus­tain­able fu­ture, while op­tion (3) was found to be un­af­ford­able – as was op­tion (4) af­ter dis­cus­sions showed that the ‘dowry’ CRT would re­quire if it were to take on the li­a­bil­ity of the Bas­ingstoke Canal was too high for the coun­cils to af­ford.

This leaves op­tion (2), re­tain­ing the cur­rent man­age­ment and oper­a­tion of the canal, with the coun­cils rec­om­mended to ‘de­velop a busi­ness case’ based on this.

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