EA ad­mits rivers threat due to cash curbs

Canal Boat - - News -

AN AD­MIS­SION BY the En­vi­ron­ment Agency that its Anglian rivers face the threat of in­def­i­nite clo­sures due to un­af­ford­able re­pairs has brought the pro­posed trans­fer of the agency’s wa­ter­ways to the Canal & River Trust into sharp fo­cus.

The threat was high­lighted by the In­land Wa­ter­ways As­so­ci­a­tion, whose at­ten­tion had been drawn by a boater to a com­ment in the min­utes of a meet­ing be­tween CRT and the EA.

It was stated that “an op­tion which may need to form part of the dis­cus­sion with gov­ern­ment is the pos­si­bil­ity that we may have to close some nav­i­ga­tions in the fu­ture (on health and safety grounds) if we’re un­able to fund the re­pair and main­te­nance of the as­sets”. But that “This is not an op­tion that CRT are com­fort­able with propos­ing as ‘keep­ing nav­i­ga­tions open is our rai­son d’etre’.”

IWA Na­tional Chair­man Les Etheridge said that “threats of clo­sure to cur­rently nav­i­ga­ble wa­ter­ways while in the gov­ern­ment’s care are sim­ply un­ac­cept­able”. The as­so­ci­a­tion pointed out that it had been “warn­ing for many years that just such an ac­tion was go­ing to be the likely re­sult of years of per­sis­tent and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing un­der­fund­ing”.

Although the EA com­ments re­ferred specif­i­cally to the Anglian rivers such as the Great Ouse (pic­tured), Wel­land and Nene, IWA reaf­firmed its sup­port for a trans­fer of all EA wa­ter­ways in­clud­ing the Thames to CRT as the “best so­lu­tion” – which is “con­di­tional on suf­fi­cient fund­ing”.

That ‘suf­fi­cient fund­ing’ has been one of the main stum­bling blocks on the var­i­ous oc­ca­sions such a trans­fer has been dis­cussed in re­cent years, as un­like CRT the EA has no com­mer­cial prop­erty port­fo­lio to pro­vide an in­come – so CRT will not and can­not ac­cept the rivers with­out a ‘dowry’ be­ing pro­vided by the Gov­ern­ment. How­ever the lat­est dis­cus­sions (which the above meet­ing formed part of) have now reached the point where de­tailed work on as­set con­di­tion is draw­ing to a close, and the two au­thor­i­ties hope to come up with a propo­si­tion ‘within months’. This could lead to a pos­si­ble de­ci­sion by the Gov­ern­ment on whether it has the re­sources to pro­vide what is nec­es­sary as early as this sum­mer.

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