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Saturday 14 January

Rumours grow about delay in transfer to Trust status

In the absence of definite news, speculation is growing that the launch of the new Canal & River Trust might be delayed past its original launch date of 1st April. The transition trustees are continuing to negotiate with Defra, particularly over the issue of government funding for the next decade. It is said that trustees are arguing firmly that an annual grant of £39million is insufficient to give the Trust the ‘flying start’ it desperately needs. 

BW and Defra are refusing to comment publicly. However, sources close to negotiations believe that a final agreement is ‘very close’, likely before the end of January. Once agreed, the transfer needs to be approved by Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but any delay in negotiations will put pressure on the parliamentary timetable. Conceivably this could delay approval for months, although both BW and Defra consider it unlikely. 

Rumours on some websites that ‘selected journalists’ were privately briefed on the delay seem wide of the mark. Indeed, the transition trustees released a public report on the negotiations last month. It pointed out: 

“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 … it is all taking place much longer than either party would wish.”

However, even if there is no delay in the move to Trust status on 1st April, the public launch could be delayed until mid-June, to ensure it does not clash with the planned Diamond Jubilee festivities over the Whitsun bank holiday or the Olympics the following month. 

WW understands that should there be any delay in Trust status, it will also include the transfer of the Scottish waterways to Scottish government control. 

Andrew Denny  | 1.38pm | add a comment

Friday 13 January

Today's news from the web

  • Problems with the towpath in Banbury - a reader writes to Banbury Guardian banburyguardian.co.uk

    Regarding the letter about litter on the waterways (Banbury Guardian, December 29). If Mr Hunt has any luck with British Waterways I would like to know how he did it. I am in dispute with British Waterways (BW) over the condition of the towpath. I live on my boat and pay all that is required by me to BW. If you complain they have one stock answer, ‘no money’. I said I would withhold one month’s mooring fee to purchase gravel to put on the towpath to stop people falling over on the mud due to the poor condition of the path....

  • River Cam price hike river chiefs 'morally corrupt' cambridge-news.co.uk

    Boaters in Cambridge are opposing steep new charges approved by the Conservators of the River Cam yesterday, include new charges to boat users in Cambridge, as well as raised licence fees for those who live on the river. Anyone taking part in a competition on the river will have to pay 10p for each event and visitors who arrive by boat will have to pay £60 for a licence, even if just passing through....

Thursday 12 January

Today's news from the web

  • Design selected for footbridge over the Witham at Boston bbc.co.uk

    An outline design for a new footbridge in the centre of a Lincolnshire town has been selected. Three ideas were put forward by the county council for the £600,000 crossing at the River Witham in Boston. In a public consultation the high bowstring design beat competition from a lower arch and a more traditional concept. It will replace the current St Botolph's Bridge which engineers have said has structural problems....

Wednesday 11 January

Crinan Canal improvements

Scotland's busiest inland waterway, the nine-mile Crinan Canal, is expected to see continued growth in 2012, helped by two new developments. 

The newly separate British Waterways Scotland will now offer assisted lock operation for boats with only one or two people on board, while the new Crinan facilities building will be opening this summer as part of the European INTERREG IVA Sail West Programme, which jointly funded construction. 

Almost 2,000 transits were made in 2011, but the canal is still a long way from maximum capacity. The improvements are partly intended to encourage boaters to linger on the waterway and explore the area, instead of treating it as a simple transit to avoid the 85 mile coastal passage around the Mull of Kintyre. A transit licence is valid for four days, and BW Scotland says that the canal has much to offer as a tourist destination.

The Crinan Canal 
Photo: cc-by-sa jkydesign @ www.sxc.hu 

Andrew Denny  | 12.57pm | add a comment

GU Tring summit closed

With water levels in the south-east at an all-time winter low, BW is taking the unprecedented step of stopping the Tring summit level of the Grand Union Canal for the rest of the winter season, and allowing the water level to drop by around 12 inches to conserve water supplies. 

The stop planks are going in at Northmoor Top Lock (No. 49, near Berkhamsted) and at Marsworth Bottom Lock (No. 39, near Marsworth Junction) – will allow the water level to be lowered to below the upper section of the canal bank, which BW says is the section most prone to leaks. However, BW says this reduced level will not allow boats to safely moor or navigate and have given a week's notice to allow boats to escape the stoppage. The Aylesbury Arm is also being closed. 

BW says 2011 was the driest year for the south east since records began, and in some parts the groundwater tables and reservoir holdings are still much lower than normal winter levels. 

Jeff Whyatt, senior waterway manager, said: “The top part of the canal bank is often most susceptible to leaks due to the fact that it is continually wetted and dried and it is also subject to holes or cracks formed by burrowing animals and ‘wash’ from passing boats. By taking this action now, we hope to be better able to conserve water and be less reliant on our groundwater pumps which can then be used later in the year”.

 “Despite recent storms, groundwater levels remain lower than normal for this time of year which, in turn, means that reservoirs in the Tring area are refilling slower than would normally be expected.  This is placing increasing pressure on the reservoirs which are still required at this time of year to maintain the canal at a normal operational level.
BW anticipate the closure remaining until the start of the summer hours in March, but will be reviewing it weekly.

Andrew Denny  | 12.12pm | 2 comments

Tuesday 10 January

Thames toll bridge work postponed

Repairs to the private Whitchurch toll bridge near Pangbourne have been postponed for a year. The £3.8million project was originally scheduled to start later this year, but it has now been delayed until the autumn of next year and will not be completed until April 2014. 

The Whitchurch Bridge Company blamed objections by English Heritage and the need to keep the bridge open to navigation for the whole summer season. 

The company submitted applications to South Oxfordshire District Council and West Berkshire Council in May but only obtained permission in December.

A spokesman for the bridge company said: "The Environment Agency has told us it wants the bridge open to boat traffic for the whole of the summer this year. We are also disappointed with the response from English Heritage, which we don’t think has properly understood the engineering evidence about the condition of the bridge."

The company says it will inspect the 100 year old bridge frequently in the meantime, and describes it as “in poor condition structurally”. 

Andrew Denny  | 5.27pm | add a comment

Monday 9 January

Rolle Canal benefits from £40,000 lottery money

The historic Rolle Canal will be one of three areas to benefit from a £40,000 Heritage Lottery Grant on North Devon's scenic Tarka Trail.

The grant will enable work to highlight the cultural heritage of Fremington Quay, Home Farm Marsh and the remains of the Rolle Canal.  A viewing platform will be built between Land Cross and Torrington to help tell the story of the Rolle Canal before the railway. Users will be able to see the sea-lock of the canal at Landcross, and a walking path will be constructed at Furzebeam.

Andrew Denny  | 5.03pm | add a comment

Minister calls for more money for Caledonian Canal crossing

UK Treasury minister Danny Alexander has called on the Scottish government to ensure that the proposed crossing of the Caledonian Canal by the new Inverness bypass is properly funded, so that it does not affect navigation. 

Alexander, as the local MP, said that enough money should be found so that the 'best option' could be chosen for boaters as well as road users.

Highland Council is currently consulting on eight possible solutions for a crossing. They include building a second swing bridge over the canal close to the existing swing bridge at Tomnahurich, which causes long road tailbacks at peak times whenever a boat passes through. The second swing bridge would allow traffic to continue to flow, but present an extra barrier to boaters. 

After this, and other cheaper options, were criticised the council suggested either a high-level bridge spanning both the canal and the River Ness, or and an aqueduct and tunnel. Both options would be much more expensive but less obstructive to boats. However, the council said they are unaffordable. 

Andrew Denny  | 12.29pm | add a comment

Shobnall Boat Services ceases trading

We learned this morning that Shobnall Boat Services, the chandlery based in WW's home town of Burton-on-Trent, has ceased trading.

Owner Andy Garside said: "We have fallen victim to this terrible recession and have seen a marked down-turn in business over the last two years, coupled with increased competition. We were fortunately only 1 - 2 days away from completing work on a repaint of the only boat we had in our workshop at the time, and through the tremendous support of our staff (now unpaid) and a tremendously generous offer from Robert Neff at Mercia Marina of the use of his dry dock for a couple of days, we have been able to completely finish the work to the customer's total satisfaction."

The site is owned by the long-established Jannel Cruisers (01283 540006/07837 546032), who operate the moorings at Shobnall Basin - which are not affected. They hope to be able to reopen the dry-dock, gas and sales in the next few weeks. Shobnall's surveyor Iain Jones is continuing to work on a self-employed basis (07860 119476).

Richard Fairhurst  | 1.40pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Thames Motor Boat Association's 'Etiquette Guide' tmba.org.uk

    The Thames Motor Boat Association has published its own River Etiquette For Boaters guide. The 15-point single-page guide has a dozen 'DO's' and three 'DON'Ts'. 

    While most of the points will be familiar to non-Thames users, a few are specific to the unique Thames culture, such as 'DO turn of your engine when in locks', and 'DON'T leave large spaces at mooring sites. Be prepared to move to make better use of space when other boats arrive or leave.' 

  • Stop the whining: Thames hydroelectric generator at Oxford is too noisy oxfordtimes.co.uk

    Neighbours who originally welcomed a green hydro-electricity scheme are now complaining it is driving them round the twist. The residents living near Osney Mill – which is being re-developed to house 10 flats – thought the Archimedes screw was a good idea to generate electricity from the flow of the neighbouring River Thames. But now they say they can’t stand the noise from the hydroelectric generator, which became active just before Christmas....

  • Thames Heritage Tapestry unveiled at Ashmolean Museum bbc.co.uk

    The first glimpse of a giant tapestry made by children from more than 200 schools along the River Thames has been unveiled at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. A 3m (9.8ft) by 14m (46ft) portion of the artwork was shown in which 84 of the schools have each contributed a 1m (3.3ft) square canvas. The Thames Heritage Tapestry project will be completed in time for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, by which time it will be 84m (275ft) long....

  • Roman 'brothel' coin found in Thames mud at Putney dailymail.co.uk

    An explicit coin used to pay for pleasure has been found in the Thames mud at Putney. The girl would have handed over the token to the brothel keeper — possibly a freed slave, a Roman or an enterprising Briton. Somehow it ended up in the mud of the Thames where, 2,000 years later, it has recently been found by amateur archaeologist Regis Cursan with a metal detector. He has donated it to the Museum of London, where it will now be on display for three months. ...

  • New Chesterfield canal basin is full chesterfieldpost.co.uk

    It's a major milestone for the Canal, with the basin years in the planning, after construction started last March. Throughout the process there have been excited local people standing on bridges admiring the works and now the finished basin is already attracting lots of positive interest from walkers and cyclists as well as canal lovers....

  • Kidderminster paper launches £7,000 Stourport boat appeal kidderminstershuttle.co.uk

    A £7,000 appeal has been launched in Stourport by local news paper the Kidderminster Shuttle to restore historic narrowboat Bramble, based at Stourport Canal Basins. The appeal will finance much-needed mechanical and electrical work, furnish new cloth covers and fenders, repaint the boat and install a new prop shaft. The volunteers also intend to furnish the interior with historical replica items. A Fellows, Morton & Clayton motor dating from 1934, Bramble was donated by British Waterways to local group Stourport Forward, who plan to use it for education and boat trips. ...

  • Work begins on new Thames road bridge at Walton bbc.co.uk

    Work has begun on the first new road bridge over the River Thames in nearly 20 years. The £32m crossing between Walton-on-Thames and Shepperton is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013, and will replace two long-serving temporary bridges. ...

Friday 6 January

Today's news from the web

  • New Oxford Canal marinas get go-ahead cropredymarina.com

    At a meeting on 5th January, Cherwell District Council’s planning committee gave final planning permission for two new marinas on the South Oxford Canal at Cropredy, both to be built on farming land, giving a total of 280 berths. 

    The largest, with 249 berths, will be Cropredy Marina, to be sited north of the village, above Broadmoor Lock. It will not have a boatyard or residential moorings, but will include basic canalside facilities including diesel, pumpout and sanitary station, and a slipway. 

    At the other end of the village, near the BW facilities at Cropredy Wharf, the smaller marina, as yet unnamed, will have only 31 non-residential full-length berths and no facilities for passing boaters. The marina's owner said he was considering holding a competition amongst local children to select a name for it.  

    Local opposition to both marinas was considerable. In particular, the local primary school complained that the smaller marina, being adjacent to the school, would present a “risk of drowning” to the pupils, and that the school’s ‘forest school’ nature lessons would be threatened. 

    In addition, claims were also voiced about the potential extra traffic stressing water supply on the Fenny Compton summit level. However, the planners decided that overall benefits to boaters and the local economy outweighed all objections. 

    Cropredy Marina is being developed by the owners of Crick Marina, who said that the Oxford Canal badly needed more offline moorings. “Presently, there is only one small offline marina on the Oxford Canal in the 44 miles between Oxford and Napton, which is reflected in the large numbers of boats moored along the banks of the canal.” 


Thursday 5 January

Today's news from the web

  • Cropredy marina plan 'could put children in danger' thisisoxfordshire.co.uk

    Children’s lives could be put at risk if a marina is built next to a primary school, it has been warned. Residents said the plan for a marina for 31 boats and 21 parking spaces at School Lane, Cropredy, posed a “risk of drowning” to Cropredy Primary School pupils....

  • Full steam ahead for Cotswold canal work thisisgloucestershire.co.uk

    Canal restoration work has been steaming ahead at half a dozen locations along the Stroud valleys. The ongoing reopening of the waterways between Stonehouse and Brimscombe includes new bridges, locks, flood gates and an overflow weir. The renovation sites are all part of Phase 1A of the major scheme to eventually reopen the long-disused canal link between the rivers Severn and Thames....

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