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Tuesday 8 November

Waterways minister corrects previous statement about Freedom of Information

Waterways minister Richard Benyon has tried to quash speculation that the new Canal & River Trust would have to comply with the government Freedom of Information Act.  His original statement to Parliament on 13th October was widely taken to mean that the  Act would apply to the new charity. 

At the time he said: "The provisions that currently exist for British Waterways will follow through to the new charity."

However, following a flurry of public speculation, he was driven to issue a correction on 27th October, adding "The Government have not yet taken up a position on the matter." 

A final decision on the details of the new charity (including if it will be subject to the FoI Act) is expected at the end of November or in early December. 

Andrew Denny  | 4.47pm

EA private boat licences rise by 6.4%

Private boat licences on Environment Agency waters are increasing by 6.4% from January 2012. The rise represents a 2% increase over consumer inflation levels, and is planned to be the first of three such annual rises until 2014. The EA says it will look at the impact of this first rise before deciding whether to continue this strategy. 

However, commercial boat operators will breathe more easily, as the EA says their licences are being frozen until 2015. 
In addition, licences will now be available on a ‘rolling’ basis, renewable from any month (instead of always running from January to December), and refunds for unused portions of licences will be available in certain circumstances.  

The three-year programme of rises reflects the government’s recent announcement that EA navigations may be merged into the new Canal and River Trust in 2015 if the launch of the Trust proceeds smoothly. 

“In an ideal world there would be no increase in our charges”, said the agency’s waterways manager, Angela Quayle. “But unfortunately the reality is that we need to deal with the increasing pressures of reduced public funding and inflation that we are faced with to help secure the future of our waterways. Our navigations face an uncertain future without such difficult actions and could quickly become unreliable and then unsafe to navigate if we fail to act.” 

Andrew Denny  | 4.06pm

Today's news from the web

  • 'Good Thames boaters caught on camera' says PLA server2.pla.co.uk

    The PLA has commissioned three films which follow boaters as they tackle the Thames safely. One, covering Southend to Crayfordness, highlights the protocols and regulations around navigating in the estuary and in close vicinity to large ocean-going ships. A second deals with getting through the Thames Barrier. And a third will show how to follow the rowing code between Putney and Richmond....

  • Hopes of holding Shrewsbury river festival every year shropshirestar.com

    While a 1,000-strong flotilla is travelling down the River Thames to mark the occasion on June 3 next year, Shrewsbury is planning to hold its own river festival to celebrate 60 years of the Queen’s reign. Shrewsbury and Shropshire Waterways and Leisure Group wants to get a fleet of boats to sail down the river as part of the festival. And Edward Goddard, chairman of Destination Shrewsbury which promotes the town, said he hoped it could take place every year. ...

  • Wey & Arun extension plans on public display bbc.co.uk

    Residents are being invited to comment on a project to open up a mile-long section of canal on the Surrey and Sussex border for boat trips. The Wey and Arun Canal Trust is holding a public exhibition in Dunsfold to ask for people's views before a formal planning permission is sought. The trust said Waverley Borough Council had been supportive during preliminary planning discussions. Work includes restoring the canal from Compasses Bridge to Tickner's Heath....

  • Monster alert on River Lea? express.co.uk

    A mystery creature that eats geese in the blink of an eye has returned to haunt murky waters around the £9billion Olympic Park. Six years ago there were fears a crocodile was stalking big birds as they were sucked from a river’s surface – never to be seen again. Some experts then suggested a giant turtle was the culprit, but before the riddle could be solved the killer monster apparently vanished. Now it seems to be back... ...

  • Thames Tunnel project launches consultation thamestunnelconsultation.co.uk

    A 14-week consultation starts today on Thames Water’s revised plans for the proposed Thames Tunnel, needed to help tackle the 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage that overflows annually into the River Thames from London’s Victorian sewerage network. Full details are available at www.thamestunnelconsultation.co.uk ...

  • Floating bookshop returns to Staffordshire after UK canal tour staffslive.co.uk

    A businesswoman has returned home and reopened her floating shop in Staffordshire after cruising the UK’s canal network for six months selling books. Sarah Henshaw, 28, travelled more than 1,000 miles in a converted narrowboat along the various canals of England and Wales on her Book Barge to promote independent bookshops. ... She said: “I would love to do it again. I have my eye on a Paris move next but there is small matter of the Channel to overcome first.” ...

  • Daniel Craig...and the Crinan Canal: 007 heads for Argyll entertainment.caledonianmercury.com

    Scotland is to once again set to host a maelstrom of Hollywood action, with another film crew and movie entourage set to commandeer the “wilds of Scotland” as a backdrop. Much of the filming will take place at Whitehall, as well as at Pinewood Studios, but Scotland, Shanghai and Istanbul will also have their role to play. Rumours abound as to the exact location for the Scottish part of the filming, but Duntrune Castle near the west end of the Crinan Canal is a favourite....

Monday 7 November

2012 Olympic Torch route includes waterways

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Black Country Museum, Foxton Locks and the Norfolk Broads are amongst many famous waterways locations to be featured when the Olympic Torch makes a tour around the UK next year on its way to the games. 

The Torch will make a 70-day tour around the entire country, beginning on 19th May, passing through over to 1,000 places, accompanied by a vehicle convoy.  Unlike most previous Olympics, it seems likely to travel in a specially adapted van in between locations.  This 'cheat' is so it could be seen as widely as possible – the route is estimated to be around 8,000 miles. 

Along the way the torch will pass through over 1,000 towns and villages – from Lands End to the Orkneys, from Enniskillen in the far west of Northern Ireland to the coast of Kent – before winding up at the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on 27th July.

The torch is expected to travel by boat across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, as well as to the Black Country Living Museum.  At a press launch this morning, the BCLM’s director, Andrew Lovett, said it would arrive on the museum’s narrowboat Stour. "It’s a real honour for the region and the museum, and is one for the history books”, said a clearly pleased Andrew Lovett. “It’s a chapter in our lives we will tell our children and grandchildren about."  

(L-R: Andrew Lovett, director of the Black Country Living Museum, with volunteers Gavin Guy and Dave Newell on Stour, the boat chosen to carry the Olympic Torch.)

Andrew Denny  | 4.16pm

Today's news from the web

  • Craft by craft, the amazing Thames flotilla that will mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee dailymail.co.uk

    ... It will be a very 'non-Royal navy', and will include craft that have played a role in national life, such as Churchill’s funeral boat, the Havengore, and Dunkirk Little Ships. Plying the waters of the Thames will be around 40 narrow boats and 20 of the Dutch barges favoured by river dwellers, more than 100 private motor boats, between 30 and 40 tugs and barges and around 250 rowing boats, including classic Thames cutters. ...

  • The Sealander - the caravan that thinks it's a boat caravantimes.co.uk

    Lightweight, micro caravans are often sold as a cheap, convenient way of exploring the great outdoors, but none of them can have such a strong claim to this as the Sealander. At just 380kg, this remarkable amphibious caravan, which was unveiled at the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon earlier this month, is light enough to be towed behind a Volkswagen Golf, and buoyant enough to double up as a boat. The brainchild of German industrial designer Daniel Straub, the Sealander is built using faserverbundtechnolgie (a material similar to carbon fibre) and features a modern Ikea-style pastel green and white interior. ...

Thursday 3 November

Today's news from the web

  • Olympic HQ built in secret for SAS thesun.co.uk

    The SAS will have a key role in massive security at the Olympics — using "black ops" boats to swoop via the Thames if terrorists attack. A secret new riverside base being built for the Who Dares Wins heroes in East London will be home to a fleet of the high-powered rigid inflatables. It means elite units can speed there "in seconds" using the network of waterways around the Olympic site that make it an island — with no fears about being held up in London's notorious traffic. The plan to enlist Old Father Thames as an ally was hatched as part of a ring of steel that will be thrown around the London Games next year....

  • Cheers to Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal’s uncovered history theboltonnews.co.uk

    Conservation enthusiasts are celebrating a milestone in their efforts to restore the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal to its former glory — after a piece of its history was unearthed outside a pub. When the canal was built, milestones were erected along its length at quarter mile intervals from Manchester so that canal owners could work out what to charge the boat owners carrying coal from the many collieries along the route. In the 1790s there were 62 of the large half-tonne stones but, when the canal fell into disrepair, more than half of them disappeared. Some ended up as garden ornaments and members of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Society believe one even toppled into the waterway, where it remains. In the summer members of the group took part in a walk along the canal, organised by the Milestone Society. The walkers stopped off at the Horseshoe pub in Ringley for refreshments and got chatting to manager Karl Quinlan. They were amazed when he told them he had recently dug up one of the huge stones from outside the building. ...

Wednesday 2 November

Write to your MPs over funding, urges IWA

In a statement headlined 'A Call To Arms', the Inland Waterways Association has pleaded for all waterways supporters to write to their MPs, opposing reports that the new Canal & River Trust could be offered only £39 million a year in funding when it is launched next April.

“This is just not enough”, the association claims. “Things are at a critical juncture for the transfer of British Waterways’ managed canals and rivers into the Canal & River Trust. The money is everything. A good deal from Defra will deliver a significant Big Society project, and secure the future of a national asset", says the statement. 

British Waterways itself estimates it already has a funding shortfall of £20 million a year, along with a safety maintenance backlog that in 2007 was estimated at £107 million and has continued to grow since. 

The shortfall does not take account of a large dredging backlog, incurred as a result of chronic underfunding, which will need a further £8-12 million per year to stabilise, and to support drainage, navigation and environmental requirements.

Furthermore, BW also has a pension deficit of £65 million, nearly 75% of which is for previous employees. “Ought this huge state-incurred liability be transferred over to the new charity? We are concerned that Defra is playing hardball, and trying to impose a lean deal just to get BW off its books”. 

The IWA warns there could be ‘another Defra-inspired disaster’ like the plan earlier this year to sell off the Forestry Commission, on which the government had to back down. 

Andrew Denny  | 6.08pm

BW Scotland recruiting non-executive directors

Following the decision to make British Waterways Scotland independent, the Scottish Executive is looking for non-executive directors to join their chair-designate, Dr Jon Hargreaves. 

The new Scottish board will be responsible for the strategic management and development of Scotland’s five canals – the Forth & Clyde, Union, Crinan, Caledonian and Monkland. 

It will also oversee the transition of British Waterways Scotland to being a self-standing Scottish public body when the new Canal and River Trust is launched in England and Wales on 1st April 2012. No name or logo redesign has yet been announced for the Scottish board.

No salaries or pensions are payable, but directors will earn a daily fee and expenses for up to 20 days a year. Closing date for applications is 28th November 2011. 

Further information can be found at www.appointed-for-scotland.org . 

Andrew Denny  | 12.38pm

NEC Boat & Caravan Show cancelled for 2012

The 2012 Boat & Caravan Show, scheduled to run at the Birmingham NEC from 21st February, has been cancelled.  The 50-year-old show, which has been running at the NEC since 1976, was remarkable because it covered not only the caravan and boat markets, but also leisure, outdoors and camping - the widest of any show. 

Organisers Ocean Media were said to be 'bitterly disappointed' after a large number of caravan manufacturers and dealers deserted it for a new rival show – the Motorhome, Caravan and Camping Show – in London’s Excel Centre, which opens just the week before the Boat & Caravan Show was due to open. 

Although the NEC Show included a strong boating and outdoor leisure element, caravans have always been the major part of the show, which attracted over 87,000 paying visitors at the last show in 2011. 

The new London show was announced earlier this year by the National Caravan Council. 

“Loyal exhibitors, including a number of caravan dealers, and the shows many visitors will feel sorry that due to a lack of support from one element of the industry, the 2012 show has had to be cancelled after more than 50 years,” said Trevor Barratt, chairman of Ocean Media. 

No announcement was made about if they would try to put the show back on for 2013. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.43pm

£43,300 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for Europe's oldest working steam dredger

The Friends of Gloucester Waterways Museum has secured a grant of £43,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for repair to dredger SND No 4. She is the oldest working steam dredger in Europe and was still in steam until earlier this year when it was discovered that several boiler tubes needed replacing.

Built in Holland in 1925, SND No 4 regularly dredged the docks at Gloucester until 1981 when a new diesel-electric dredger replaced her. From the opening of the Gloucester Waterways Museum in 1987 SND No 4 has been the star attraction, the hissing of steam and clanking of steel buckets helping to draw visitors to the museum.

As well as repairs to the dredger, the HLF money will enable the Friends to develop and promote SND No 4 as a key educational resource at the museum. It will enable new learning materials to be produced and allow visitors with visual impairment or mobility difficulties an opportunity to enter the unfamiliar world of this unique vessel whilst remaining onshore.

It was hoped that work would be completed by April, but it may be delayed as the company awarded the contract for re-tubing the boiler is currently moving premises, and Tommi Nielsen’s historic shipyard where the work will take place – just across the dock from the museum – has to finish other work before it can accommodate the dredger.

Meanwhile SND No 4 will remain on static display in Gloucester Docks along with the museum’s other, smaller, vessels. The museum is open daily through the winter 11am–4pm. Details from 01452 318200 or www.gloucesterwaterwaysmuseum.org.uk.

The ‘Wednesday Gang’, including Ken Dunn (vice chair) and Chris Witts (chairman) of the Friends of the Gloucester Waterways Museum, aboard dredger SND No 4.

Dredger SND No 4 at work in Gloucester Docks. Picture: Hugh Conway Jones

Andrew Denny  | 10.24am | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • RYA-online.net to be withdrawn rya.org.uk

    The Royal Yachting Association says it is withdrawing its RYA-online.net domain from January 5th 2012. Associations, marinas and individuals still relying on it for email addresses or websites will need to switch to an alternative address before then. ...

  • Birkdale mum lost 20 stones...after being jammed in a narrowboat door liverpoolecho.co.uk

    It was meant to be a relaxing holiday on a narrowboat but for Carole Wright it was anything but. Tipping the scales at almost 30 stones the mum of one from Birkdale struggled even to get through the door of the craft. “I just couldn’t squeeze through; in the end I was pushed in and ripped my skirt in the process. I never moved off the boat after that for the whole week. I was terrified of getting stuck again.” ...

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