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Tuesday 7 February

Today's news from the web

  • Call for waterways squaddies mirfieldreporter.co.uk

    Residents have been asked to help improve Dewsbury’s waterways as part of a new project. The Dewsbury Water Linked project will see improvements made to the Calder and Hebble Navigation and the River Calder, under the guidance of British Waterways. Last year the project was awarded £174,000 by the Big Lottery Fund and now it wants to recruit up to six people to form a Wildlife Action Squad....

Monday 6 February

Today's news from the web

  • Queen's Diamond Jubilee: Plans for river pageant unveiled as 1m expected to line the route | Mail Online dailymail.co.uk

    As the country marks 60 years to the day since the Queen found out about her father 's death and her subsequent ascension to the throne, it has been revealed that more than a million people are expected to flock to London's River Thames for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June. The Bank Holiday weekend from June 2 to 5 will be the focus of the 2012 Jubilee celebrations, marking the Queen's 60-year reign with a river pageant featuring a 1,000-strong flotilla on the River Thames. ...

  • History repeating for new owner of Middlewich Narrowboats middlewichguardian.co.uk

    A Royal Air Force serviceman who helps save the lives of wounded soldiers has flown to the rescue of Middlewich Narrowboats. Greg Williams, a critical care nurse in the RAF’s Air Support Team is the new owner of the Canal Terrace boat hire company. It has been revealed that the business went into liquidation before Greg took control with a major investment which saved 12 jobs. Greg currently lives in Wiltshire but has had a passion for Middlewich’s canals since he was 19....

  • A sad April day - Ken Fairhurst's memoir of the burning of Telford's warehouse at Ellesmere Port ukcanals.net

    ...The next day (1st April 1970) I set off to pick up my load; as I was approaching Ellesmere Port there was a strong smell of burning, and the air was filled with smoke. As I turned into the entrance to the docks I was greeted by a multitude of fire hoses, several fire engines were at the scene, a security man came to me and said "You can't come in here today driver, one of the warehouses is on fire". I could see from where I stopped that it was Telford's warehouse that was ablaze and was badly damaged, and although the flames had died down by then there was still lot's of smoke around....

  • Olympics site clean-up completed google.com

    Work to clean up the Olympic site and create the largest urban park in Europe for more than 100 years has been completed, the Environment Agency has said. An area the size of 297 football pitches, much of which was polluted, has been cleaned up, with 300,000 wetland plants and 2,000 native trees planted and five miles of the River Lea restored. The Environment Agency, which has worked with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the London Development Agency and other partners on the site said it had helped the ODA decontaminate two million tonnes of soil so it could be reused. On the River Lea, invasive species including Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort have been removed, along with concrete walls, to improve the river habitat for wildlife and users....

Friday 3 February

Picture of the day: The Ashby Canal mini-boat

We have no idea at which waterways festival this photo was taken, but clearly it was in a different era of health & safety consciousness!  Does this boat still exist, and is it still used as a trip boat?

Andrew Denny  | 11.24am | 1 comment

Today's news from the web

Wednesday 1 February

Councillors call for visitor moorings at Rochdale

Local councillors at the Rochdale suburb of Sandbrook have called for British Waterways to install visitor moorings where the Rochdale Canal runs through their neighbourhood. 

The site is close to the culvert under Edinburgh Way, a major construction site for the reopening of the canal in 2002. Yet despite the major works there, and it being close to the Sandbrook Way retail park with all modern shopping and leisure facilities, boats have never been easily able to moor there. Instead, they often continue to Littleborough or Castleton.

The councillors say they have received “overwhelming support” not only from boaters but from local residents for stabilising the bank and installing official visitor moorings. They say it would bring extra life and business to the local retail park, assist in community safety and could mean that people take better care and pride at the proposed location.

In a letter to the Rochdale Chronicle, Councillors Dale Mulgrew and Pat Colclough, said: “We were astonished by the level of interest that this idea generated when we did our walkabout around those neighbourhoods and we received a very strong endorsement indeed.”

Mike Reeve, the manager of the adjacent pub, The Sandbrook, is also enthusiastic about the idea, saying it would be a 'tremendous boost' to have boats stopping there. "Having canal boats here, and installing some lighting on the towpath, would give a greater sense of security to local residents."

Andrew Denny  | 4.03pm | 1 comment

IWA cautiously welcomes Canal & River Trust deal

The Inland Waterways Association today issued a statement that cautiously welcomed the settlement Defra has made on funding the new Canal and River Trust. 

The Association said: "We need to ensure that any early teething problems are no more than that, and not symptoms of greater problems, and we will want to convey any issues of substance arising to Government before it conducts its two-year review in 2014. 

"We will also keep an eye on progress towards the absorption of the EA navigations in 2015/16 to ensure that no last minute hitches derail the transfer.

"[However] in times of tight fiscal restraint, seeing the original settlement substantially increased together with retention of the full property portfolio of commercial premises and land has to be regarded as a relatively good deal."

Andrew Denny  | 4.44pm | add a comment

Tuesday 31 January

Government announces Canal & River Trust deal

The Canal & River Trust is “full steam ahead” after its trustees struck a deal for more grant money – but Government delays have pushed the launch back from April to June.

The new charity, which is taking over from British Waterways, had been scheduled to launch on April 1st. The trustees were unhappy with the Government’s initial offer of £39m per year, and have been negotiating to raise the settlement.

With public finances stretched, the new deal will see the £39m, inflation-free figure retained for the first three years, but then raised to £49m plus an adjustment for inflation. The initial offer was a 10-year deal, but the final agreement will now last for 15 years.

“This deal was unanimously agreed by the trustees,” according to trustee John Dodwell. “The key thing is ‘have we received something that makes the Trust viable?’, and the answer is yes.” He estimated that the deal is worth around one-third more than the original offer.

The details

The Government and trustees have also struck a deal on the BW pension fund deficit. The Trust will receive a one-off sum of £25m to cover increased costs; the Government will then guarantee the balance for 19 years. The pension fund’s trustees were anxious that a charity would be less secure than a state-backed organisation, and could have asked the new Trust to pay off the whole deficit at once.

John Dodwell emphasised that the long-term nature of the deal was as much a breakthrough as the extra money. “In the past, BW might have thought they had three years’ money, and then it would be cut within that period. We have certainty for 15 years.”

In return for the increased grant, the Government is likely to set conditions for the Trust: for example, on canal maintenance, the number of structures in the worst ‘D’ and ‘E’ categories will be required to stay below 25%. Privately, the Trust believes it will also need to ‘rebalance’ spending so that more is dedicated to dredging and other work.

Launching the Trust

With the Parliamentary transfer process behind schedule, British Waterways and Government department DEFRA have conceded that the April 1st date is unattainable. They are now working towards a June launch, though no formal announcement had been made when WW went to press. BW’s Simon Salem said that the date was “perfectly workable”, and he was confident the new Trust would receive media attention despite competition from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.

The Trust will then need to concentrate on “growing its income” beyond the Government contract and BW’s existing commercial activities. 

“The contract is not a free pass to do nothing else for the next 15 years,” said Simon Salem. “But it’s a good platform on which to get going.” 

Andrew Denny  | 10.55am | 1 comment

Today's news from the web

  • New Edinburgh canal strategy aims to foster a 'canal culture' in the city local.stv.tv

    A plan that sets out a vision for the future of Edinburgh’s Union canal was launched at the Lochrin Basin today. The plan, which sets out to foster a ‘canal culture’ in the city, has been developed following months of community consultation. At the launch officials were keen to emphasise the Canal Strategy was not just another wishlist, highlighting a series of developments that are to go ahead in the coming months. These include the construction of a new secondary school on part of the former Fountainbridge Brewery site, the development of a £2.5m ‘centre of excellence’ for water sports at Meggetland, and a new private development by Cala Homes at Ratho that will see 20 new berths for houseboats added to the waterway....

  • £300,000 dredging plan for Cromford canal criticised thisisderbyshire.co.uk

    Plans for a council to spend £300,000 on dredging a historic canal have sparked a row over whether the money could be better spent elsewhere. Derbyshire County Council is set to confirm the expenditure when it meets on Wednesday. The plan has been welcomed by the Friends of Cromford Canal, which will use part of the newly-cleared waterway to run boat trips for tourists and school parties. And council deputy leader Simon Spencer said the investment would have long-term economic benefits for the area. But the council's opposition Labour party has been joined by the Taxpayers' Alliance in criticising the amount set to be spent. The money is coming from the authority's capital budget – for buildings and major projects – and Labour leader Anne Western said other schemes deserved it. ...

  • Five Locks Rise: Steepest locks in the land are drained for renovation dailymail.co.uk

    Thousands of people queued for a rare opportunity to see a unique set of canal locks as they were drained for vital repair work. The novelty of viewing the steepest locks in Britain from the rare vantage point of the canal bed pulled in over 7,000 people at the weekend. British Waterways were replacing four of the six giant gates on the famous Five Locks Rise in Bingley, West Yorkshire, in a £200,000 job that takes place every 25 years. ...

Monday 30 January

Funding deal reached for Canal & River Trust

It's clear that the Canal & River Trust transition trustees have reached a deal on future funding of the waterways, with a statement (below) issued over the weekend by Defra. It says that the amount promised will be 'significantly more' than the annual £39 million originally announced, spread over 15 years, rather than the 10 years previously stated. The details are expected to come this week. 

The Defra statement doesn't mention boats and navigation in the announcement, nor is there yet an announcement on the official launch of the Trust.  

Defra statement:  

This week, Environment Minister Richard Benyon is expected to reveal an unprecedented fifteen year funding settlement for the new Canal & River Trust - a new “national trust” for the waterways in England and Wales.

In order to provide financial security for the future of the waterways and help the new Trust get off to the best possible start, Defra has already committed to provide a £460 million property endowment and £390 million funding for the next 10 years.

The figure announced next week is likely to be significantly more than this.

Responsibility for Britain’s canals and rivers will be transferred from British Waterways to the new Canal & River Trust later this year. The new Trust will give local communities and stakeholders a greater role in caring for our network of 200-year old canals and rivers. 

It will be able to harness the support of thousands of supporters and volunteers, allowing it to save money and putting decision-making into the hands of people who use and cherish the waterways the most. 

This will facilitate the maintenance and restoration of 2,000 miles of heritage sites, wildlife habitats and open spaces along our waterways. 

The Canal & River Trust’s charitable status will mean new opportunities for revenue through donations, charitable grants and legacies, increased borrowing powers, efficiencies and volunteering activity.

A record 13 million people currently visit British Waterways’ canals and rivers every year, and over half the population lives within about ten minutes of a waterway.

Andrew Denny  | 11.19am | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Braunston boatbuilder Dave Thomas retires after more than 20 years northamptonchron.co.uk

    Popular narrowboat builder Dave Thomas has decided to close his specialist business at Braunston Marina to begin his retirement and said fond farewell to his colleagues along the canal....

  • Helix trust wants to hand over reins falkirkherald.co.uk

    The trust responsible for the multi-million pound Helix project wants to hand over responsibility for the running of the project to the Falkirk Community Trust, which came into being last summer to look after the area’s cultural, library, recreation and sport services. At a meeting of Falkirk Council on Monday, members voted to approve, in principle, moving control of the project from the Helix Trust to Falkirk Community Trust and then dissolving the Helix Trust. Councillor Craig R Martin, a Helix Trust board member said: “The project is on budget and on schedule and we are starting to see real changes to the site. We have found a ready-made option to run the project – a charity trust with experience running large sites and it shares similar values to the Helix Trust. ...

  • 7,276 people 'lock through' Bingley, the busiest locks in Britain - at least for one weekend yorkshirepost.co.uk

    Thousands of people from all over the country queued for a rare opportunity to see Bingley’s famous Five Rise Locks from the canal bed over the weekend. It was drained so engineers could carry out vital repair work, with British Waterways taking the chance to replace four of the six giant gates. The £200,000 job takes place once every 25 years. People have been visiting the locks on the Leeds Liverpool Canal for more than 230 years. A spokesman said: “It’s been a fantastic response, everyone has had an amazing time and it just shows what passion there is out there for the waterways.” He said about 3,500 people visited the locks on Saturday with 7,276 having visited by 4.15pm yesterday. He added: “They are the steepest locks in Britain at 60ft from top to bottom. The new gates were manufactured by Stanley Ferry Workshop, near Wakefield – one of only two places in the country that manufacture such gates.”...

  • Daily Telegraph writer tries his hand at being a volunteer lock keeper in London telegraph.co.uk

    So, one glorious winter’s morning I head down to the City Road Lock in Islington, on the Regent’s Canal (which celebrates its 200th birthday this year). There I am met by two rugged lock keepers, Paul Crowhurst, a retired fireman, and Mark Loveday, an ex-Royal Marine (it’s the uniforms, Crowhurst explains). There is also a handsome narrowboat bobbing in the waters, skippered by an old sea dog whom I initially mistake for Brian Blessed (why do all captains have beards?). Dog walkers bumble along the towpath. The only sign that we are in London is a dead pigeon in the canal....

  • UK told to prepare for mass floods in future independent.co.uk

    Flooding caused by heavier rainfall will be the major threat to Britain from climate change in the coming decades, potentially costing the country billions a year, a new assessment of the risks of global warming concluded yesterday....

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