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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....

  • Canal & River Trust gets 15-yr guaranteed funding with 'significantly more' than £39million independent.co.uk

    Britain's canals and rivers get new lease of life with funding pledge: Britain's waterways are about to receive a boost with an announcement next week by Richard Benyon, the Environment Minister, of a new 15-year funding settlement. It will help secure the financial future of the new Canal & River Trust, a "national trust" for canals and rivers which takes over from British Waterways in April. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has committed to provide a £460m property endowment and £390m of funding for the next 10 years, but next week's news is likely to include significantly more money. The trust will give local communities a greater role in caring for Britain's 2,200 miles of waterways....

Sunday 29 January

Today's news from the web

  • Rare glimpse of drained 18th Century Bingley Five Rise Locks bbc.co.uk

    Thousands of people have queued to get a rare glimpse of an 18th Century lock system in West Yorkshire. The Five Rise Locks in Bingley has been drained to allow engineers to replace its 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. British Waterways has opened them to the public, who can wander through the chambers until 17:00 GMT on Sunday.

    [A nice Freudian slip from the TV reporter in the video clip (0:45): "These new lock gates - they are enormous, and they weigh a lot of money..."]

Friday 27 January

Today's news from the web

  • Customs raid on Leeds U-Boat yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk

    The captain of a German U-Boat moored in Leeds has been arrested by customs officers as part of a fraud probe. A raiding party boarded the craft – in reality a converted barge – while it was tethered to a jetty behind the Royal Armouries. They arrested its self-styled captain, Richard Williams. In a fraud investigation, HMRC officers swooped on the replica U-Boat “U-8047” – the converted narrowboat is run as a museum – early yesterday morning. (January 26)...

Wednesday 25 January

Today's news from the web

  • Jubilee pageant cruise? That'll be £250 - Thames boats defy order not to profiteer thisislondon.co.uk

    Thames passenger boats are charging up to £250 a ticket for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee pageant despite being ordered not to profiteer from the event. An Evening Standard investigation found a number of operators have increased their prices in defiance of a request not to charge more than New Year's Eve rates. Today the organisers of the 1,000-boat flotilla launched an immediate inquiry. The Standard found that one operator, Thames Cruises, which has four boats taking part in the June 3 pageant to mark the Queen's 60 years on the throne, is charging between £149 and £229 - compared with £65 to £115 for New Year's Eve. A Thames Cruises spokeswoman said: "We're charging more because we're giving more. The tickets include champagne and lovely tea. You don't get all of that on New Year's Eve."...

  • Ground investigation works to take place in Boston for new tidal barrier environment-agency.gov.uk

    The Environment Agency is to carry out a survey of the ground below the bed of the Boston Haven as part of its ongoing work towards a proposed multi-million flood barrier for the town. Contractors will be working round-the-clock from a special barge to carry out ground investigations to gain detailed information about the geology and ground conditions beneath the riverbed. The information will be used by engineers during the design of the Boston Barrier and Haven flood defence improvements. Mike Dugher, Area Coastal Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “The works are a vital step towards the proposed Boston Barrier. They will ensure the final design of the scheme is as effective as it can be in helping to prevent flooding and improving the river for navigation.”...

Tuesday 24 January

Today's news from the web

  • Brand Report: British Waterways thirdsector.co.uk

    "[The new Canal & River Trust logo] needs to carve out its place and make the case for the essential role canals and waterways play in our lives, rather than just being a nice place to hang out. I don't feel the new logo will do this. It's a nice piece of design - but that's not the point."...

Monday 23 January

Today's news from the web

  • Princess Royal to open new Wallbridge Lock & Bridge at Stroud on Feb 10th cotswoldcanals.com

    Hrh The Princess Royal will be visiting the Cotswold Canals Project at Wallbridge, Stroud on Friday 10th February. She will open Wallbridge Upper Lock, Stroud Brewery Bridge and tour the Canal Visitor Centre. Cllr Keith Pearson, Deputy Leader of Stroud District Council said: "We are very pleased that Her Royal Highness is honouring us with a visit to the important canal developments at Wallbridge....

  • I'm no monarchist but I can't wait to join Thames royal pageant, says Jenny Jones thisislondon.co.uk

    Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones told today how she is excited to be taking part in the Thames flotilla to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Despite not supporting the monarchy, she and her partner have secured a place for their narrowboat, which she keeps berthed on the Regent's Canal at St Pancras, in the three-times oversubscribed 1,000-boat pageant. Ms Jones, a Green member of the London Assembly who will challenge Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in the May 3 election, told the Standard: "We put our name forward because we thought it would be a hoot. It's not just the pageant itself, but being on the river with 999 other boats. I'm not a royalist by any stretch of the imagination - I'm an egalitarian - but how can you resist?" ...

Saturday 21 January

Picture of the day: In the archives - 'dead policemen' at Hatton Locks

A sign at (we think) Hatton Locks. When did 'sleeping policeman' become 'dead'? 
We aren't sure when this photo ended up in the archives, or where it came from, but our guess is the 1970s.

Andrew Denny  | 7.31pm | add a comment

Friday 20 January

Today's news from the web

  • River Cam project could cost taxpayers £400,000 cambridge-news.co.uk

    Taking ownership of a stretch of the Cam which is blighted by unregulated mooring could cost taxpayers £400,000, residents fear. That might be the bill for building a pontoon at Riverside, which until now has not been covered by the fees and conditions which apply to boat owners, and where around 40 craft in varying states of repair are tied up. Homeowners have complained about the ugliness of the area and also have concerns about smoke and noise, and about sewage being discharged into the water....

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