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Thursday 19 January

BW sells prime Docklands site for £52.4m

British Waterways and its partners have finally sold a 250-year lease on its valuable Woods Wharf site in Docklands, to the Canary Wharf Group (CGW). BW owns half of the long-disused site, which has been planned for development for several years. The deal is worth £52.4m in cash to BW, along with £6m a year in ground rent. 

Less well noted in the public announcement is that the Ballymore property group, which owns 25%, is being paid £38m for its share.

CGW chairman Sir George Iacobescu said they had bought the site because BW “did not have the desire to take the project forward at the pace we wanted”.

The new Wood Wharf is being designed by Richard Rogers, and CGW says it will change the character of Canary Wharf, bringing in 1,600 homes, as well as an open-air market, hotel and health centre. A key part of the site’s value is the now-excellent transport links, and the first tenants should be moving in by the time Crossrail is completed in 2018. 

Andrew Denny  | 12.39pm | add a comment

Wednesday 18 January

Today's news from the web

  • Details of Thames Jubilee boat procession announced thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org

    Firm plans have now been announced for the huge 1,000 boat procession planned for the Jubilee River Pageant on the Thames on Sunday 3rd June. When assembled, it is expected to be the largest ever seen on the river, running from Wandsworth Bridge to Tower Bridge, and the organisers are expecting a million people to turn out to see it. 

    The procession will be led by a floating belltower, with church bells cast for the occasion, and Gloriana, a hand-built, 90-foot 18-oar rowbarge covered in gold leaf, specially built for the occasion by boatbuilder Mark Edwards. 

    The seven-mile long procession will feature Dunkirk little ships, historic vessels, steam boats and tugs, but also numerous canal craft including narrowboats, as well as 35 commercial passenger river craft. Up to 20,000 people are expected to be on the water at one time. 

    At its centre will be the royal barge, a temporary conversion of the Thames hotel boat Spirit of Chartwell, carrying the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. 

    The procession will include a special 'canal' section, featuring 40 narrowboats and 20 Dutch barges. Among them are some historic working narrowboats, including Bream, Fulbourne and Tarpoley

    The full procession will have ten sections, each preceded by barges with musicians. 

    The £12m cost of the pageant - which includes a £2m VAT bill - is being funded by private sponsorship and donations, according to Lord Salisbury who leads the organisation of the event, with the main corporate sponsor being Sainsbury's.

    The organisers believe the event could gather a global television audience of hundreds of millions, and in addition to the Jubilee celebrations could act as a curtain-raiser for the Olympic Games.


  • 60-acre woodland for Kennet & Avon canal waterscape.com

    British Waterways is appealing for volunteers to help plant a new 60-acre woodland beside the Caen Hill lock flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal. It is one of 60 Diamond Woods being planted across the country in 2012 to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The first of the 10,000 trees that will make up the canal-side wood are being planted over the next two months. The remainder will be planted towards the end of year, when conditions once again become suitable for planting trees. The project is being run by the Woodland Trust and funded by the Forestry Commission....

  • Environment Agency wants volunteer Thames lock keepers bbc.co.uk

    Volunteer assistant lock keepers are being sought to work on the River Thames over the summer. The Environment Agency (EA) wants people to help at all 44 locks on the non-tidal stretch of the Thames between May and September. It includes sites in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Teddington on the outskirts of London....

  • London to get new river ferry and road tunnel under River Thames telegraph.co.uk

    London mayor Boris Johnson is promising a new ferry and a road tunnel for the Thames within the next 10 years. The new ferry crossing, between Beckton and Thamesmead at Gallions Reach, east of the Thames barrier, will be open for traffic by 2017. The proposed tunnel, between the Greenwich peninsula and Silvertown in the Royal Docks, will ... relieve pressure on existing tunnels at Blackwall and Rotherhithe to the west. ...

Monday 16 January

DBA 2012 Thames rally venue announced

The Dutch Barge Association has announced that its 2012 annual rally is to be at Mapledurham, near Reading, on the 17th-20th August. The moorings will be above the lock, near the historic Mapledurham House and close to the watermill. Near the house is a large meadow, which will be available exclusively to the Association, and the river frontage will have a capacity of 30 barges, moored 3-4 deep. 

The rally will be an interesting opportunity to examine the new Archimedes screw turbine electricity generator, the first of many to be installed at Thames weirs in the near future.  

Meanwhile, the DBA’s training officer, Chris Ries, has donated a second trophy for the DBA’s barge handling competitions, and is seeking suggestion for a title for the trophy. The trophy is a scale model of half a barge hull, based on his own barge. Entries are requested to events organiser Bill Cozens (bill.cozens@barges.org).

Andrew Denny  | 3.18pm | add a comment

Brian Blessed fronts Canal & River Trust volunteer appeal

The forthcoming Canal & River Trust launched its appeal today for volunteer lock keepers around the waterways network as it takes over from British Waterways this year. And to get the message across, they brought out Brian Blessed, larger-than-life actor, adventurer and 'commanding presence', for a photocall at Aldermaston Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal.  

If the waterways ever needed a 'town crier', few would be better suited to the role than Blessed, who is lending his own image to the campaign for free. The Trust estimates that one-fifth of Britons use the waterways each year, and wants people to volunteer as lock keepers to ensure a polite and friendly welcome to all waterway visitors – and particularly in assisting novice boaters through the locks and helping to maintain local stretches of waterway.

The volunteer scheme was started last year along the Grand Union and Kennet & Avon canals and the River Trent. It is now being rolled out across the rest of the network, particularly at prominent locations such as Bingley Five Rise (Leeds & Liverpool Canal), Tuel Lane - the deepest lock in the country (Rochdale Canal), and the Hertford Union.  This latter location will briefly become the most important and visited on the waterways this summer, as it borders the Olympic Games site. 

Brian Blessed said that the UK waterways helped to create his love of the outdoors and wildlife: "When I was a child I loved our canals and rivers, going off exploring on my bike and looking for wildlife. They’re unique places so I would urge people with a real passion for their local waterway to get involved as a volunteer lock keeper or take advantage of one of the many opportunities to support the Canal & River Trust. 

"[The waterways] meant so much to me as a child so I think it’s important we all do what we can to help protect them for our next generations to enjoy."

The outgoing British Waterways said that in the year ending March 2011 volunteers contributed more than 24,000 days, and in the lock keeper trials last summer, over 50 people successfully became volunteer lock keepers.

"Being a lock keeper is arguably the most symbolic job on the waterways", said Ed Moss, national volunteering manager for British Waterways and the forthcoming Trust. "It will be a perfect opportunity for those who enjoy working in the outdoors and are perhaps looking for something different to do and help support the Canal & River Trust in what will be its first year."

"The key qualities we’re looking for are enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Whether it’s helping a boat through the lock, talking to customers, litter picking or vegetation work, it can really make a great difference."

Volunteering will be essential to the success of the Canal & River Trust, which will immediately become one of the biggest charities in the UK. It will also give local communities a bigger say in the running of their local canal or river.

A full list of volunteer lock keeping locations are available at www.waterscape.com/things-to-do/volunteering or by emailing volunteer@britishwaterways.co.uk or phoning 01827 252097. Willing volunteers can start quickly and no prior experience is necessary as a full induction, training and a uniform will be provided.

Andrew Denny  | 11.45am | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Extra cash needed for Sutton Weaver bridge repairs placenorthwest.co.uk

    Cheshire West and Chester Council and British Waterways say they are seeking urgent talks with the government over funding for repairs to the Sutton Weaver swing bridge on the A56 near Frodsham. According to British Waterways, which owns the 90-year-old structure, the bridge will soon need major re-strengthening work at a cost of £4m. The council said it can meet its share of the bill but British Waterways is struggling to find the balance. ...

  • Sold down the river? Boaters to be moved on during Olympics independent.co.uk

    Hundreds of nomadic boaters who call the waterways close to the main Olympic sites home are effectively being evicted for nearly 10 weeks over the summer. Under new rules, they will be barred from mooring their boats in Olympic control zones on 15 miles of the River Lea and Regent's Canal unless they are willing to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to British Waterways to secure a spot for the 10 weeks – something most boaters are simply unable to do. Click here to see the graphic of the canal. This has led to fresh tensions between the boating communities and British Waterways (BW), whisking-up a bubbling cauldron of animosity that frankly did not need much more than a stir. ...

Saturday 14 January

Cam boaters' anger over 'ridiculous' licence charges

The Cam Conservancy has announced major changes in boat licence conditions – along with large increases of up to 21.5% in annual licence fees. 

Local boaters have reacted furiously to the news, said Camboaters representative Amy Tillson. “We will be approaching the local MP, Julian Huppert, and to central Government if necessary. Unlike the new Canal & River Trust or the Environment Agency, the Conservancy is a Parliamentary body accountable only to central Government. 

“We will also be investigating the possibility of getting the Cam Conservators amalgamated in the Canals and Rivers Trust in 2015 when the EA may be also incorporated.”

“Currently, boaters can use the Cam Con waters if they buy an EA licence, under an 'Interchange Agreement'. Most boats choose to do this, except for the 25% who buy a Cam only licence from the Cam Conservancy.

“However, from 2012, the Interchange Agreement is changing dramatically. For boats who moor on the Cam, buying an EA licence will no longer be an option. All boats moored on the Cam will have to buy a CamCon-EA licence which will be 110% of the relevant EA licence for their length, effectively 17% more than a current EA licence because of the EA's 6.4% (CPI+2%) fee increase this year. This means that for the 25% of boats who currently have a Cam-Con licence, their fees will effectively increase by an extraordinary 21.5%.”

Boaters on EA waters will thus have the option of:

1)  An EA licence which does not allow access to the Cam, 
2)  An EA-Cam licence, at 110% of the relevant EA licence for their boat length, 
3)  A visitor licence at 15% of the relevant EA licence,

However, a boat caught on the Cam without a licence will be obliged to pay for a visitor licence at a punitive 25% of the relevant EA licence. 

Boats with the universal EA/BW ‘Gold’ licence will have to opt for an additional visitor licence for the Cam, as the Gold licence will no longer cover Cam Con waters. However, the Conservators are discussing 'trade plates' which will allow visiting boats to come to the Cam for services such as slippage and repair work. 

Details of new Interchange Agreement are on http://www.camconservators.co.uk/pdf/Note-7b-12-01-12.pdf 

The conservators are also taking on an additional warden in the summer months whose job will partly be to monitor boat movement and enforce licensing. 

Andrew Denny  | 3.35pm | add a comment

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

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