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Monday 27 April

Today's news from the web

  • It's all just a bit cuckoo examiner.co.uk

    Hundreds of people gathered at Standedge Tunnel to welcome the last surviving legger. ...

Sunday 26 April

Today's news from the web

  • Cameron "names and shames" BW directors news.sky.com

    Mr Cameron took the step of naming some individual public officials on high salaries, including Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards on £400,000 and British Waterways Board bosses Robin Evans, Nigel Johnson, James Froomberg and Phillip Ridal, whose combined salaries reach £900,000 - enough to employ 30 nurses. ...

  • Eight miles of pollution on canals expressandstar.com

    Toxic pollution killing thousands of fish in a Black Country canal has now spread more than eight miles, the Environment Agency said today. ...

Friday 24 April

Today's news from the web

  • Union Canal barge is new Edinburgh hotel news.scotsman.com

    It'S not your typical hotel – just 55ft by 11ft, with swans for neighbours and no space for staff. But when Edinburgh's first floating hotel opens on the Union Canal, there will be no shortage of home comforts. ...

Thursday 23 April

Today's news from the web

Tuesday 21 April

BW to keep its property

The Treasury has announced, a day earlier than expected, that British Waterways will be allowed to keep its property portfolio - at least for now.

The property had been considered for sale to raise funds for the Government. BW had lobbied furiously to keep it; property development is one of BW's main sources of income for the money used to maintain the waterways.

In the short term, though, BW has been told to place its property in a "dedicated, wholly-owned subsidiary of British Waterways", which the Government says will give it greater clarity on where the money goes. The new company will have its own board, meaning also that BW itself will be able to concentrate on the core task of running the waterways.

And in the long term? The options are still open. The Treasury says only that it is important that BW keeps the property "under current economic conditions"; for the long term, the Treasury will continue to talk to BW about "the appropriate business model to provide a sustainable future for the waterways".

BW is anxious, though, to deny that the new subsidiary is "a first step towards disposal", and Robin Evans, BW's Chief Executive, called the announcement "the right decision".

Richard Fairhurst  | 3.42pm | 1 comment

Today's news from the web

Monday 20 April

This week on the waterways

Budget Day is a big deal for Government agencies every year, but never more so than this year for British Waterways.

On Wednesday, Alistair Darling will be announcing - or, perhaps, tucking away in the corner of an obscure document on the Treasury website - whether British Waterways will be allowed to keep its commercial property portfolio, or whether it's to be sold off. The Treasury is desperately in need of "quick bucks", and BW's property is a very tempting target.

BW has been frantically fighting a rearguard action to stop the sell-off. There have been briefings hither and thither, even advertorials in the Times, and the organisation has subtly shifted its public face from "aren't we clever to earn all this money?" to "look what public benefit this brings you". The Inland Waterways Advisory Council, a Government quango that advises on waterway policy, joined in last week with a press release urging the Treasury to leave BW alone - no small achievement given that other navigation authorities have been privately sceptical of BW's property activities for several years now.

For although the phrase "British Waterways' property" might conjure up images of lock-keepers' cottages and picturesque old wharves, in reality, BW has long since sold most of those off. With the proceeds from this, and other activities, it built up an impressive estate of "mixed use" commercial/residential developments, business parks and the like. A good investment in the boom years, no doubt, but perhaps not looking so clever now.

The IWAC release puts up a strong defence, signing off with a remark that "a number of important reports are due to be published in the next few months which quantify the public benefits provided by the waterways and review alternative methods of funding... the Government should wait until it has a full appreciation of the public benefits that might be put at risk". 

If we were to bet on Wednesday's announcement, though, we'd expect that the Government will announce a sell-off of BW's property. That probably won't be the whole announcement: there'll be a little balm to soothe BW's pain. DEFRA (the Government department in charge of BW) is already undertaking a review of BW's work, which could well now focus on "can volunteers cut BW's costs?" and "should local councils pay for the waterways?".

But that's just speculation based on our reading of the jungle drums. We'll find out on Wednesday.

Richard Fairhurst  | 10.38am | 1 comment

Today's news from the web

  • Study announced into rebuilding Foxton Inclined Plane travelbite.co.uk

    This project will undertake the development work needed to test the feasibility of rebuilding a working boat lift on the Inclined Plane. This would provide a landmark attraction of national importance and aim to increase annual visitor numbers to half a million by 2016. ...

  • Massive pollution at Autherley expressandstar.com

    Hundreds of dead fish have been discovered along a stretch of newly-stocked waterways in Wolverhampton. Angry anglers are demanding action following the discovery of hundreds of dead bream, perch and roach in two city canals....

  • Last living ‘legger’ guests on horseboat canal journey examiner.co.uk

    One of the world’s oldest living canal boat leggers will be among the guests for a special trip through Standedge Tunnel. ...

  • Boaters warned over disposal of sewage cambridge-news.co.uk

    Boat owners are being warned not to dispose of their sewage in the river as part of a new campaign - but boaters say there are bigger issues that need tackling. ...

  • Canal bid still afloat at Calne gazetteandherald.co.uk

    Hundreds of people sailed along the Wilts and Berks Canal in Calne on Saturday to raise money to conserve historic waterways across North Wiltshire. ...

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