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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. ...

  • 'Pirate' plans re-enactment group for the Thames oxfordmail.co.uk

    “It’s going to be a pirate re-enactment group covering everything to do with pirates. There’s evidence of pirate activity on the Thames centuries ago." ...

  • Waterfront owners' fury over flood risk yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk

    Residents of upmarket waterfront flats are horrified by proposed flood defences which would block their views of the river and split their lagoon in two. ...

  • Seagulls attack canalside development thisisgloucestershire.co.uk

    Seagulls are bombarding the Quays Designer Outlet Centre with stones and wrecking its state-of-the-art roof in the process. ...

  • Pomona Lock charge increases penninewaterways.co.uk

    The charges for boats using Pomona Lock, off the Bridgewater Canal, has now increased to £21 a boat. ...

  • New Sykes Hollow canalside project proves to be a picnic waterscape.com

    The Shropshire Union Canal Society has transformed a former clay excavation site on the Middlewich Arm of the Shropshire Union Canal into a new leisure area that will benefit all canal users. ...

  • Second ranger rides up the towpath waterscape.com

    Deputy Brian Smith will encourage users to think of each other as they traverse the towpath, and support the extension the ‘two tings’ campaign to new stretches of the waterway. ...

  • Towpath Tidy roundup waterscape.com

    More than 1,700 volunteers joined 635 members of British Waterways’ staff in clearing 149 tonnes of litter, painting bridges, locks, fences and graffiti covered walls, and cutting back vegetation. ...

Sunday 12 April

Happy Easter from WW

We're taking a break for a week and will be posting updates again in a week's time.

Richard Fairhurst  | 2.00pm | add a comment

Wednesday 8 April

Today's news from the web

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