I attended the Spring North East Local Waterway Forum (User Group that was) on 7th April at a new venue. In the introduction, the local manager – Jon Horsfall- announced that following the survey carried out by Roger Hanbury towards the end of last year, and some complaints about the recent time overruns it has been decided that in future these meetings will change format and hopefully will become more relevant to users/customers.
In future there will be regular changes of venue so that meetings can visit a number of locations within the region and this first one was held in a pub/conference centre in Castleford. The agenda has been tightened so that routine reports about planned CRT work, maintenance & Engineering updates etc. will now be given in the attachments to the meeting minutes rather than taking up valuable time. Similarly, the usual procedure of reading out previously submitted questions, together with CRT responses, will also be part of the meetings papers. Hopefully this will allow the meeting to discuss matters of policy and strategy, rather than wasting time on routine and low level complaints about operational matters. Generally, this seemed to work very well.
Some items of general interest
Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme; work starting on this £50.5M project in the Autumn for 18 months. It is envisaged that most stoppages will be planned to take place over the winters of 2014 and 2015 in Nov, January & March and the whole scheme will be completed in 2016.
Here is a link to a short video showing a fly-by along the 19km route.
Jon Horsfall took the meeting through the NE budget and how it fits in to the National planned expenditure for the next year. He was at pains to explain that after much “pencil sharpening” the NE Business Plan priorities for the coming year total £6,557,000 whereas the preferred plan would call for £7,495,000 i.e. a shortfall of around £1M in the North East on steady state requirements. Among other work this would include the replacement of 24 lock leaves in the region.(is leaves the new buzz word for gatesJ
On a more positive note, it was announced that the contract with Fountains for Vegetation work will be at a saving of around £1M over last year.
During the past year, the NE had consulted with users about offside vegetation, and as a result, they had planned 31 km of offside work. Because of winter problems this is not yet completed but 92% is finished and the remainder will be done shortly.
Updates were given by members of the Local Waterway partnership which related mainly to the work presently underway to improve boating facilities in Leeds (you may remember that I sit on a sub-group of the partnership which has looked at this).
The Enterprise Manager gave a short briefing on 6 initiative which are taking place in the region. Most have them are of more local interest but the one which will have a possible wider interest is the Tour de France which starts in Leeds – The Grand Depart - and spends two days touring the Yorkshire before moving out of the Area. The route will cross CRT waterways in no less than 8 locations so the Trust is hoping to gain plenty of exposure and especially attracting visitors to the North East Waterways.