Howard Anguish reports on the recent North East Local Waterways forum
I attended this on the 14th April. The venue was our usual one - the Wheatsheaf Conference Centre near Castleford - and was very well attended with a full house.
As far as the meeting was concerned, a forum is usually defined as a meeting where views are exchanged but for the first time in the NE there was no invitation given for input from the floor. Rather it was a set piece delivery of news and information by the local manager and others (including John Dodwell) and understandably, given the recent history of flood devastation in the region - especially the Calder & Hebble and also the Leeds area - the largest portion of the meeting was taken up by a very useful and interesting illustrated presentation by Mike Marshall, the local engineering manager, who took the meeting through the chronology of events and the efforts subsequently made by CRT staff and especially volunteers, to start the massive project to rebuild bridges, towpaths etc. Throughout the meeting praise was quite rightly given to the magnificent input provided by local volunteers and although it will still be some months before things are back to near normal, the situation would have been much worse without their efforts.
Other agenda items were:-
Business Plan priorities. Because of the massive unbudgeted cost of the floods to the NE region, which presently stand at around £15 million, this has caused a massive rethink in the programme of work for 2016 and it will also affect 2017. The bottom line is that there may be around £5 million budgeted works which may have to be put on hold, and warning was also given that as work progresses on existing damage there may well be further issues which may arise.
Volunteering Opportunities. A short presentation by the local volunteering team which emphasised the roll out of a number of welcome stations in the area. They also suggested that there may be an expansion of volunteering opportunities into more "serious" opportunities such as engineering, rather than the more familiar housekeeping roles.
There were a couple of good news items. In particular, freight carrying has resumed with a renamed Humber Pride - a tanker carrying 600 tons of lube oil from the Humber to Rotherham twice a week. It was also announced that the aggregate trade will resume very shortly to Leeds. Certainly very good news for our local waters.
Another positive piece of new which was announced last week is that CRT have been given an HLF award of £496,000 to be spent on improving the environmental aspects of the Pocklington Canal, together with the repairs to two historic bridges on the canal. This award in in addition to the appeal which is presently under way to raise £250,000 to extend the present limit of navigation at Melbourne for a further 2 miles which will involve re-gating two broad locks and other clearance works.
A final piece of news from CRT is that it is planned to make the carriage of VHF compulsory on the Yorkshire Ouse. On another issue, I continue to sit on the Driffield Canal Partnership and our next meeting will be in a couple of weeks. Progress is slow but the aim is to eventually coordinate local efforts into improving facilities on this navigation and to coordinate the efforts of a number of local groups to maximise their inputs. We have a meeting with Driffield Council to that effect and if there is any positive outcome I will let you know.