Held in London, this meeting was well-attended and proved to be most intriguing. Chaired by Robert Gould, a member of the EA Board, the main purpose was to provide an update on the significant changes taking place within EA in terms of support for their navigational responsibilities. The underlying driving factor was the Government’s decision not, at this stage, to go ahead with the proposal for CRT to take over EA’s navigational responsibilities.

The result has been a major re-organisation within the EA including the shifting of the navigation work into the Flood and Water Directorate, with a team headed by Andy Wilkinson (taking over from Mark Ormrod) with a brief to develop a 5-year business plan for 2020 to 2026, aimed at producing a sustainable navigation programme.

The overview of this work was presented by Alice Mayne, an EA Deputy Director responsible for navigation & commercial activities. Key to this is that navigation is now an integral part of EA seeking to become commercially viable wherever possible – even if this will require changes to its legal basis. Thus there is a review of charging strategies, investigations into potential income generating schemes, exploration of possible local contributions and, of course, an in-depth assessment of all operational requirements and their funding.

Of interest is that this review in being undertaken in harmony with other navigation authorities, including CRT – and clearly building on their experience. Thus there is, for example, a continuing study of all charging schemes, striving for consistency across all authorities. It is intended that this will result in a public consultation in spring 2020, for implementation in 2021.

Likewise there is a small but well-informed team looking into EA’s asset management – with objectives mirroring CRT’s in terms of adopting commercially-recognised standards etc. It was noted that additional funding had been made available to address immediately some of the most urgent needs – clearly this follows-on from CRT’s in-depth analysis of the asset-management challenges facing EA.

Finally Julian Kennard (well-known to all of us) gave an overview of some of the immediate national navigation issues and these included:

  • The need to address DEFRA’s clean air strategy and the questions this raises relating to emissions and the impacts on boating in general.
  • The updating of AINA’s Hire Boat Code with the objective of a target of 2021 for a public consultation.
  • Issues relating to the changing use of the waterways for residential use.  

A meeting largely with one-way information flow but valuable in terms of seeing EA’s short-term focus away from the possible merger into CRT of its navigational responsibilities, with a largely new team brought in to develop a strategy for sustainability.

After 5 years? Well, as one of the EA speakers said, maybe then it would be sensible for them to hand over to CRT!

Mike Rodd