Over the past few years we’ve had fruitful and positive discussions with the Canal & River Trust and Government about whether, and if so under what terms, the Environment Agency’s navigation responsibilities might be transferred to the Trust.
CRT recently submitted their proposed terms for taking over our navigation responsibilities to Government. Ministers have considered the proposals and decided not to proceed with any transfer at the present time; however, they wish to keep the option open and return to it when they feel the time is right.
We in the Environment Agency will continue to concentrate on ensuring we run our navigations as efficiently as possible, including looking at new ways to raise revenue and engaging with our boating customers over our charges review. We and CRT will continue to cooperate actively in the running of our respective navigations to ensure the best possible experience for all river and canal users.
The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Management Committee has agreed a new four-year business plan to resource its work to 2022 and invest in improvements that will have an even longer-term benefit. The plan also includes the first price rise in certification charges for eight years.
As 2017 draws to a close, it is clear that CRT is focussed on its grant renewal, which will require it to demonstrate to Government that it has widespread popular support. This means promoting the waterways to millions of walkers, cyclists, canoeists and gongoozlers as part of its wellbeing or ‘green gym’ campaign. The 35,000 boaters are incidental to this. As a result, NABO is becoming increasingly concerned that its voice is not being listened to by senior CRT managers and directors. We are no longer a ‘critical friend’; just critical. Members who attended the AGM in November discussed the long list of recent decisions by CRT that have disregarded the advice offered by NABO (and CRT’s National Advisory Groups), and Fly on the Wall recorded some of these for this issue. There is also an article by Jenny Maxwell, reprinted from a Facebook forum, which sums up the frustrations felt by a large number of boaters and boating organisations. We will wait to see if the recent restructuring of senior CRT staff makes any difference. But let’s not hold our breath ‒ none has boating experience and, with the replacement of Trustee, John Dodwell, this means that there are now no boaters on the CRT Board. The EA doesn’t fare any better: having consulted on proposed increases to boat registration fees, it ignored the consultation findings and went ahead with the original proposals for steep hikes in the costs. A diligent boater has also found that EA’s introduction of charges for mooring on the Thames is illegal.