I RESPECT the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) as an organisation and its leaders for the excellent work they have achieved over many years, writes Jimmy Lockwood.
So could it please spell out its reasons for encouraging our MP's (no not the Military Police!) to transfer the Environment Agency (EA) responsibility for navigable waterways to Canal river Trust (CaRT)?
Pick & choose
Where would IWA draw the boundaries? All navigable rivers or just those that join canal systems? How close to salt water would they want CaRT to control? Tidal Trent or only non-tidal waterways? I suspect IWA wish to ‘pick & choose' and so would exclude the Ancholme and Yorkshire Derwent but include the Great Ouse.
CaRT has had difficulty managing its own waterways with the resources it enjoys. It has insufficient funds to eliminate the backlog of maintenance on the canals. It also has little expertise, it would appear, for managing the few rivers it has. Why should it be better suited to manage more of them?
Spread CaRT's budget more thinly?
The results from December's weather and flood conditions indicate that the likelihood of damage to structures has increased in recent years. Navigable rivers are no exception to this (Calder & Hebble Navigation) and the potential liabilities that CaRT would assume would be significant. Do we really want to spread CaRT's budget even more thinly?
Currently the CaRT Chief Executive has just built a new team around him of individuals without a background in British Waterways, and there is a chance that CaRT may at last be the organisation the government intended it to be when it was formed—all those years ago! Yes time flies!
Will delay present responsibilities
Responsibility for EA rivers will come with a dowry, but in the current financial climate it will be too small. It will also arrive with a significant backlog of maintenance work. More worryingly along with the responsibility will come a large number of employees some with valuable experience but some who are time-served civil servants. All come with a significant pension commitment. Incorporating all this change into CaRT will require an integration programme which will only serve to delay any advancement by CaRT of their present responsibilities.
If IWA values the work that CaRT, and particularly Richard Parry, has achieved so far, let him continue along the current path and don't cause him to divert his energies into solving somebody else's problems.
Let's leave CaRT working on canals and, if and when those are in perfect condition, the option of the rivers can be re-visited.