Government removes justification for keeping towpaths open

Published: Wednesday, 22 April 2020

DURING the Downing Street briefing last Saturday, The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, removed CaRTs justification for keeping the towpaths open any longer, writes Keith Gudgin.

By instructing all the councils to keep their parks open so locals can use them for exercise, he has removed any reason for those same locals to continue to use the narrow towpaths for their exercise or walking their dogs etc.

Social distancing rules still apply

CaRT may think that his statement justifies their policy to keep the towpaths open for locals to exercise but the minister made it clear that the governments compulsory social distancing rules must still apply.

As it is not possible to pass each other at the required six feet (two metres) apart on most towpaths it is, therefore, plain that the minister's statement does not apply to them.  Towpaths are not parks they're paths.  Parks are generally large enough and wide enough to allow people to keep their distance, towpaths most certainly are not.

CaRT now do not have any reason to keep the towpaths open for locals.  Nobody, except boaters, emergency personnel attending an incident on or near the towpath, police patrols or essential workers attending to urgent works on or near the towpath should be allowed to use them.  No other persons have any reason to use them and CaRT should now close them with immediate effect.

Stop strangers passing within inches

People live on boats tied to the canal towpaths.  There are no people living on boats in parks.  In order to allow these boaters to maintain the governments required social distancing CaRT needs to stop strangers passing by as close as a few inches in many cases.

Just sticking up few notices advising people not use towpaths is a cheap and nasty exercise that fully demonstrates the utter contempt that CaRT seems to have for it's customers and that includes boaters, walkers, cyclists etc.  They are fully aware that these notices will have no effect whatsoever in stopping locals using the towpaths any more than their 'we will educate them' policy has had on slowing down cyclists!

No reason for not closing

There is no reason for not closing them now.  Those that say it is not possible should remember that it has been done twice in recent times for the two foot and mouth outbreaks.  The government instructed the councils and BW to close them and not only the towpaths but all rural footpaths were closed within days.  Stating the two diseases are not the same is irrelevant.   After all a closed towpath is a closed towpath and the reason why is immaterial as they get closed for all sorts of reasons at the moment anyway.

Any excuse from CaRT stating that they should not, or cannot close the towpaths to help stop the spread of this disease will, in my opinion, just show to the world its continued contempt for its customers, especially boaters, by continuing to expose those same customers, many of whom are elderly etc., to an unjustifiable, and possibly fatal, risk!