The authorities have been informed of the towpath situation

Published: Friday, 01 May 2020

FOR THE information  of your correspondent who states that the government and police should be told about the inappropriate use of the towpaths I would like to point out that both have been informed, writes Keith Gudgin.

I sent the following emails on the 9th April.  So far I am of the opinion that their response, or more accurately, lack of response, just shows what the authorities think of us who live on the canals?  [Others have also told us of informing the authorities in a similar vein—Editor.]

Fobbing me off

The cabinet office eventually replied by fobbing me off and told me to get in touch with the DHSC (Dept of Health and Social Care) by using their website contacts page and so far I have had no reply at all.  (No surprise there then?)  Cabinet office couldn't even be bothered to just pass it on!

The NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council) did not reply at all (other than an auto reply acknowledging receipt) until I sent them a query asking them why not. They asked me to resend my email as they claim they cannot find it (?)  They certainly got it, hence the auto reply, so where is it?

No meaningful reply

Here are the emails I sent. I have still not, on the 30th April, had any meaningful reply from anyone concerning them.  I don't consider the above to be meaningful replies, fob-offs and excuses perhaps but not meaningful replies!

To the cabinet office and then DHSC I sent:

Dear Mr Hancock

I wonder if you are aware that as people are being denied access to parks, open spaces, beaches etc. during the present crisis they are flocking to the towpaths along the canals without any restrictions being placed upon them by Canal & Rivers Trust (CaRT)?

I live on a narrow-boat on the canals and have been told not to move and follow government guidance to maintain social distancing.  It may be okay to stay where I am but CaRT's policy of letting all and sundry use the towpaths makes keeping social distance impossible as many of the towpaths are not six feet foot (rwo metres) wide meaning that all those who walk past my boat are not able to maintain social distancing, not only from me and other boaters, but each other as well!

Footfall on the towpaths has increased dramatically since lockdown was implemented meaning that many people are now coming into contact with many more strangers than before which is surely increasing the infection risk to all concerned?  With over 2,000 miles of towpaths this must also be having a huge knock-on effect for the NHS and other support services throughout the UK?

It has been reported that one boater counted 3,700 people walking past her canal side house last at Easter, so one can only guess how many more people have been infected by this unrestricted contact?

Is there anyway you, or someone in government, can force the closure of the towpaths to all except boaters who have a boat in the vicinity?

We boaters are trying to do our bit but CaRTs policies make it impossible for us to implement the guidance and rulings issued by yourselves in government.

To the National Police Chiefs Council

A note to all CPOs.

If you would like to make a real difference to keeping the public safe from infection then you would be better off patrolling the canal and river towpaths rather than looking at what people are shopping for.

I live on the canals and trying to maintain social distance is impossible because the towpaths have become a rat race.  There are thousands of people using them as an excuse because they have been stopped from using the parks etc. and Canal & River trust refuse to close them saying government guidelines prevent it?  They closed them during the foot and mouth emergencies!

As most are very narrow keeping six feet apart from each other is impossible.  Keeping six feet away from resident boaters is also impossible.  The usage has increased hugely since this emergency broke and parks, beaches and gardens have been closed.

Rather than patrol supermarkets and upsetting shoppers trying to get a few essentials and perhaps a little treat to ease the monotony, you would do far more good and have far more public support keeping people apart by stopping inappropriate use of the waterways towpaths and associated footpaths.

At the moment they are a haven for the spread of this disease and the masses that are flocking to them are putting themselves and others in danger of contracting it.