CaRT blasted over dredging problems and 'years of neglect'

Published: Monday, 01 May 2023

THERE was a very uncomfortable meeting for the people from Canal & River Trust in Gloucester recently.

Over 100 people turned up at the public meeting at Gloucester Brewery concerning the problems at Gloucester docks.

Affected businesses

Many of those attending fired tough questions at the trust's representatives about the neglect of the docks and its lack of dredging that affected so many businesses around the area.

It was standing room only at the meeting organised and chaired by On Toast café owner David Purchase hoping to try and find a solution. He telling that everybody would like to know when the pontoons and sides of the docks will be dredged so boats can safely moor, it resulting in poor Easter trading for dockside businesses as boats could not navigate the shallow depths.

Robert Eaton, Regional Operations Manager, told they are expecting the docks to be available for most vessels by the summer. He adding that the trust is not prioritising the tall ships over the rest of the docks. He said it was true the canal was previously dredged deeper.

Trapped in Victoria Basin

At the moment there are boats trapped on the pontoons in Victoria Basin on the silt, yet cannot give any assurance that the pontoons will be dredged.

Mr Eaton told that the trust’s next priority will be to free the boats trapped by the silt and make sure they can get into Barge Arm and out of Victoria Basin, stating:

“In a perfect world, we would have a bottomless pit of money and would be unconstrained by environmental regulations...”

'"Here we go again"

To which he was subjected to booing from the crowd and cries of “here we go again!”

Other comments from people were that the present situation at Gloucester Docks was due to years of neglect and not just the unprecedented levels of silt pumped into the canal last year from the Severn.

The trust spokesman told it needed to do this to supply Bristol Water during last year’s drought and conceded that they had to override their silt sensors to comply with their contractual obligations with the water company.

Lack of business over Easter

Many traders told of lack of business over Easter as no visiting boats.

Other criticisms of the trust included comments such as 'governance sucks' and that communication was very poor. One member of the public also said there used to be a collaborative water management strategy when it was operated by British Waterways which worked, but not any more.