Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 439)

WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2000

DR GEORGE GREENER, DR DAVID FLETCHER AND MR STEWART SIM

  420. But you do not know?
  (Dr Greener) No, of course not. How can I sit here—

  421. But you see what I am getting at?
  (Dr Greener) I do see what you are getting at. What I am trying to say to you is that in all of my experience and many visits to many of these sites and locations, talking to many of our people, I know that a tremendous amount of activity has gone on in terms of looking at sites, looking at structures such as this. It would be almost unthinkable for me to say to you that it was not us. I cannot sit here and say I am absolutely 100 per cent certain that it is. Okay?

  422. I am simply seeking clarification. This will give you an opportunity to be fully open to my next comment. What you say is that as far as British Waterways are concerned you do not know who initiated this project and you do not know whether British Waterways ever initiated a similar project on this site over 25 years?
  (Dr Greener) But I would be amazed if we had not, okay?

  423. But you do not know?
  (Dr Fletcher) Excuse me. Could I just answer you. In my time in British Waterways we have sought to review every single site with every listed structure. This site has been brought to me to be reviewed many times in the last five years. I have been specifically involved in—

Chairman

  424. Dr Fletcher, I do not think we want to go back over the long administrative problems of British Waterways. You were asked a specific question: has the site been brought forward with a scheme? Have you put the thing together? Have you produced a report?
  (Dr Fletcher) Yes.

  425. And the answer is?
  (Dr Fletcher) Yes, yes, yes.

  426. Not a successful one because it is not there.
  (Dr Fletcher) We are reviewing a successful one, as we explained to you, at this very moment.

  427. Twenty five years after the thing was originally empty?
  (Dr Fletcher) Can I just clarify? I do not know if the site has been empty for 25 years. Twenty five years ago British Waterways were running a freight fleet. That may well have been used for freight or other purposes, so I am sorry, I do not know the occupancy 25 years ago.

  428. But we are not disputing the fact that no successful scheme has gone in there in the last 25 years, are we?
  (Dr Fletcher) I do not know, madam, because—

  429. Are we agreed on that?
  (Dr Fletcher) No, because I do not know what use that building was put to 25 years ago.

  430. It might be 24½ years.
  (Dr Fletcher) It might be ten years.

  431. It might, but there is no evidence.
  (Dr Fletcher) I do not know.

Mr Stevenson

  432. But that is another "don't know", is it not? You do not know what timescale we are talking about here, so that is three "don't knows" that the Committee have. Can I move on to freight and hopefully we can make more progress on that? Dr Fletcher, you said with regard to the Government's stated objective of doubling freight on waterways that you would like to see it more than that. It does hark back to my previous question. There are those who criticise British Waterways for having your top priorities as recreational and property development and you are really not interested in freight. What is your response to that criticism?
  (Dr Fletcher) I am sure it is a well intended allegation but it is quite wrong.

  433. It is wrong?
  (Dr Fletcher) Absolutely wrong.

  434. Could I refer to evidence we have received from well respected academics at London Guildhall University about the River Weaver, an offshoot of the Manchester Ship Canal, which, according to the evidence we have, is now silted up to such a degree that coastal and shortsea vessels cannot use it. Do you confirm that it is silted up to that degree?
  (Dr Fletcher) No.

  435. So it is not? That information is incorrect?
  (Dr Fletcher) Yes, your allegation is incorrect.

  436. It is not my allegation. So it can be used and is being used for coastal and shortsea vessels? Is that correct?
  (Mr Sim) Yes, there is traffic that comes up to the ICI works at Barton(?).

  437. It is navigable?
  (Mr Sim) It is navigable.

  438. There is no problem?
  (Mr Sim) There is no problem. It is navigable.

  439. That answers my question then. It is a direct contradiction of the evidence that we have received.


 
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