Chairman of the Anglian Regional Fisheries,
Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee (IW 30)
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
The Regional Fisheries, Ecology, and Recreation
Advisory Committee (RFERAC) was established by statute at the
inception of the Environment Agency. The Committee, comprised
of voluntary members with particular interest, has the role of
advising the Agency on matters contained within its title.
In the Anglian Region, recreational navigation
is an important activity, particularly on the rivers Nene and
Ouse for which the Agency is the navigation authority. Both rivers
form the network providing land drainage to a wide area of Fenland
and the East Midlands, with the Agency being responsible for flood
defence and control.
RFERAC have consistently supported the Agency
in the development of its total river management, and firmly believe
this to be the most efficient and cost effective way forward.
Taking the river Nene as a particularly good
example of a fully co-ordinated approach, the river has over 100
locks and control sluices, managed by the Agency, which both control
the water flows and facilitate a growing recreational navigation
usage. These are managed alongside, and in conjunction with, the
Agency's other responsibilities of improving water quality, developing
fisheries, enhancing habitats, creating environmental benefits,
and broadening leisure facilities within the river corridor. All
these activities contribute to a considerable presence of Agency
staff on the riverside, an important aspect appreciated by those
who use the waterways, and adjacent areas.
The Nene, and parts of the Ouse system, are
extreme examples of how a very fine balance is achieved, on a
day to day basis, between potentially conflicting activities through
integrated management. During critical periods, judgements have
to be made hour by hour. The Committee believes that this balance
will not be reliably achievable through separate management of
navigation by another organisation, however carefully planned
and skilfully approached.
The Committee has encouraged the Agency in furthering
the development of partnerships to extend, and enhance, the facilities
within the river corridor. This combined approach has generated
additional expenditure of over £3.25 million in 1999-2000
within Anglian Region.
Alongside the foregoing, the Agency works with
a wide range of partners in its work on waterways, on day to day
management matters. These partners include other Navigation Authorities,
Local Authorities, Drainage Boards, Water Companies, Conservation
bodies, Agricultural and Industrial concerns and a diverse range
of user organisations.
The Committee believes that there remains considerable
scope for expansion of the recreational use of existing navigations,
and has welcomed the recent additional funding to the Agency from
DETR to facilitate urgent repairs to locks etc. Nevertheless,
if the full potential of our waterways is to be realised, much
further investment will be required. To this end many of the proposals
in Waterways for Tomorrow are supported.
The Committee strongly supported the recent
Collaboration Agreement between the Environment Agency and British
Waterways (BW) and believes that this should form the basis for
the future development of the navigational systems in England
The RFERAC believes that the best way to secure
waterways for the future is for firm decisions to be made on the
future of river navigations. Navigation roles and responsibilities
have been under almost continuous review since the late 1980s,
with a number of studies and consultations taking place to assess
the merits of transfers between navigation authorities. The Agency
has consistently received a high level of support from stakeholders
and user groups, to continue its role. For example, in the 1997-98
review of the Nene and Ouse, 137 out of 144 responses received
supported continuation of the Agency's management, and of the
220 people who attended three public meetings organised by BW
only one spoke in favour of BW's proposals.
In conclusion the Committee believes that the
Agency should retain the navigation on rivers, which it does best,
and that British Waterways retain responsibility for navigation
on canals, which they do best.
RFERAC members wish to thank Members of the
Select Committee for the opportunity of contributing to your inquiry.
27 September 2000