Memorandum by the Chairman of the Southern
Region Regional Fisheries, Ecology & Recreation Advisory Committee
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
The Environment Agency is best placed to provide
an holistic management approach to navigable rivers. The synergies
accruing from our integrated management of flood defence, navigation,
recreation and water management functions enables the Environment
Agency to potentially deliver best management at best cost. The
River Medway provides a good example of such integrated management
carried out by the Environment Agency. Here staff costs are shared
between functions and necessary critical mass is achieved with
considerable operational synergies through seasonal duality of
roles and broadly skilled staff. This potential for considerable
financial savings and the high quality integrated service provided
leads us to the view that navigation duties for rivers in England
and Wales are most appropriately vested in the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency's existing strong consultation
processes have a reputation for being impartial, and fair. This
open relationship with users has helped the Environment Agency
develop and implement robust and valued river management practices
across England and Wales, successfully balancing the needs of
many interacting interests and conflicting demands that exist.
The Environment Agency integrated river basin
management process has led to extensive environmental gains in
river valleys, beyond the navigation corridor. Its ability to
work in collaboration with a wide range of partners has enabled
it to produce many examples of sustainable and integrated projects,
delivering the public demand for nurtured and not over-developed
The Environment Agency, and its predecessor
organisations, has developed a lead role in collaborating with
other organisations in partnerships to forward common interests.
A good example is the Medway River Project which involves the
local community with this important river navigation, enhancing
the natural and built environment whilst protecting the character
of the river corridor valued by the local residents.
The Environment Agency multi-functional requirements
for large-scale water management and supply have also benefited
the navigable river network. It has been able to balance the demands
of users with that of water level management and abstraction,
securing gains for each through its ability to analyse and understand
the overall hydrological requirements of catchments.
The River Medway is extensively used for boating,
recreation and fishing, however, it is a river that floods rapidly
and this can jeopardize towns along its course. The flood control
structures and the powers vested in the Environment Agency enable
the effects of flooding to be managed within a context of protecting
the navigation, people and property. The Environment Agency's
role in providing integrated river management and protection to
the local community is recognised and greatly valued.
The Committee feels that the numerous interacting
factors that make the efficient management of river navigations
a complex task prompts the conclusion that the Environment Agency's
integrated management approach is better suited to the task than
either that of British Waterways or of private operators networks.
Key points to consider include:
The diverse ownership of riparian
rights which creates issues for development and management that
are not generally present on the canal network.
The Environment Agency's responsibilities
for navigations are usually severely handicapped by a lack of
government funding specifically for navigation. Without the economic
synergies of integration the cost of our flood defence role would
increase substantially and navigation opportunities for people
to enjoy would be reduced.
The Environment Agency's financial
regulation means that access to development capital is severely
restricted. Many inland navigations carry with them a legacy of
much-needed engineering work which has been underfunded for many
years. With adequate funding the Environment Agency could soon
reverse this trend, realising the full potential of inland waterways.
We believe that the integrated approach to all
aspects of water management for English and Welsh rivers is best
served by one Agency. The Environment Agency's duties for flood
defence, drainage, recreation, conservation and navigation make
it the only organisation well suited and structured to this provision
and to maintaining effective, efficient and progressive management
of river navigations.
Within the Southern Region, despite inadequate
funding, there is considerable progress in developing the potential
of our inland waterways for their economic, environmental and
social values. Integrated waterway management stands as a central
ethos to the Environment Agency's "Vision for the Environment",
and its application commends the real benefits of integration
by one operating organisation.
I trust our committee's views are valuable to
your deliberations, and give evidence for our belief that the
Environment Agency remains the most appropriate and able body
to properly manage river navigations in England and Wales.
Dr Nick Giles
28 September 2000