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


Memorandum by The Yacht Brokers, Designers and Surveyors Association (IW 36)

THE POTENTIAL OF THE INLAND WATERWAYS

INTRODUCTION

  The YBDSA is the only professional body for Yacht Brokers, Designers and Surveyors of recreational craft in the UK. Members are only accepted into membership after an examination and interview, for surveyors and designers, and after vetting for all categories. Members are also required to maintain their levels of technical knowledge and expertise by achieving Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Additionally, all members must have Professional Indemnity Insurance.

  Many of our members are involved with the inland waterways in various capacities—second-hand boat sales; surveys—for the Boat Safety Scheme, for insurance purposes and for clients personally (private and commercial)—and in design aspects for new boats or up-grading, renewing, etc. There is a special branch of the YBDSA for inland waterways—the Inland Waterways Group. This group works closely with bodies such as British Waterways, the Environment Agency and the RYA. We also have membership of the Parliamentary Waterways Group.

  Our members are therefore directly involved with inland waterways boaters on a daily basis, as well as the marina and boatyard personnel. Clearly, therefore, the health of these waterways has a direct impact on their livelihoods.

WORKING TOGETHER

  The potential of the waterways is critically linked to all aspects working together—if the waterways are full of rubbish and run through derelict areas they are not pleasant to navigate—with the obvious effect on leisure and tourism. If they are silted up, traffic cannot pass through, particularly large commercial freight vessels. It is therefore an implicit duty upon us all to co-operate for the benefit of all.

FUNDING

  The regeneration of many areas of the waterways has been well documented and inland boating is an increasingly popular pastime. Restoration projects are queued up, waiting for agreement to go ahead and for grants. The Government provides some funding to the waterways and the waterways operators, particularly British Waterways and the Environment Agency raise funds through licences, moorings, etc.

  Unlike other modes of transport the waterways have multiple uses, being enjoyed by a wide variety of different users—walkers (with and without dogs), horse riders, cyclists, fishermen, bird watchers, etc, as well as boaters (pleasure and commercial), freight movement and water transfer. Further they provide important habitats for flora and fauna. All of these cohabit largely without undue friction and provide employment and enjoyment for a large section of the community.

  Many of these users do not contribute financially to the maintenance of the waterways, whilst benefiting from their upkeep, and we would urge DETR to look at wider means of financial support than just the boaters (pleasure and commercial) and the boatyards and marinas and water transfer operations. We would urge central Government funding for an integrated transport network which recognised the importance of the waterways as part of our on-going inheritance.

  However, if we are to attempt to return to some of the former strength of the commercial use of these waterways, we still have a long way to go.

INTEGRATED TRANSPORT OPPORTUNITIES

  The Integrated Transport Plan looked at all means of transport, notably with a view to reducing the number of vehicles on our roads. The waterways were originally created with the very purpose of moving freight around the country, and it is only with the introduction of the faster options of road and rail that this has fallen away. The benefits of using water to transport large, heavy cargoes are the lessening of pollution from the lorries or diesel trains that would otherwise move it; that it lessens lorry journeys on the road infrastructure—water does not have to be re-surfaced like motorways; and less congestion on the roads.

RE-FURBISHMENT OF COMMERCIAL VESSELS

  An appreciation of the benefits of water-borne freight is growing and our surveyors are being asked to undertake an increasing number of surveys with the intention of refurbishment of commercial vessels which had largely fallen into disrepair. A major problem at present is the dwindling pool of boats available for such refurbishment—operators are even looking to the continent trying to find suitable vessels. We would like to see DETR build on the support they are already giving the waterborne freight industry, which is a welcome development, by offering grants or other incentives to commercial operators for such refurbishment. It is a very expensive operation, but with some support those vessels which would otherwise have to be written-off as too derelict to bring back to life due to cost, could be given a new lease of life. This is an urgent matter, as each year passing means that such vessels are becoming less able to be re-vitalised. Our surveyors are keen to work with operators to offer their expertise and advice. Encouragement of the commercial freight industry by DETR would be most welcome if some of the Integrated Transport budget was targeted to identifying and refurbishing derelict vessels to cope with the increasing demand for this means of carriage.

WATERWAYS SUPPORTING BUSINESSES

  Our broker members on the inland waterways are dependent upon a well-maintained waterways infrastructure to sell boats—both pleasure and commercial. The regeneration of the waterways in many parts of the country has seen a growth in boating for pleasure. However, this needs to be supported by the level of moorings and boatyards available to service them. DETR support for new marina and boatyard projects is paramount if we are to maintain the impetus of development and regeneration. Environmental considerations are often given priority but it is not generally the case that boatyards or other boating operations cause loss of amenity for wildlife, and certainly boaters gain a great deal of pleasure from the wildlife around them whilst they are boating. The dredging of the waterway by boat movement is largely advantageous for both flora and fauna. The provision of designated sites means that boaters are less likely to moor up in sensitive areas—it is clearly more comfortable to go somewhere where there are facilities provided, and with access to local shops and amenities.

CONCLUSION

  We are pleased to have this opportunity to make representations to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee and hope that we may be able to assist the Committee in its inquiry into the Potential of the Inland Waterways.

28 September 2000


 
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