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

Memorandum by British Waterways (IW 52)



  1.  British Waterways is a public corporation sponsored by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. We manage and care for over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in England, Scotland and Wales (a map and list of navigations is Appendix A). We manage over 1,500 miles of canals and over 400 miles of rivers including making sure they are safe places for people to enjoy as well as managing water supply and control. 1,624 miles are currently navigable and some 200 miles are in the process of restoration to full navigation. Our 1,800 staff care for over 2,800 listed structures, 130 scheduled ancient monuments, 3,270 bridges, 66 tunnels, 450 aqueducts, 1,520 locks, 1,036 lock cottages and dwellings and 88 reservoirs. Our waterways are part of or pass through more than 100 SSSIs and 1,500 local wildlife sites. We provide services and facilities for users and generate income from a wide range of sources (private and public) to reinvest in the future of the waterways.

  2.  Some 160 million visits are made to our waterways by 10 million people each year. There are 25,000 powered boats on our waterways. Our research estimates that total expenditure by visitors during trips involving visits to our waterways is £1.5 billion per year, supporting directly and indirectly some 54,000 jobs.

  3.  As well as being subject to the public general legislation which affects any modern organisation, British Waterways is specifically governed by the Transport Acts (1962 and 1968) and the British Waterways Acts (1971, 1983 and 1995). Also still extant, is a plethora of 18th and 19th century legislation, much of which is inappropriate to the modern management of the waterways.

  4.  The Government expects British Waterways to discharge its statutory duties within the context of wider Government policy. Its overall policy for inland waterways has recently been reviewed and published as Waterways for Tomorrow. This policy document is one of the subjects of the Committee's inquiry. The Government also publishes formal guidance for British Waterways—most recently the Framework Document for British Waterways published in February 1999 with the following principal aims:

    —  Waterways should be maintained and developed in a sustainable manner so that they fulfil their full economic, social and environmental potential;

    —  British Waterways should work in partnership with other public sector organisations, as well as the private and voluntary sectors to maximise promotion of and investment in the inland waterways;

    —  Because of its significant expertise, British Waterways should take the lead in consulting and co-ordinating other UK navigation authorities to seek harmonious and rationalised policies and systems of operation for the good of Britain's inland waterways and their users.

  5.  British Waterways draws up its local business plans in consultation with over 500 local and national stakeholder groups. All our waterways are managed to defined published standards (examples are set out in Appendix B). We also publish our overall plans so that users and partners know exactly what they can expect and can hold us accountable. The latest published plan is "Our Plan for the Future—2000-04". We will publish our next plan once the Government has determined our grant levels under Spending Review 2000.

  6.  In the 10 years 1989-90 to 1999-2000, British Waterways has boosted its income, which is reinvested in the waterways, from £86 million pa to £157 million pa. Much of this improvement has come from our success in attracting investment from third parties such as the EU, local authorities, regeneration agencies, Lottery distributors and the private sector (details are in Appendix C).

  7.  British Waterways carries out regular research and consultation to ascertain the views of its users. We were awarded a Charter Mark at our first application in 1994 and received a further award in 1997.

  8.  Since the late 1980s British Waterways has set out to change and adapt itself to maximise the benefits of the waterways we manage for the nation. The (then) Environment Select Committee reviewed the work of British Waterways in 1989 as we were putting in place devolved management structures which were designed to empower staff and enable better customer service. We believe that those changes made then have underpinned our ability to realise the potential of our waterways in a fast changing modern world.


  9.  Conclusion 1—The inland waterways have a very positive contribution to make to the social, economic and environmental well being of millions of people in this country. There is potential to achieve still further public benefit. See paragraphs 16-49.

  10.  Conclusion 2—British Waterways does not believe that there is inherent conflict between the different roles that the waterways are required to perform. The key to achieving the maximum overall public benefit is in treating these roles as complementary. The sustainable, long term, future for the waterways can only be assured when these objectives are in balance. This needs professional management which is able to apply its understanding to the integrated management of the waterways. This management works in a context where Government provides a policy framework and regulatory controls in areas of key public policy concern.

  11.  Consequently, British Waterways does not believe that any one objective or use should be given automatic priority. In operational terms, as the Committee would expect, the safety of both public and staff is British Waterways' top priority. See paragraphs 53-57.

  12.  Conclusion 3—We support the policies set out in Waterways for Tomorrow. See paragraphs 58-61.

  13.  Conclusion 4—The waterways need adequate public investment to secure the innovative developments envisaged in Waterways for Tomorrow. See paragraphs 62-63.

  14.  Conclusion 5—We believe that in order to maximise the potential benefits identified in Waterways for Tomorrow, it would be advantageous to transfer the navigation responsibilities of the Environment Agency to British Waterways. See paragraphs 64-71.

  15.  Conclusion 6—We welcome the fact that Waterways for Tomorrow announced initiatives to facilitate the carriage of freight by water. We believe that, given the right targeted assistance, freight traffic on our waterways can be doubled in the next five years. See paragraphs 50-52.


  The Committee is inquiring into five specific issues.

Issue 1

  16.  The first issue was subdivided into four areas and asked respondents to consider the role of inland waterways with respect to:

    —  urban and rural regeneration;

    —  leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage;

    —  the environment and the enhancement of wildlife; and

    —  water transfer, drainage and telecommunications.

  17.  Issue 1(i)—Urban and Rural Regeneration—Waterways play an important role in urban and rural regeneration providing both large and small scale opportunities for the revitalisation of communities. You can see larger examples in Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, London, Sheffield and Gloucester. Smaller examples are widely found and include places as diverse as Bridgwater (Somerset), Brecon, Devizes, Market Harborough, Stourport-on-Severn, Burton-on-Trent and Ripon. These examples include regeneration around both canal and river corridors. The waterspace is attractive and acts as a catalyst and focus for development. Sensitive development involves local communities and provides environmental enhancements. Regeneration provides new uses for old buildings many of which have historic significance. Above all, regeneration creates employment and economic activity. The income streams that regeneration creates can provide one element of the funding mix to secure the future of the waterways.

  18.  British Waterways often acts as a catalyst to bring together other bodies including local authorities and statutory agencies to take a fresh approach to the waterside and its adjacent "corridor". British Waterways' role is also valued by partners because our ownership of the waterway gives us a long term commitment to integrated management of the water space and associated facilities in a way that balances commercial, environmental and social issues. We develop sustainable income streams from regeneration to secure the future of the waterway. This is a major factor underpinning successful sustainable development and could be used as a model for regeneration on other waterways.

  19.  Regeneration is often based on restoration of navigation and sometimes on building entirely new waterways. The navigable waterway network managed by British Waterways is growing. We are on target to complete the restoration of 200 miles of waterway by 2001-02. A significant example is the restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal generating significant environmental improvement and creating some 400 jobs and the Kennet & Avon Canal which will create and/or safeguard 1,600 jobs. Plans are now under active consideration to restore more waterways such as the Cotswold Canals and also to build new links such as the one between the Grand Union Canal, near Milton Keynes and the River Great Ouse, near Bedford. Details of these and other restoration and expansion projects are contained in Appendix D.

  20.  Urban regeneration—Partnership is the key to success in stimulating sustainable regeneration. British Waterways works with local authorities, regional development agencies, private developers and many others. During the 10 years since the Committee's 1989 inquiry into the British Waterways Board, we have been involved in 25 major schemes, of which 12 are substantially complete and 13 are in progress. A significant example of our work in this area has been our partnership with local authorities and businesses to animate the waterspace in London Docklands (see Appendix J) and build stronger links with local communities. Appendix E summarises independent research to evaluate the benefits of a selection of our urban regeneration partnerships.

  21.  Rural regeneration—Waterways are also a focus for rural communities. British Waterways' approach to rural regeneration strategy focuses on three key themes—rural enterprise, rural environment and social/community benefits. It aims to promote new funding together with relevant authorities and organisations, to help improve and sustain waterways which are officially classed as rural. These account for more than 50 per cent of our network. Case studies of sample rural regeneration projects are set out in Appendix F.

  22.  Regeneration potential—British Waterways believes that there is still considerable scope to achieve further urban and rural regeneration through waterways. This will make a significant contribution to deliver job creation, social inclusion and generate environmental improvement. We believe that the creation of the RDAs is a helpful development and we are already in the process of building dynamic partnerships with them. Appendix G lists urban and rural regeneration schemes for which we are currently carrying out studies. There are other sites where significant regeneration could be achieved but which lie outside British Waterways' network. Principal examples of such sites are also listed in Appendix H. We believe that transfer of navigation responsibilities to British Waterways would allow us to unlock the regeneration potential of such sites which is currently unrealised. See issue 6 below.

  23.  Regeneration and Waterways for Tomorrow—Waterways for Tomorrow recognises the benefits of waterway regeneration. We are pleased that the Government seeks to promote regeneration based on waterways. We also agree that the RDAs have a key role to play. Government guidance will help to ensure that future road building schemes do not limit the potential (or increase the costs) of waterway restoration.

  24.  Issue 1(ii)—Leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage—Over 70 per cent of the population lives within five miles of a waterway. They are a leisure, recreation and tourism resource for millions.

  25.  Boating—Navigation and boats are at the core of what waterways are about. They provide life and activity on the waterspace. Our research shows that users value this very highly. Boats are therefore a key feature of living, attractive waterways. The overall trend in the boating market is of declining numbers. However, the number of boats on British Waterways' network has increased by 14 per cent in the last 10 years. There are currently over 25,000 boats with long term licences on our network. In 1998 British Waterways proposed a partnership with the Environment Agency, to introduce a "gold licence", a premium rate licence to allow those boaters who wished to do so to use the waterways of both authorities without requiring separate licences. The scheme has proved popular.

  26.  British Waterways plans to ensure that the level of support facilities (moorings, pump out, gas, water etc) required by boaters is available. We are currently working in partnership with the British Marine Industries Federation to make sure that future provisions meet demand and provide profitable business opportunities. We are currently supporting a joint DETR/DCMS/Sport England/Environment Agency research project on Access to Water. This will provide data to identify where there may be opportunities to improve access for canoeists and other recreational uses.

  27.  Cycling and walking—The vast majority of visits to the waterways are for these purposes. In some areas, towpaths provide valuable traffic free routes. The Government's approach to integrated transport policy encourages local authorities to take account of this in their Local Transport Plans. We support this approach and believe that local authorities should be strongly encouraged by DETR to invest in waterways to encourage this kind of use.

  28.  Angling—Waterways are widely used for angling. British Waterways is the largest provider of coarse angling in England and Wales. Although we earn income from leasing agreements with angling clubs (£740,000 in 1999-2000) and provide a fishery management service, the revenue from rod licensing (total on all inland waters £13.3 million in 1999-2000) goes to the Environment Agency. In its capacity as regulator, the Environment Agency recently lifted the close season on all canals (except SSSIs).

  29.  We recently started a marketing reappraisal of angling on our waterways in partnership with the National Federation of Anglers and The National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives. The completed strategy will confirm our continued commitment to angling and will identify the actions which we and our partners will take to arrest the long term decline in the sport on our waterways.

  30.  Leisure Potential—Our research (Henley Centre) shows that the trend is for busier people to require higher standards of leisure service to maximise their scarce free time. The waterways have the potential to provide a significant range of leisure activities that are attractive to those seeking a "real" alternative to the stress of modern life. British Waterways is proactively developing products and services to meet these new customer needs. We seek to interpret heritage and environment in a modern context, also creating in the process the heritage of tomorrow. For example, we are extending the availability of waterways and their facilities, improving service standards and providing modern visitor services (see paragraphs 31-34 below). We work extensively with partners to do this.

  31.  Built and natural heritage sites—British Waterways is implementing a strategy to improve facilities and generate revenue by creating significant "heritage destinations" at key points on the system. Based on expert and innovative interpretation of living heritage, these will form a key part of building wider understanding of an involvement in the waterways. Key projects currently under construction are:

    —  Anderton Boat Lift—visitor attraction and opportunity to experience the world's first and Britain's only boat lift.

    —  "The Standedge Experience"—an innovative visitor centre and boat trip into the country's highest, deepest and longest canal tunnel—part of the restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

    —  Falkirk Wheel—a revolutionary design to lift boats at the site of a former flight of locks joining the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals

    —  Montgomery Canal—development of a series of visitor¸focused nature reserves providing access to and interpretation of the internationally recognised wildlife which this unspoilt waterway has to offer.

  32.  These projects are the first in a series of exciting developments which we have planned to draw on the enormous public interest in the heritage and environment of the waterways which our market research has revealed. There is potential to do this on waterways other than those currently managed by British Waterways.

  33.  British Waterways is committed to providing access to the waterways for the widest possible range of people. Indeed, we ensured that we had a legal duty to do so under the British Waterways Act 1995. There has been a substantial increase in recent years in use of the waterways we manage: the number of people visiting annually is estimated to have risen from 8 million in 1986 to 10 million in 1999. Each year British Waterways is host to some 160 million visits including:

    —  145 million visits by walkers;

    —  7.2 million visits by cyclists;

    —  2.6 million visits by anglers;

    —  2.6 million visits by boaters and their passengers; and

    —  1.5 million visits by canoeists and unpowered boaters.

  34.  We have developed a partnership (launched by the Waterways Minister) with the Fieldfare Trust to promote access for people with disabilities to waterway facilities. The partnership is piloting the use of wheelchair¸accessible gates, disabled¸access boats, tactile sculptures and hedges for the visually impaired and wheelchair¸friendly fishing platforms. The scheme also aims to provide improved information about accessible towpaths and facilities for disabled visitors. We also work in partnership with the Community Boat Association to promote high quality access to boating on the waterways for a wide range of people of all abilities and backgrounds.

  35.  Leisure, recreation, tourism and the industrial heritage and Waterways for Tomorrow—We are encouraged that Waterways for Tomorrow takes a positive stance on tourism and recreation. We support DETR in its desire to liaise with other Government departments (principally DCMS) to ensure a co¸ordinated approach to tourism and recreation.

  36.  Issue 1(iii)—Environment and enhancement of wildlife—Waterways are a diverse habitat containing many species important for biodiversity. Wildlife began colonising the canal system as soon as it was built. The rivers we manage also provide diverse habitats for wildlife. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan contains a special section on canals. This biodiversity is part of the attraction of the waterways. In managing and developing the waterways it is essential that this legacy is conserved and enhanced.

  37.  The conservation and enhancement of this natural heritage is a key part of British Waterways' policy. We have an important role to play in protecting an outstanding range of wildlife including rare plants such as floating water plantain and grass¸wrack pondweed, and animals, including the much loved water vole, bats, white¸clawed crayfish and even freshwater sponges. Our canals and rivers form a unique corridor of historic landscapes linking town and country and providing excellent opportunities for environmental initiatives. We understand the part which biodiversity plays in attracting the public to use the waterways. We believe we are working positively with a wide range of partners within the framework of Government guidelines on biodiversity and related issues.

  38.  We employ specialist staff in our Environmental and Scientific Services Unit in Gloucester and in our Waterway Environment Services unit near Rugby and based with project teams, to advise our managers on environmental, landscape and ecological issues. We have recently published British Waterways and Biodiversity—A framework for waterway wildlife strategies. This document provides the context for our staff to achieve their biodiversity targets in partnership with other environmental bodies and local communities.

  39.  Every waterway already manages the environment in accordance with our Environmental Code of Practice. This year, using the new framework noted above and its accompanying Biodiversity Manual, each waterway will begin to assess its biodiversity potential with the aim of completing full biodiversity plans on every waterway by 2005.

  40.  Good quality water is important both to the general public and to our business objectives. British Waterways regularly reviews the quality of water in its waterways and feeders using data from the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. We work in partnership to improve quality where needed.

  41.  We recognise the importance of partnership in realising the potential of environmental management and we consult in England, Scotland and Wales, with Government departments, statutory nature and conservation agencies, the Environment Agency (and Scottish Environment Protection Agency), local authorities and the voluntary sector, particularly the Wildlife Trusts.

  42.  The waterways can also contribute to the environment by reducing pollution. In part, this is achieved by transferring freight traffic to water (see paragraphs 50-52). We have worked in partnership to create a new hydroelectric scheme on the River Trent at Beeston. We are currently reviewing this to see if it can be applied elsewhere.

  43.  Environment and the enhancement of wildlife and Waterways for Tomorrow—We are encouraged that the Government recognises the environmental value of the waterways. We know the Government understands the importance of balancing conservation with development, access and use.

  44.  Issue 1(iv)—Water Transfer, Drainage and Telecommunications—The Committee asked questions about water transfer, land drainage and telecommunications. This highlights the actual and potential importance of the waterway as a network providing added value for business and individual customers. The waterways have found a new role as a modern, vibrant national network to supplement their traditional role in carrying freight.

  45.  Water transfer—Canals have always been used for water transfer, both for water management reasons to facilitate navigation and for sale to business customers. For example, the Llangollen Canal has long fed the Hurleston water treatment works now owned by North West Water, and 50 per cent of the water supplied to customers of Bristol Water comes from the River Severn via the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. British Waterways and Bristol Water have recently signed a new agreement to secure supplies for the next 30 years. All British Waterways' use of water is made in the context of the water resources management strategy which we develop in partnership with the Environment Agency. The sale of water is also regulated by the Environment Agency's system of abstraction licensing.

  46.  Water transfer potential—there is great potential for British Waterways' network to transfer water. Waterways for Tomorrow recognises and supports this. This scheme will help to open up competition in the water industry. British Waterways can, with appropriate partners, create a business opportunity which adds value by managing the transfer of water and its sale to end users in both raw and treated forms. Comprehensive feasibility studies and field trials have shown that water transfer and sales on a larger scale are practical and can be done profitably. We believe that addressing imbalances in water supplies across the country should be given a high public policy priority. British Waterways has made excellent progress in developing proposals for this potential "water grid". Independent research confirms that we can transfer significant quantities of water without adversely affecting environment, heritage or navigation. Indeed, the changes made will improve amenity for navigation. We are currently working with Partnerships UK to develop a joint venture with the private sector. Our plans suggest that the first sales of water under this initiative could start in 2002. There is potential to link the water grid using our waterways to the waterways managed by other bodies.

  47.  Land drainage—Inland waterways have become an integral part of the land drainage system and many take storm water discharges from roads and sewers. British Waterways makes a considerable contribution to the management of land drainage. Studies have highlighted the value of this function as being in the region of £37 million pa, and yet we have been hampered by being unable under current legislation to charge the beneficiaries (eg water utilities) for the service we provide.

  48.  On many of our rivers (eg, Aire, Calder, Lee, Soar, Stort and Weaver) some of the operation of flood defence is integrated into our navigation function. Together with the Environment Agency, we reviewed this in 1996 in a series of comprehensive reports and concluded that this way of working was both efficient and effective. We believe the benefits of this kind of working could be extended to some other rivers. See also paragraphs 67-71 below.

  49.  Telecommunications—British Waterways recognised the potential of its network to gain benefit from the changing telecommunications market in the early 1990s. Fibreway, a joint venture with GEC (now Marconi), was set up in 1993. It now operates a high capacity 1,300 km telecommunications network—half of which runs under British Waterways' canal towpaths. It reaches all of mainland Britain's major cities, serving customers in the telecommunication, utility and internet service provision industries. Revenue from Fibreway is currently being reinvested in reducing British Waterways' backlog of safety related maintenance. The enormous growth in potential of the telecommunications market led us to restructure our joint venture with Marconi in May 2000 moving Fibreway from a supplier of "dark fibre" into the role of network operator. Provided investment capital is available, this will allow substantial investment in Fibreway in the next 2-3 years further expanding its potential to produce revenue for investment in the long term future of the waterways. There is potential to extend the fibre optic network using other existing or restored navigations.

Issue 2—Freight

  50.  The inland waterways were originally adapted and built to carry freight. Competition from rail and road transport now means that the market for waterborne freight is a specialised niche market suitable for non-time critical goods. In terms of tonne km, total freight carried accounts for less than 1 per cent of freight moved in the UK.

  51.  Some 3.5 million tonnes pa are carried on waterways managed by British Waterways. We see freight as an important traffic which, when appropriately managed, can co¸exist with leisure traffic on our waterways.

  52.  Freight and Waterways for Tomorrow—We welcome the fact that Waterways for Tomorrow announced consultation on ways to improve grants to freight projects on waterways and the setting up of a wide ranging freight study group to encourage new partnerships. We also welcome the subsequent extension of Freight Facilities Grant to fund non¸capital as well as capital investment in the waterway track and facilities by navigation authorities. A significant example of such a partnership is the one which we are testing on the River Lee in East London to move domestic waste by barge from local authority collection points to a new build waterside incinerator which converts the waste into usable green heating fuel. We enthusiastically support these initiatives and believe that given the right targeted assistance, freight traffic on our waterways can be doubled in the next five years.

Issue 3—Complementary nature of objectives for inland waterways

  53.  Our submission shows that the waterways have a significant modern role in the economic, social and environmental life of the nation and that there is potential to achieve still further public benefit.

  54.  British Waterways does not believe that there is inherent conflict between the different roles that the waterways are required to perform.

  55.  British Waterways believes that the key to achieving the maximum overall public benefit is in treating these aspects as complementary. The sustainable, long term, future for the waterways can only be assured when these objectives are in balance. This needs professional management which is able to apply its understanding to the integrated management of the waterways. This management works in a context where Government provides a policy framework and regulatory controls in areas of key public policy concern.

  56.  British Waterways believes it has a proven track record in undertaking this stewardship role. Our consultancy advice on projects relating to waterway operation, tourism development, waterside regeneration and heritage management is widely sought, both at home and overseas. Appendix I contains a list of recent consultancy projects.

  57.  Consequently, British Waterways does not believe that any one objective or use should be given automatic priority. In operational terms, as the Committee would expect, the safety of both the public and staff is British Waterways' top priority.

Issue 4—Adequacy of Waterways for Tomorrow and Funding

Issue 4(i)—Waterways for Tomorrow

  58.  We support the policies set out in Waterways for Tomorrow.

  59.  We believe that in order to maximise the potential benefits identified in Waterways for Tomorrow, it would be advantageous to transfer the navigation responsibilities of the Environment Agency to British Waterways. See Issue 5 below and our supplementary evidence to the Committee.

  60.  We have also highlighted the importance of adequate public investment to secure the innovative developments envisaged in Waterways for Tomorrow. See Issue 4(ii) below.

  61.  Waterways for Tomorrow is a good basis on which to build a confident long term sustainable future for the waterways. It recognises both the complexity of the waterways and the importance of integrated navigation management. We believe that if the challenges that the policy throws up are fully met, then the waterways can deliver increased benefits to existing users and make significant contributions to the delivery of Government policy. Our waterways are in every sense a public asset.

Issue 4(ii)—Funding

  62.  Both Government and British Waterways recognise that there has been a long history of inadequate investment in our waterway infrastructure. As a result, a backlog of maintenance arrears now standing at £237 million (of which £71 million is safety related) has arisen. It is British Waterways' intention to eliminate these arrears as quickly as is practical. Waterways for Tomorrow and Unlocking the Potential—a new future for British Waterways both demonstrate Government's determination to help us do this. The additional support that Government has made available to date has helped (along with British Waterways' self-generated income) to reduce the backlog of safety related maintenance from its original level of £100 million to £71 million currently. However, as we made clear in Our Plan for the Future 2000-2004, current levels of public investment through grant are inadequate to deal with the backlog of maintenance within an acceptable time frame.

  63.  British Waterways is confident that it is creating many new revenue earning opportunities which will contribute significantly to the elimination of maintenance arrears within an acceptable timescale. The success of these ventures, which will allow the waterways to become sustainable for the long term, depends upon investor confidence in the reliability of the waterways. We currently await the outcome of Spending Review 2000 which will determine our grant in aid up to 2003-04. Our case for increased public investment through both revenue and capital grant during that period is based on the need to eliminate maintenance arrears within a timescale which will retain investor confidence in projects such as the water grid. Without this public investment in the integrity of the network now, the future revenue streams in our business plan will not be realised. We believe that Government understands our case very well. Once the outcome of Spending Review 2000 is known, we will publish an updated Plan for the Future showing what targets can be achieved for the elimination of arrears of maintenance with the funding available.

Issue 5—Structure of ownership etc.

  64.  Waterways for Tomorrow recognises that the identity of the navigation authority responsible for a particular waterway is often a matter of historical accident. Broadly speaking, the transport waterways and those owned by the nationalised railway companies ended up in British Waterways via the British Transport Commission. Other waterways ended up with a variety of local authorities and voluntary trusts, whilst some rivers were included in the public owned water authorities. These latter were then incorporated (for administrative convenience) in the National Rivers Authority and its successor the Environment Agency when the privatised water utilities were created.

  65.  The potential for improving this position by rationalising publicly owned navigations into a single focused body has long been recognised. Indeed this course of action was recommended by Select Committees in 1978 and 1989. Fragmentation of responsibility has been a disincentive to the realisation of the full potential of the inland waterways.

  66.  In the field of navigation, the Environment Agency is both regulator and operator. The proper remit (in the absence of historical accident and administrative convenience) is as a powerful regulator.

  67.  British Waterways manages successfully within the context of the Government's framework and Environment Agency regulation. We support the principle of integrated river basin management on which the Environment Agency's approach is based. It is vital that we fully include the environmental perspective within our integrated management approach to the sustainable development of the waterways. Integrated river basin management must be managed within the wider context of cross catchment management which is a key feature of some canals. It needs also to be managed within the wider context of the built, natural and social environment surrounding the waterways. This truly integrated approach is the key to British Waterways' success in the sustainable regeneration of urban and rural communities and in raising funds for the improvement of so many rivers and canals and their surroundings.

  68.  We operate flood control arrangements on behalf of the Environment Agency as do other bodies such as water companies, internal drainage boards and local authorities. British Waterways' and the Environment Agency's joint studies in 1996 concluded that these arrangements were working well. We have achieved much through working in close partnership with the Environment Agency and this partnership must continue, even if navigation responsibilities are transferred.

  69.  Waterways for Tomorrow sets out the Government's policy for achieving sustainable development of the waterways through an integrated approach to their management. British Waterways has a demonstrable track record in unlocking the potential of the waterways acting as manager and facilitator of such sustainable development. Where transfer of navigation responsibilities and waterspace to British Waterways has been made, we have made good progress with sustainable development. Six transfers have been made to British Waterways in the last 11 years:

    —  South Stratford Canal (from National Trust) 1989;

    —  River Ouse (from York City Council) 1989;

    —  London Docklands (from London Docklands Development Corporation) 1997;

    —  Linton Lock (Linton Lock Commissioners) 1999;

    —  Hull Marina (Hull City Council) 1999; and

    —  Tees Navigation (Commission for New Towns) 2000.

  Appendix I contains case studies demonstrating benefits from the transfer of navigation responsibilities to British Waterways.

  70.  Waterways for Tomorrow announced the Government's intention to examine the Environment Agency's navigation responsibilities as part of DETR's quinquennial review of the Agency which is just starting. We believe that the true potential of the waterways can best be realised by the transfer of the Environment Agency's navigations to British Waterways. British Waterways are best placed to take the integrated approach to the sustainable development of canals and rivers that Waterways for Tomorrow envisages. We believe that the Environment Agency should focus on its regulatory functions.

  71.  We recognise that the overall responsibility for flood control rests with the Environment Agency. However, there are already numerous examples of rivers on which British Waterways operates and maintains flood control systems under the regulatory and supervisory control of the Environment Agency. British Waterways believes that it is practical for it to manage flood control operation on the remaining rivers currently managed by the Environment Agency, whilst also taking responsibility for navigation and regeneration. British Waterways welcomes the Environment Agency's support for a British Waterways led bid for Invest to Save funds to create a strong flow and flood control Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) network to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our joint flood control capability.


  72.  We welcome the Government's endorsement of The Waterways Trust as part of its response to the findings of the above consultation. This opens up enhanced ways to involve the voluntary sector in the waterways. The Waterways Trust has asked us to partner it on projects such as the restoration of the Rochdale Canal and the building of the Ribble Link. British Waterways has been contracted to manage the engineering works involved in restoration and to manage the completed waterways on behalf of the Trust. We also believe that The Waterways Trust has much to contribute to the future programme of waterway restorations (see paragraph 19) as well as to involving communities actively with canals and rivers. It also has an important role to play in education and conservation.

  73.  British Waterways believes that there is considerable benefit to the more integrated approach to the management of the waterways which underpins the Government's Waterways for Tomorrow policy paper. We helped to set up the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities in 1996 to encourage exchange of good practice in the industry. We welcome the Government support for the Association announced in Waterways for Tomorrow. We also welcome the recent decision by the Government to expand the role of the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council to all inland waterways and not simply those managed by British Waterways.

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