Supplementary memorandum by the Inland
Waterways Amenity Advisory Council (IW 42A)
INQUIRY INTO THE POTENTIAL OF THE INLAND
The Council is appreciative of the opportunity
last Wednesday morning to give oral evidence to the Select Committee.
There are four matters on which I hope a follow-up
letter will help to clarify the Council's position and assist
your future deliberations and report.
1. THE COUNCIL
Our budget, currently £131,000 per annum,
is agreed each year with the Department and BW and stipulated
in the letter which the Department sends to BW setting out the
level of Grant in Aid. Making the Council directly funded by Government
would therefore make no difference to the origin of funds but,
as I explained to the Committee, perception is important. The
Council believes it would be helpful to its work if it were clearly
seen to be independent of any individual navigation authority.
Our 1968 statutory remit confines us not only
to BW but to the amenity aspects of non-commercial BW waterways.
This is now wholly obsolete. Successive Ministers have asked us
to look more widely at non-BW waterways and at issues such as
regeneration, investment, innovation, social inclusion and development.
All this is now endorsed in Waterways for Tomorrow. I would
strongly argue for the Council to be renamed the "Inland
Waterways Advisory Council" and formally given a pan-waterways
There is a further point I would like to make
Council Members give generously of their time for meetings, visits
and participation in our working groups (there are currently four
running) adding up to about 20 days a year on average. There is
no payment for this other than, of course, for expenses incurred
and compensation for any loss of earnings (almost never claimed).
In the light of the value placed by Ministers, British Waterways
(BW) and others on our work, it is my personal view that the situation
should be reviewed and that some form for payment should be considered
in the future.
2. THE BOAT
I confirm that the BSS Review team expects to
report by the end of the year.
3. THE ENVIRONMENT
This is a long-standing and you may find it
helpful if I outlined how the Council's thinking on this issue
has been consistent throughout. The Council took the view in 1996
in Britain's Inland Waterways: An Undervalued Asset that
there is indeed a conflict of interest between the Agency's roles
in promoting both conversation and recreation in inland waters,
and that the promotion of boating and allied developments were
inappropriate activities for the statutory authority responsible
for monitoring, regulation and flood control. We were also concerned
then, and remain concerned, at the lack of resources devoted to
the Agency's navigation/recreation responsibilities within its
over-arching environmental duties, perhaps as a consequence of
the above conflict within the organisation.
Our views were confirmed in 1998 when the then
Minister asked us to look at the Agency's Nene and Ouse Rivers
in Anglia Religion and advise whether navigation responsibilities
should remain with the Agency. The lack of investment in these
waterways and the very limited development of their potential
were both striking. We have always fully accepted the importance
of the Agency's integrated management of river basins overall
but noted that BW was already managing navigational activities
on the Rivers Severn, Trent, Yorkshire Ouse and Weaver with no
loss of the Agency's effectiveness in flood control and environmental
Moreover, in recent years, we have noted the
undoubted success of British Waterways in securing funding for
its navigations from Government, from the Lottery bodies, and
from partnerships with public agencies, local authorities and
the private sector. We have applauded its innovatory flair in
establishing The Waterways Trust and massively expanding third
party funding of all kinds. BW is focused, committed and skilled
in these fields. The Agency has not been so to date and we see
little prospect of the radical change that is needed.
This is the basis of our view that the integration
of our two largest navigation authorities would materially assist
the development, promotion and marketing of our waterways as national
business asset and better harmonise services to users. It would
also have the advantage of freeing the Agency to concentrate single-mindedly
on its monitoring, regulatory and flood control roles.
As you will be aware, such a change need not,
of itself, require legislation. Navigation responsibilities can
be transferred by Ministerial order. The environment regulatory
role of Agency will remain as it is now.
An alternative, which may merit further investigation,
is for the Agency to contract or license navigational activity
on all its rivers to a separate manager/developer such as BW,
with agreed environmental regulatory conditions. Licensing already
occurs with other river uses, such as abstraction and hydro-electric
power generation. The difficulty, however, may well be that BW
would not then be in a position to deploy the full range of powers
it enjoys over its existing waterways.
If integration can be achieved, the Council
would see the smaller navigation authorities, some of which are
certainly struggling, either joining up with the new integrated
authority in due course (as some have already done with BW) or
perhaps contracting-out their navigation duties to it. We would
exempt only the Broads and the Lake District lakes which are both
very special landscapes, separate from the rest of the navigation
system, and best planned and managed on the unified basis appropriate
to their national park status.
4. THE 1968 TRANSPORT
The Committee asked about specific changes to
this Act the Council would like to see.
The 1968 Act was predicated on minimising public
liabilities. Waterways were perceived as drains on public funds.
It is true that BW management has worked with Government to perform
miracles in getting round its restraints but we do not believe
that this can continue for another 30 years. The waterways need
to be equipped with a pro-active set of powers to promote long-term
conservation and to develop leisure, waterside businesses and
property for the benefit of everyone.
This is a complex area and one which the Council
has not considered in detail but we would certainly wish to see
new legislation deal with the following:
ancient rights and liabilities (which
BW inherited from the old canal companies);
abolition of the obsolete categories
of commercial/cruising/remainder waterways, and a new set of powers/duties
to manage/regulate waterways for current and future uses;
the transfer of public road bridges
to local highway authorities;
integrated and consistent services
statutory protection of waterways
under restoration from new road projects; and
the Council's role and remit (if
not previously recast as set out above).
I hope this is helpful to the Committee's work.
The Council would be pleased to assist the Committee further if
it so wishes.
The Viscountess Knollys DL