Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500
WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2000
500. On the planning aspect, what is the Agency
doing? You have accepted that the planning aspect is important.
If we are going to develop freight then we need these facilities.
(Dr Mance) If Waterways for Tomorrow is to
succeed then the guidance given in the relevant PPG, which I believe
is 11, which deals with regional planning, needs to make clear
that in the regional plans provision is made for things like maintaining
the clearance over the lines of waterways, that when new road
systems are actually built or rebuilt adequate clearance under
bridges is given. That is an existing vehicle that just needs
amendment and hardening to achieve that outcome.
Mr O'Brien: We have a situation now, do we not,
where some of the rivers are unused that could be used more for
carrying bulk, like timber and other kinds of freight? What is
the Agency doing to promote that now?
501. And have you made these points to the Department
about PPG 11?
(Dr Mance) Yes.
(Miss McKeever) I just wanted to add specifically
on what we are doing as part of the Thames Ahead project
that we have already referred to, for example. One of the strands
of that is in close collaboration with the local authorities we
want to influence their local transport plans so that they actually
think about the waterway that runs through their district.
Chairman: Fine, you are saying PPG 11 should
be changed and what you want the local authority to do but my
question to you is what are you doing?
502. There are other rivers than the Thames
that could be used that are under-used now. What I am asking is
under the planning regime that is available to you, what are you
doing to improve the facilities so that freight can use those
(Dr Mance) Where we have major need through our flood
defence works to actually shift materials, and sensibly could
do so by river, we are trying to encourage that to happen but
we are not funded to invest in the creation of wharfage, for instance,
for a particular scheme and we would not get Government approval
unless it was cost beneficial compared with the alternatives.
We have been pulling this out as part of how do we get to a more
sustainable balance. We are constrained to operate within present
rules, we are flagging the constraints we bump into, we keep raising
the options where it is credible and sensible to move substantial
quantities that, therefore, might trigger the necessary investment
from, say, a commercial firm to create that infrastructure.
503. Would it be fair to say, Dr Mance, when
you talk of freight movement being limited, it is not because
of the fact that there is not the demand there, the limit is because
we do not have the infrastructure to encourage people to use it
for freight, is that correct?
(Dr Mance) That was precisely the point of my initial
504. What are you doing about it?
(Dr Mance) We are trying to make as many opportunities
available as possible to attract in commercial money to actually
see there is an opportunity there. So every time we undertake
a major flood defence work, we look at it as an option that we
explore with the markets. We are trying to create the awareness
of that. We do not have the land holdings to create wharfage ourselves.
Often when we are doing a flood defence scheme we do not acquire
the land we build on, we leave it with the landowner because that
keeps the cost to the public purse down. We cannot create the
wharfage as part of that scheme. The difficulty is if the Government
is serious about increasing freight on waterways there needs to
be a way of jump starting the system to create the infrastructure.
505. Is there a conflict between the development
of the use of the rivers for freight and for leisure purposes?
Is that another constraint?
(Miss McKeever) I think in the longer term there would
be, yes. If freight was to develop to a significant level there
would be difficulties at busy times. Obviously freight would want
to run all year round but in the summer holiday period, which
is the period when rivers are busiest, that would be a difficulty.
That is if freight was to develop to a significant level. There
is plenty of scope before that level for freight and leisure traffic,
I think, to happen quite happily together.
(Mr Runcie) If I may just add to that as a contrast.
Tourism regeneration based on the waterways has been easier to
attract funding to. We have managed to attract economic regeneration
part funded under the European 5b Objective and subsequently under
Objective 2 in the Transitional Funds in a collaboration known
as Fens Tourism with the local authorities of Fenland DC, South
Holland DC, West Norfolk BC, Boston BC and others. On the River
Ouse we have generated a new lock at Denver and 17 kilometres
of new waterway, waterside facilities, including moorings through
the Fens in that part of the system, and also footpaths and car
parking so that others can get to the waterway system. This has
been a very attractive and a very successful venture.
506. On that very point of footpaths and access
to waterways. In the very centre of Leeds there is a crucial part
of the River Aire between Leeds Bridge and Crown Point Bridge
where the key to its development is to allow the public to walk
along the riverside. I understand that the proposal has been put
forward to create a pontoon walkway which the Environment Agency
is currently opposing. You may not know about that particular
case. What are the issues there that create difficulties for you
in agreeing something like that?
(Dr Mance) My instinct, without knowing the detail,
would be the security of the pontoon should we get into the floodplain.
Chairman: Dr Mance, if you do not know you must
give us a little note. Much as I am enamoured of pontoons I do
not think we want to spend a lot of time on them now.
507. Given the size of the Environment Agency,
what percentage of the total of the Environment Agency is dedicated
to navigational waters? Given the whole of the remit of the Environment
Agency, what percentage applies to navigational waters?
(Miss McKeever) The percentage of the budget?
508. No, the percentage of the Agency's time
and what have you?
(Miss McKeever) I think I will try to break it down.
In budgetary terms navigation and recreation accounts for about
two per cent of the Agency's budget. That is directly, but part
of the issue is because of the integrated way in which we manage
we benefit from flood defence spend and even water resources,
etc. It is quite complicated, the way in which navigation is funded.
Just as a specific example, a lock and weir keeper on the Thames,
for instance, only 35 per cent of their cost is paid for directly
from the navigation budget, the rest is paid by flood defence
and water resources because we provide a service for them in working
to meet their needs.
509. I can understand that and I do not think
anybody would wish to move the flood works away from the Environment
Agency. Given that it is only a small percentage on navigational
stuff, do you think you would be well rid of it and it ought to
go either to BWB or a new body that would oversee navigational
(Dr Mance) I think it is easy to look at it in those
simplistic terms and come to that sort of conclusion.
510. Could I say, Dr Mance, we have had evidence
that most of the navigations come by historical accident and the
various fiefdoms on navigational waters and various tolls have
got to be paid to use this bit and not use that bit. All I am
saying is given your small bit of it should we not just say "right,
if we are going to be serious let us get it all together and have
one Navigational Board"?
(Dr Mance) I think that ignores all the other complications
in managing a river where it is dominated by other considerations
and there is a need to make sure that the issues are handled to
a sensible degree.
511. You have got your little bit and you are
going to hang on to it no matter what.
(Dr Mance) If you take the East Anglian rivers where
they were largely created to drain what was tidal area and they
are an artificial system for drainage purposes and flood defence
control, where the locks for navigation purposes are so designed
that they are actually the major flood sluices, so during a flood
they are opened at both ends and deliberately designed not to
impede the flow at all so that the water rushes through them at
a dramatic rate of knots, the structures are actually there as
part of the flood defence infrastructure and the navigation benefit
from them is derived as a consequence of the flood defence. I
do not think we would ever have created those waterways for navigation
because of the scale of investment required purely for navigation,
they exist because of the flood defence need. To separate out
the management of the navigation bit, including the structure
bit for navigation, I would say in those circumstances is close
to impossible. You would actually do it with a complicated management
arrangement, you would need all sorts of controls built into it,
and it is an extra link in the chain in areas where the flood
risk is substantial and you have two storey buildings which are
below the level of the water in main dykes at normal times, let
alone during the flood.
512. But surely that expertise will follow through
to the new Navigational Board or whatever it may be? What you
are saying is very important but it is not going to be lost.
(Dr Mance) It would be separated off and inevitably
you then have to work hard and expend energy to keep the coherence
and the dialogue tight and close so that it functions well during
513. Finally, to look at other water users,
do you think there is a need for an over-arching body to ensure
that the interests of all waterway users are looked at and protected
and taken into account?
(Dr Mance) I think it is reasonably clear that there
is a need for a consistent and coherent approach to the whole
recreational use of inland waters. It is very easy to focus on
individual interest groups but with British Sport, for instance,
focusing on excellence, the general issue about amenity/recreational
use of inland waters is left somewhat separate.
514. Do you think the most appropriate body
to look at that would be to extend the Inland Waterways Amenity
Advisory Council's remit?
(Miss McKeever) I think that is one way of doing it
which would certainly help. Just to add to that, IWAAC have recently
invited the Environment Agency to be an observer at their meetings,
515. Very tactful of them.
(Miss McKeever) So they have taken that step. We will
now be listening to IWAAC's advice. There are strong links between
IWAAC and AINA, the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities,
which could help.
516. Could the waterways be used for moving
(Dr Mance) They already are in places. There may be
scope elsewhere for that to be the case. If proposals come forward
then clearly we will look at them on their merits and see if they
are suitably justified and environmentally acceptable.
517. You think it is a practical possibility
to adapt the waterways without changing the character of the waterways?
(Dr Mance) That would be part of looking at whether
the proposal is rational, sensible and acceptable environmentally
and in terms of whether there is a need for the water in the given
place that it is proposed to move it to.
518. And the ecological considerations, like
alien species, can be overcome?
(Dr Mance) That would have to be part of the Environmental
Impact Assessment and there would have to be a clear provision
for adequate safeguards to show that was possible.
519. One final question. When you are considering
the various issues that you have discussed today, how do you balance
the relative priorities of the uses of the waterways being used
for amenities and the ecological issue? Where does the priority
lie in your decision making?
(Dr Mance) It depends where you are because the locality
often determines the balance for you. If you are in the centre
of the town where the system is already heavily engineered then
the balance is already pre-determined by the engineering. In places
we have tried to soften it a bit and bring back, such as along
the Thames Tideway, a bit of the biology to improve the appearance
and get away from concrete canyons, if you like, when the opportunity
arises. If you are in a far more natural circumstance and the
conservation value is high you put a premium on it and seek to
protect and balance the other way. It is not as simple as you
always give priority to this or always give priority to that,
it is determined by the balance of circumstance at each location.
520. Ecology is more important if it is pretty,
is that what you are saying?
(Dr Mance) I did not say necessarily pretty but if
it is the habitat of a rare species, such as the great raft spider
in East Anglia, where there are only two colonies in the country,
I have asked the economists who talk about valuing the environment,
if you lose one does the other double in value or quadruple? If
you liken it to old master paintings it is quite an interesting
debate to have. It does depend very much on the circumstances.
Chairman: Dr Mance, having set us such a marvellous
conundrum we are going to let you escape. Thank you very much.