LOCK HOUSE ROW: STUDY EXTENDED FOR 12 MONTHS

A joint study group set up to examine the future of lock sites on the River Thames is to extend its review by a year until the end of next March.

The group was set up following protests over agency plans to lease lock-side houses and amid fears for the future of resident lock- and weir-keepers..

Members of the study group say they need more time to come up with recommendations on how the river should be managed.

As reported by River Thames News last week an Early Day Motion on the matter has been tabled in the House of Commons.

The study group, made up of representatives of Thames users and agency managers, is examining the management and operation of a number of locks to help understand the implications of renting houses rather than housing resident lock-keepers.

EA chairman Lord Smith, agreed to form the group after river users  expressed concern and he capped the number of lock houses to be rented at five while the study took place.

Michael Shefras, co-ordinator of the Thames User Group and joint chairman of the study group, said: “I am conscious that from the user side we represent the interests of all those who navigate on the Thames and the countless number who could be affected should control of the water diminish through management of the lock system.

“Whilst we are concentrating on a small number of locks to get a proper understanding of the finances covering these locks we are cognisant of the many social and practical reasons to have the lock houses and our study will not ignore any of the sites.

“The extension of twelve months will give us room to properly assess the complete scene.”

Simon Hughes, EA manager and joint chairman of the study group, said: “[We] agreed that more information was needed before any conclusions could be drawn on the future of our lock sites. We have therefore extended the lock house study group for a further year.

“We believe this is a sensible and prudent move that balances our need to stabilise our funding position with the concerns of river users and we will continue to keep Environment Agency waterways staff, their union representatives, interested MPs and our customer representatives fully informed of progress.”

The study group is looking at data around five areas:Finance; Delivering customer charter service; the look and feel of the sites; Health and safety and any external factors affecting the agency’s ability to deliver a service, for example during floods and drought.

The lock houses currently being rented are at Chertsey, Grafton, Sunbury, Blakes and Goring.

 
 
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