NEW 'VOICE FOR THAMES' IN MERGER PLAN



River Thames Alliance Conference, Oxford
Left: Chairman John Edmonds. Right: Exec Director Michael Shefras

 
   

A new ‘voice for the Thames’ has been launched after the Environment Agency withdrew funding for an earlier organisation.

The future of flood prevention schemes is among the priorities on which the new River Thames Alliance will lobby.

Chair John Edmonds said: ""There is no doubt that, after the disastrous floods, Britain's flood policy will be reviewed from top to bottom.  The best way to ensure that we get the flood policy for the Thames that suits us all is to make sure that we put a united proposal to the Government and to the Environment Agency. 

" The RTA will consult its members with the aim of putting together a joint proposal."

The old River Thames Alliance, established in 2003, has represented bodies ranging from riverside councils, to boating and sporting clubs, river businesses and tourist attractions. But the agency has decided it can no longer fund the running of the existing RTA.

So at its AGM and conference in Oxford a plan was announced to merge with the charity Thames Rivers Trust and re-launch them as a single stand-alone body funded by members and encompassing the aims and objectives of both.

Membership of the New River Thames Alliance will also be open to individuals with an interest in the river.It is currently seeking support. Membership fees will range from £1,000 for large corporate members to £25 for individuals.

'Major task'

The original RTA was launched because there was no body bringing together councils and other interested bodies along the banks of the river and across local authority boundaries.

It produced a Thames Waterway plan which influenced planning  and commercial decisions. That now needs updating and will be one of the major tasks facing the new body. A spin-off marketing group has concentrated on the tourist and commercial trade.

The Thames Rivers Trust is an environmental charity “dedicated to improving the River Thames and its tributaries to benefit people, wildlife and water quality”. Some of the projects in which it has been involved can be see here

John Edmonds said: “There is a vacuum for a voice for the Thames. The Environment Agency is not allowed to lobby. It is an executive agency and not there to criticise Government policy.

“There is a need for a lobby group to push for proper funding of the river – flood relief, moorings and everything else. We will also be a valuable network and source of information about the river.

“We will be as authoritative and wide-ranging as possible. We will be able influence EA policy and hope that Government will listen to us too".

Chris Poupard, Chair of the TRT, said: “It makes absolute sense to merge these two organisations. The trustees are very positive about the plan.”

Among the initiatives in which the original RTA has been involved are moves to tackle illegally moored or overstaying boats on the non-tidal river with a concerted effort by the owners of riverbank properties both public and private.

The new organisation will also be working with Sport England and aims to help  provide more sporting facilities along the river particularly for less able people.

Michael Shefras, well-known along the river as chairman of the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs and a River Users Group, is acting executive director while more work is done to formalise the merger and set it up as a charity.

Contact with the new organisation can be made via this email link

Story dated Feb 19th 2014

 
 
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