THAMES TRANSFER BACK ON AGENDA



Plans for the non-tidal Thames to be transferred from the Environment Agency to the Canal & River Trust are back on the agenda.

It has been Government policy to transfer management of the Thames and other EA rivers to the trust. But when the plans hit funding problems it had been assumed the idea had been put off indefinitely.

Now a report from an All Party Parliamentary Group for Waterways has said the transfer should go ahead in the next Parliament.

The news has prompted an angry response from Thames users.

The Parliamentary group says the CRT, which took over from British Waterways in 2012, “has made a significant amount of progress in a short amount of time.”

It goes on “Preparatory work …. to estimate the cost of the transfer should start as soon as possible .. to allow the Government to accurately budget for the cost in the next Parliament .. to maximise the income, benefits and stability for the waterways”

Michael Shefras co-ordinator of the Thames Users Group Navigation (TUGn) said it strongly disagreed with the recommendations and had not been represented at the committee’s hearing. A written submission had been ignored.

He said: “The cost of due diligence for the transfer is estimated to be circa £4m. That is because of the complication of what assets are to be moved."

The group said all witnesses called by the committee “were from the CRT side – on this particular issue the evidence had to be biased.”

It cites its written submission which stated: “The River Thames is a unique public navigation with a history back to Magna Carta.   It provides drinking water for twenty-five per cent of the south east; moves treated sewage; controls water levels for fisheries and environment and is used for flood control." 

“It is also an important tourist attraction and a viable navigation.   All of these factors and more build to an integrated river catchment dependent upon each other”

“There is no funding gap! Government undertook to finance the rivers after water privatisation and money has to be found from the exchequer to meet this commitment.   In the meantime EA are still acting as reasonable stewards of the river and the EA CEO said as much when he gave evidence.”

Funding

But Gren Messham, chairman of Inland Waterways Association's Navigation Committee said "We welcome the findings of the report, particularly the clear support for the transfer of EA navigations to CRT, subject to the right funding package.

“This would address some of the long-term funding issues which currently threaten EA navigations.”

Richard Parry, chief executive at the Canal & River Trust, added: “We welcome the suggestion that we, the Environment Agency and Defra work together to investigate the implications of transferring the Environment Agency navigations to the Trust, and remain committed in principle to the transfer subject to this due diligence being carried out.”

Defra, the responsible Government department, has yet to comment.

Story dated Sept 22nd 2014

 

   
 
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