CANALS BOSS: 'THAMES COULD
BENEFIT FROM CHANGES'
 

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A reorganisation in which the Canal and River Trust took over the running of the non-tidal Thames could be of great benefit to the river, according to its chief executive.

But he admitted it would be years before it came to fruition – even if the go-ahead was given soon.

The charitable trust took over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers from British Waterways in 2012 and had been set to take over the running of the Environment Agency’s navigations including the Thames too.

But the idea was put on hold two years ago as the Government sought ways of saving money as part of its austerity measures. Any reorganisation would need a new Government go-ahead and agreement of the CRT's trustees.

Speaking to River Thames News, the Canal and River Trust Chief Executive Richard Parry (above) said the charity had developed a model which could be applied to the Thames and other waterways.

Two of the advantages would be access to new sources of income and stability for forthcoming years. The CRT has a 15 year agreement with the Government. The budget for the EA is fixed annually with the so-called Grant-in-Aid recently being reduced year on year.

Mr Parry said the CRT had access to sources of income denied the EA as a Government agency like outside funding and grants from trusts and charities.
 
He said: “We are also very proud of the links we have forged with local communities and groups of all kinds, from towns and villages to local scout groups.”

The trust has a successful adoption programme where local communities or organisations “adopt” a stretch of waterway or a facility. The trust now has over 2,000 regular volunteers and 9,500 friends who contributed £1 million a year.

Concerns

Some Thames organisations have expressed concerns about the long-term plan pointing to the differences between running a canal and a major waterway like the Thames. They fear the level of service at, for example, locks would suffer and the cost of any amalgamation would be high.

Mr Parry said: “We would want to work with organisations and individuals on the river. There will be plenty of time to talk, plenty of opportunities for their involvement.”

He said the plan did have the support of both Inland Waterways Association and the British Marine Federation.

Meetings have been held between staff of the EA and CRT, described by Mr Parry as “on-off conversations”.  One of the major problems would be deciding who was responsible for what on the river after any reorganisation - locks, weirs and other installations. “A lot of work would have to be done on this aspect.”  

Asked if the whole scheme was now on ice he said: “More on the back-burner. But it is not imminent. Even if the go-ahead was given immediately after the election which is unlikely I would estimate it would take a good three years, say to 2018, before it was put into action.”

He said: “Overall we are a listening organisation, we are involved with our communities and I think there would be great benefits to the river.”

Link to Canal and River Trust HERE

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Story dated March 4th 2015