Defra has started a three month consultation today to gauge the feelings of waterway users to their proposals to turn British Waterways into a charitable trust in England and Wales.
The reasoning behind moving waterways out of the public sector and into a new civil society organisation is outlined in the consultation along with the principles which will guide the Government in deciding on the way forward.
Defra say that the creation of a new waterways charity will give waterways users, and their local communities, a greater involvement in how the waterways are managed. The proposal will also help the waterways to be more financially sustainable, as the new charity will have access to new sources of commercial and private income, and fundraising, including legacies and donations. It will create the opportunity to grow a strong base of volunteers who can help maintain a range of waterways assets, through their knowledge, expertise, passion and commitment.
BW Chairman, Tony Hales, said, “The consultation is an important step forward in achieving a long held vision among waterway supporters. Having set out our proposals in 2009 for a ‘national trust’ for the waterways, the Minister is now embarking upon the biggest shake-up of the waterway governance since nationalisation in 1948. I believe the proposals will build upon the recent waterway renaissance to ensure they never again revert to the dereliction and decline that saw part of the network abandoned and filled in during the 20th century.
“Caring for a 200-year old network requires intense management and significant funding. The consultation is an important part of establishing the best framework for the long term security for our canals and rivers, which harnesses community enthusiasm to deliver local priorities. I would encourage all those who have an interest in the nation’s magnificent former industrial waterway network to take part.”
The consultation starts today (30 March 2011) and ends 30 June 2011
The consultation document is available at: www.defra.gov.uk/consult/waterways-1103/