Tuesday, April 05, 2011

K&A Canal benefits from funding system change

Canal funding in the past has generally been based simply on the basis of length and the number of locks, bridges and aqueducts it has but this year a new system of funding allocation has been introduced that will benefit the Kennet & Avon Canal. 

K&A Canal Waterway Manager, Mark Stephens.
Picture by Bob Naylor
Speaking at the  K&A Canal Users' Forum in Devizes last night the Waterway Manager, Mark Stephens explained that the previous system did not  take into account the condition of the canal.  He said, "The Kennet & Avon's chequered 200 years history  — with a bit of a break when it was practically derilict in places - has brought it to where it is now, but that has never been accounted for. It has always been treated as if it has been a waterway like any other waterway that has been open for 200 years — and always maintained." This year, as a consequence of looking at the condition of the canal, more money has been allocated to the K&A.

Fewer faults at year end than at the start
Confidence that the money will be spent well to improve the condition of the canal is another reason that this year's allocation has been increased. As Mark said,  "For the first time, certainly for the last seven or eight years or so, we have actually finished the year with fewer defects than we started with. That might not sound like great shakes but it is a corner that is being turned slowly and we want to gain some momentum there."

He explained that the canal has a complete inspection every month and defects are noted and added to the list while at the same time they are working through a priority list of works and repairs and crossing them off the bottom of the list.

5000 defects on the canal and 20% increase in K&A Canal funding
Mark continued, "On balance we want to be working to cross more defects off than we are adding to the list. In the past that has never happened - we had 5,000 defects at the beginning of the year and we have around 4,000 now — with plans to do another 1500 waterway priority works this coming year.

"And that is why we have got slightly more money. We had about £3.5m last year and we have got about £4.25m this coming year.  In the context of our budget, that is about 20% more - so that is quite a lot of money to be spending. 

"But have no fear I won't be too concerned about trying to find things to spend it on - there is an enormous list and the reality is that even with that extra funding we can probably do about 80% of the most essential repair work that I want or need to do in this coming year.

Mark finished by explaining that the money would be spent on standard maintenance, with no money for extra 'shiny things' on the side of the canal — but it is the kind of work that will make the canal a better place for the communities and all canal users whether on a boat, walking, cycling or fishing.

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