News that the carefully recruited, very active and very committed Kennet & Avon Canal Mooring Strategy Steering Group (MSSG) that was tasked with finding an acceptable and workable way of 'managing' moorings on the canal, has been wound-up by British Waterways without notice or consultation has left users of the canal bewildered and angered.
The first that members of the group knew of the end of their role was when, out of the blue, BW issued its 'progression document'. This document bluntly informed the group that it was no longer needed, that the process is now being taken in-house to be done by BW employees and the group would meet no more.
Andrew Colyer, the Southern Secretary of the National Association of Boat Owners (NABO), has been a member of the canal steering group since its formation. He and other members of the group have taken their responsibility to all canal users very seriously. They have all, he says, been working hard to make the group effective and like him through their many contacts among all K&A Canal users brought those users' views to the group. Andrew is taken aback by BW's shock decision and he gives his response here.
Kennet and Avon Steering Group latest... did someone say ‘I told you so’?
What can I say? Nothing positive anyway. Before Christmas there was little to say and
I informed NABO Council at our last meeting that the previous Mooring Strategy Steering Group (MSSG) meeting had been pretty good — it was Chaired by the K&A Waterway Manager, Mark Stephens, and we got to business swiftly.
We covered the work from the previous meeting and the issues that had arisen since. This was mostly the silly comment from the IWA and BW's poor response to it — the suggestion that the group should be working to remove liveaboards from the Bath Valley over the next five years. We then moved on to discuss enforcement. We had Paul Griffin, the main officer from BW, at the meeting. Some unhelpful things were said, and no real information was given. His stance was that he was there to listen. Ok, but we wanted to know BW’s thoughts too.
The meeting was wrapped up quickly, with homework for all, and the promise of another meeting.
The group was generally happy — time then drifted again and the next we heard was from Damian, the project officer, sending out a 'progression document' – for information, not discussion, which has written the group out of any further involvement in the process.
So we have all contributed to the process for over a year, struggled through and pulled together then just as we were about to get to the point where the serious work was to be on the table, we are told that we are not needed. That BW can do it themselves. After all, who needs a carefully selected group of dedicated representatives of relevant parties, willing to attend meetings — the only sensible and efficient way of discussing issues? Obviously NOT BW. How STUPID is that? I am furious. As the unaffiliated boaters say, 'any meaningful approach to enforcement needs the support of the whole group'.
So we now have a ‘progression document’ that even begins with stating tasks that were not clearly given to the MSSG and hands over the rest of the task to Sally Ash’s crack team to consolidate and pass on to the Waterways Partnership Board. If there is any way that they think this will come with an ounce of endorsement from the MSSG they must be crazy.
What is ironic, is that when I first met Damian Kemp, the project Officer, I was in Devizes at a meeting called by a group of concerned boaters following the Mooring consultation, where we expressed serious concern with BW and their processes, and lack of democracy.
New to the team, he was unaware of the histories that had made us so nervous, and said he would do his best to make sure we would be listened to. I do believe he has done his best, but, sorry, did some one say ‘I told you so’?