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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

K&A Canal boater's death was accidental says Coroner

The body of Stuart Williams, 51, was found at the Caen Hill moorings on the Devizes Flight of the Kennet & Avon Canal last December by a neighbouring boater who was alerted by Mr Williams dog pining on the moorings.
The British Waterways moorings at the top of Caen Hill on the K&A Canal: Picture by Bob Naylor
An inquest at Trowbridge yesterday heard that a post-mortom revealed Mr Williams blood/alcohom level to be three times the legal alcohol limit for driving.

The Wiltshire Assistant Coroner, Ian Singleton, said that this and the icy conditions on the pontoon contributed to his falling into the canal and drowning and he returned a verdict of accidental death.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

K&A Canal Avon Vale volunteers' Christmas single

The Avon Vale Group of British  Waterways volunteers on the Kennet & Avon Canal restored a sunken BW workboat which they are now using to clear off-side growth that is narrowing the navigation. The team have taken time out to make a Christmas single... watch them in action.

The AVON VALE ALLSTARS perform Rocking around the Christmas Tree
Words & Music by Johnny Marks — Pictures by Bob Naylor

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Date for resumption of K&A Canal as a through-route uncertain

There is no forecast of when the historic Victoria Bridge across the River Avon in Bath might be made safe. Until this work is done no boats can pass under it again — and now British Waterways has announced that no decision on when the central 11.5 mile stretch between Crofton Lock 60 and Copse Lock (80) will be re-opened will be made until some time in January.

Some movement might be possible within this central section of the canal in between planned stoppages for maintenance —  but... if you need to move a boat in this area of the canal it might be wise to phone BW on: 01380 722859 or you can try to decipher this stoppage notice from Waterscape.

Thursday 17 November 2011 until further notice
UPDATE (20 December 2011): Stoppage Update, East of Crofton
(Crofton Locks, Beech Grove Lock, Hungerford Marsh Lock, Water Shortage) 
Stoppage Works on the Crofton flight will be completed by 23 December 2011.  However, due to an on-going water shortage the canal will remain closed until 4th January 2012 while empty pounds are filled. 
The Crofton flight will be fully opened on 4th January 2012.  Passage will not be possible prior to this date. 
In order to provide an opportunity for boats to travel east from the summit, stoppage works at Beech Grove (Lock 63) have been deferred by a week to start on 9 January 2012.  Beech Grove lock will be closed for one week. 
Note that stoppage work at Hungerford Marsh Lock will commence, as planned, on 9th January 2012. 
The on-going water related closure of the canal from Crofton to Copse Lock will be reviewed in January with a view to re-opening the canal in the sections between planned stoppages.
Thank you for your continued support of the Kennet and Avon Waterways.
Stoppage history:
The canal has been closed to navigation between Crofton Lock 61 and Copse Lock 80 due to lack of adequate water supplies to support boat movement. 
All of the locks within the closed section will be padlocked to prevent use.  We are allowing levels in individual canal pounds to recover slowly. Several sections are very low and will take some time to come back to normal level. This is a long term problem brought about by ground water level being extremely low, in fact it is at the lowest level for 90 years. 
The reservoir level is also very low and currently has little or no feed to recharge the system. The current stoppage is necessary to recover levels and help protect aquatic life in the canal. 
British Waterways is currently looking to support the closed section with additional water supply from other sources.
The current closure is being reviewed weekly, and with little or no significant rain forecast the current closure may remain in force for some weeks.
Craft that are trapped within the closed section are requested to remain where they are, but to adjust mooring ropes to accommodate changes in water levels.
Any request for craft movement will be dealt with on an individual basis and will be subject to available water supplies, canal water levels and individual circumstances.
British Waterways apologise for any inconvenience caused.
17 November 2011
Enquiries: Tel: 01380 722859 - 0900 Mon-1630 Fri, 1630 Fri to 0900 Mon 0800 4799947 (Option 2)
More stoppages on this waterway: http://www.waterscape.com/canals-and-rivers/kennet-and-avon-canal/boating/stoppages
You can find all stoppages at the url below:
Please do not reply to the email. It has been automatically generated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Government insists that Canal & River Trust will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act

Waterways Minister
Richard Benyon
The new waterway charity will have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act for the statutory functions it inherits from British Waterways said Waterways Minister Richard Benyon today when he gave the Government's response to the supplementary consultation on the transfer of British Waterways in England and Wales to the Canal & River Trust. 
John Bridgemen of BW and
Canal & River Trust
This decision by Government comes after BW Vice Chairman and Canal and River Trust transition trustee, John Bridgeman, said recently: "The new charity will not be 'precious' about information. "We will disclose as much as we possibly and reasonably can, but that does not mean we should be bound by the Freedom of Information Act... it is a heavy cumbersome tool intended for the public sector — and we are coming out of the public sector. This new charity has a hell of a challenge anyway keeping the waterways open — we don't think it is fair to bind us to the cumbersome bureaucracy of the FOI Act."
Bridgeman complained that last year BW had two requests from people who wanted to know about directors' expense accounts going back over 7 years: "It is costing an absolute fortune, but the law tells us we have to do it. But I am sorry — no other charity is exposed to that and I don't see why we should be," he said.
Tony Hales
Canal & River Trust  Chairman

Tony Hales, Chairman of the Canal & River Trust said: “The Trustees support the Government’s conclusions including those relating to the Freedom of Information Act.
"We are committed to ensuring that the new Trust operates to the highest standards for openness and transparency in its new status. The Minister’s statement is another important step towards the establishment of the Canal & River Trust next year.”

More on this subjuct:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

K&A Canal Caen Hill Flight closed for a day for repairs

The Caen Hill Flight in Devizes — from Youth Division Lock(29) to Sir Hugh Stockwell Lock(44) will be closed to boat traffic on Wednesday 14 December 2011 for essential maintenance work. 

Enquiries: 01380 722859

Monday, December 12, 2011

Boats to be allowed to leave shut down section of the K&A Canal this week

Boats trapped on the shut-down central section of the Kennet & Avon Canal are to be allowed to leave and travel eastwards this week.
Kintbury Lock (78): Picture taken last week by Bob Naylor©
The 11.5 mile section of the Kennet & Avon Canal between Crofton Locks (60) and Copse Lock (80) was closed by British Waterways because they say there is insufficient water to keep it open. This has left some boats stranded and BW  will be letting boats through from Kintbury Lock (78) to travel eastwards this week. 

If you need to get out of the closed down section of the canal you will need to be topside of Kintbury Lock (78) at 8am on Thursday 15 December 2011.

For further information phone 01380 722859

Friday, December 09, 2011

Winter works open day at Crofton on the K&A Canal

Crofton Pumping Station: Picture by Bob Naylor©
British Waterways winter works project at Crofton (Lock 60) on the Kennet & Avon Canal is open to the public tomorrow and members of the works team will guide visitors around the lock and explain the work they are doing.
During the day gates will be craned out of the lock and the new replacement lock gates will be on-site for people to see. 

The site will be open from 11am to 3.30pm and their will be walks on the hour from 11am until 3pm. The walks will last about 45 minutes.

Visitors can park in the Crofton Pumping Station car park. The Crofton Pumping Station and café and shop will be open. The site is a five minute walk down some steps with some uneven ground.

The site will be open from 11 am – 3.30 pm and guided tours of the site are at 11 am, 12 noon, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm.

This open day was originally planned for 17 December 2011.

Red Kites over Wilton Water: Picture by Bob Naylor©

An added bonus of a visit to Crofton is to see the Red Kites that have made their home in the area.

Met Police compensate journalist arrested for taking photographs in public place

Picture by Jules Mattson©
Taking photographs is a public hazard, anti-social behaviour, silly, gay, stupid and dangerous says Metropolitan Police Inspector
Juleses Mattson was taking photographs of an Armed Forces Day parade when he was arrested by an Inspector who told him that he was a public hazard and who said that photographing in public was “anti-social behaviour.” The Inspector also described the act of taking photographs as “silly” and “gay” and “stupid.” And when Mattsson continued to state the lawfulness of his behaviour, the Inspector declared it was “dangerous” as he was “likely to be trampled on by soldiers” from the parade.
Mattson, who is a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), was represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department at Bindmans LLP, has received an out of court settlement and an apology from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
On 26 June 2010 Mattsson, at the time a fifteen year old student was photographing the Armed Forces Day parade in Romford. Despite the public event taking place in the middle of the town centre, Metropolitan Police Officers claimed it was unlawful to photograph the parade. The officers, led by an Inspector, insisted he stopped taking photographs.
His solicitor, Chez Cotton, said: “The police had no legal power to stop him photographing in a public place. The Inspector attempted to justify his actions in shocking and absurd ways.”
Mattsson managed to record most of the conversation on his mobile phone but the dialogue was brought to an abrupt conclusion when the Inspector declared: “You know what, I consider you a threat under the Terrorism Act young man. I’ve had enough,”  and Mattson was manhandled down some stairs by a group of police officers. Mattson tried unsuccessfully to film the treatment he was being subjected to but an officer said that for him to be filmed was “breaching his privacy.” Mattsson was then arrested for breach of the peace and detained for 15 minutes before being released.
Chez Cotton prepared a transcript of the exchange and used this as evidence to support representations to the Met Police Commissioner that his officers had falsely imprisoned Mattsson, assaulted him and breached his right to report, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1998.
The Directorate of Legal Services of the Metropolitan Police, on behalf of the Commissioner, agreed an out of court settlement. As well as paying compensation and meeting his legal costs, the Commissioner has also apologised to Mattsson for the treatment he received and has confirmed the force’s recognition that journalists have a right to report freely.
Chez Cotton added: “The treatment of the police towards our client, a fifteen year old, was shocking. The Inspector’s comments were designed to belittle. Our client politely and reasonably maintained that the police were not entitled to interfere with his right to report. In response the Inspector used serious anti-terrorism legislation, cynically telling Mr Mattson “I consider you a threat under the Terrorism Act young man. I’ve had enough.”
“The police have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what journalist record. It is unacceptable that the police interfered with Mr Mattsson’s right to report in any event, but for officers to attempt to intimidate a young reporter in this way is deplorable. It is right that the Commissioner has promptly apologised and paid a suitable level of damages.”
Roy Mincoff, the NUJ Legal Officer, said: “This was very poor and unlawful behaviour by a senior police officer, trying to intimidate a young NUJ photographer. It is not acceptable conduct, has no place in the police force and is hardly likely to gain respect for the police amongst the youth of the UK. The police have now recognised this, apologised and compensated our member. The NUJ will continue to hold the police to account to ensure that the vital rights of journalists, enshrined in law, are upheld, to enable reporting and photographing to continue, as part of the democratic framework of our society.”
The apology from the Metropolitan Police Service states:
“While reporting on the parade you were approached by Metropolitan Police Officers who prevented you from photographing the parade and subsequently arrested you for breach of the peace. The purpose of this letter is to apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for the distress you have suffered as a result of police actions. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that photographers have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 26 June 2010 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of yourself.”
You can see some of Jules Mattson's work at: www.julesmattsson.co.uk

Audio of Mattson's arrest: ©Jules Mattson

Saturday, December 03, 2011

National boating group support Boaters' Manifesto

The National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) have thrown their weight behind the Boaters' Manifesto which has been presented to the Transition Trustees of the Canal & River Trust that will replace British Waterways on April 1st next year.
Simon Robbins, Vice Chair of NABO said: "We are pleased to see that an independent group of boaters shares broadly the same concerns as we identified in our formal submission to DEFRA during the Summer, about ensuring that navigation remains a central element in the proposed Canal and River Trust.
“Boaters represent one of the core funders of the navigable waterways and this will continue for the foreseeable future. Apart from the direct fees paid to BW we contribute substantially to BW’s commercial income through the services we buy from waterside businesses.
“The Transition Trustees are clearly anxious to identify new funding streams for the new Charity and this is an aspiration that boaters and representative groups have consistently lobbied for over many years.
“However, many boaters feel that our interests as a major existing stakeholder may be sidelined. We hope that the Transition Trustees will not overlook the fact that on a conservative estimate over 20% of BW’s annual income comes from boaters’ pockets. Boaters represent a committed group of long term shareholders in the waterways and many feel that we need to be embraced rather than, as it sometimes feels under British Waterways, simply being taken for granted.
Robbins said that he is encouraged by the news that there is to be a meeting with some of the Transition Trustees to discuss the manifesto and concluded: "We are conscious that NABO are regarded by some as being among the ‘usual suspects’ in these matters and think it is important that other boaters express their concerns too.”

Boaters' Manifesto — key points
Waterways are about boats and boaters and the Canal and River Trust needs to listen to boaters more closely and have more representatives on the board.
  • Before the Canal and River Trust accepts the legal burden of running the waterways it must ensure proper funding to keep all waterways open, navigable and properly maintained, otherwise it should refuse to do so.
  • Boaters have lost faith in the most senior management of British Waterways and believe that the government should accept the cost of making them redundant to give the Canal and River Trust a fresh start.
  • The Canal and River Trust must develop a system of working that values full time paid staff and their skills above the expediency of using cheap contractors in order to maintain the skilled workforce the waterways require.
  • The Canal and River Trust must enforce a simplified set of mooring rules across the entire waterways system without fear or favour.
  • The Trust must make it a priority to ensure non-boating users of the system make a financial contribution to its upkeep and that their use of the system does not impinge on its primary purpose of navigation.
  • The Canal and River Trust must ensure it is open to Freedom of Information Act requests and operate in a totally transparent fashion if it is to earn and retain confidence.
  • Those for whom the waterways are a home have a special interest in and value to the Canal and River Trust and should be clearly represented at board level and consulted on all navigational issues.

Read the Boaters' Manifesto in full at: http://tinyurl.com/d8nuhlx
The NABO submission to DEFRA can be seen at:  http://tinyurl.com/ctvaox6

Friday, December 02, 2011

Controversial wharfside development planning appeal refused

An appeal against planning refusal to build a block of apartments beside the Kennet & Avon Canal on Devizes Wharf has been lost.
Picture by Bob Naylor©
Developers McCarthy & Stone to applied to build a block of 39 apartments on the contaminated former gas works site that has been unused since it closed in 1955 but planning inspector David Saul deemed that the height of the proposed development would be too high and he believed it would harm the appearance and character of the wharf area.

Both the Devizes Town Council objection that 13 parking spaces for 39 apartments was too few and the Wadworth Brewery view that the noise from their adjacent barrel yard would disturb residents were rejected by the planning inspector.
McCarthy and Stone's argument that the noise issue could be dealt with by proper insulation was accepted and since the height of the building is the only grounds for refusal objectors fear that the developers will try to get permission for a revised version of the scheme.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thames Valley Police clarify Abingdon OAP body find

Thames Valley Police have issued the following statement:

"Thames Valley Police would like to clarify that the body of the woman found in Abingdon yesterday evening (29/11) was discovered in a lake beside the marina, and not in the marina itself."