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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Canal Trust boss who 'fired himself' joins University Hall of Fame

The University of the Witwaterstrand in Johannesburg, South Africa is to include Mike Rodd, the former General Manager, and now Chairman of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust in its School of Electrical and Information Engineering Hall of Fame.

K&A Canal Trust Chairman, Dr Mike Rodd: 
Picture by Bob Naylor © 2009 HNA Media 
The citation document outlines Professor Mike Rodd's history of founding internationally recognised journals, writing and editing books and his many other achievements — along with the award of a senior doctorate from the University of Wales.  

It follows his career to Swansea, then on to the Institution of Electrical Engineers and to the British Computer Society and then finally to the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust as its paid General Manager… and when the Trust's finances became so desperate that he could no longer afford to pay himself he became its voluntary Chairman.

The University citation concludes with: "In 2009, Mike decided to give full rein to his passion for the UK’s amazing canal system by becoming more involved in actively working to support it.  He became CEO of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, one of the UK’s most successful canal charities.  With over 4,000 members, the Trust has an amazing record of leading the restoration of the 100-mile waterway running from Bristol to London, having obtained the largest-ever government lottery grant (£25million) to fund the work.  Mike recently fired himself from this salaried position to become the (volunteer!) Chairman of the Trust’s Council, as the Trust seeks to determine how to fulfil its role in the twenty-first century."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Call for Kennet & Avon Waterways Partnership members

The transition trustees for the Canal & River Trust, which is expected to take over the running of canals and some rivers in England and Wales at some time this year, have appointed a former a canal trust administrator, now a local government council member, to chair the Kennet & Avon Waterways Partnership and they are looking for members to join her to form a group to run the canal.

The call is for members to work with Fleur de Rhe Philipe and  waterway manager, Mark Stephens, to develop what they describe as: "an overarching vision for the Trust’s waterways within the Kennet & Avon area and develop strategies and plans to encourage more people to use and get involved with the waterway".

The shopping list of interests and expertise needed include:
  • boating
  • walking
  • angling
  • cycling
  • fundraising & volunteering
  • finance & commerce
  • planning & regeneration
  • environment and heritage
  • engineering & asset management
  • community engagement
...and people with experience of wider partnership working with local government, commercial and charitable sectors.  

"Initially", they say, "we are particularly looking for experience of the waterway societies, waterway-based business and local authorities" and they go on to say: "We are looking for candidates who are locally-based, team players, credible, knowledgeable and willing to take a lead in one or more of the relevant areas of expertise.  The duty of all Members of the Partnerships will be to act in the best interests of their waterway rather than to represent any particular interests or causes."

The positions are voluntary with expenses paid and will involve approximately 2-4 days a month.

If you would like to have an informal discussion to discuss this opportunity email: mark.stephens@britishwaterways.co.uk

To see the role profile go to: http://tinyurl.com/775p9v8

For an application form go to: http://tinyurl.com/8xq6qus

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Solar boost for Semington dry dock

Solar panels will provide the power for Semington dry dock on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge where owners, Liz and Ian Williamson, are expanding the range of services.
Liz and Ian Williamson at Semington bottom lock: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Solar panels on the roof of the old dry dock
Liz and Ian bought the site at Semington Lock  a year ago after the death of Harry Bell. They have installed 15kw of solar panels on the roof of the existing 14ft wide by 70ft dry dock and they say the site is ideally situated on a south facing slope so they expect the panels to supply all the electical needs for the dock.
The work to build an additional covered dry dock alongside the existing dock, adding a wet dock with slipway, and building a workshop for the maintenance and repair of GRP trailer boats began two weeks ago with the stoppage on this section of the canal
Ian said: "We have been very pleased at the number of bookings in our first season since re-opening the business and feel there is ample scope for increasing the capacity of the facilities here. We aim to offer everything a boat owner needs – from simple dry dock space for DIY blacking, to a full painting and repair service.”
Work in progress on the new dry dock

For more information: Phone: 01380 870654 
or go to: www.semingtondock.co.uk

Friday, February 10, 2012

112... one emergency phone number for all of Europe

Only a quarter of the people in Europe know that there is now a common emergency number for all countries — so major rail, air and other transport companies are joining with the EU Commissioners to mount a campaign starting tomorrow to publicise the number.

112 is the anytime anywhere emergency phone number for all of Europe for police, fire and ambulance that is a free call from land-lines and mobile phones… in the UK the other number to remember is 101 which is the non-emergency police number that recently replaced the individual numbers for each police force.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

French canal devolution trial collapse casts shadow over BW trust plans

by Bob Naylor

The French Government attempt to hive off responsibility for  the Burgundy canals to Regional Government — a plan held up as a model for running the UK's canals — has collapsed amid claims of serious underfunding and accusations of broken promises. The canals will now be taken back into state ownership in December this year.

The Burgundy Canals were transferred from the state owned Voies Navigables de France (VNF) to regional Government in 2010 — but the three year trial has proved to be a total failure.

2010 heralded a brand new start for the canals when the Burgundy Regional Government took control of its waterways with the canals being funded by the riparian Departments with grant funding from central government. 

Members of the canal association, Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais, gathered at l'écluse du Batardeau, the first lock after the port of Auxerre — and the northernmost point on the Canal du Nivernais — at the end of December 2009 to welcome the imminent change over to local control of their waterway: Picture by Philippe Bénard©
The President of the Regional Council of Burgundy, Francois Patriat,  says that 
€340M a is needed to maintain the canals but the State is only promising €230M and the promised 359 engineers and skilled workers have not been provided.

At a meeting last week in Dijon attended by Francois Patriat and the CEO of the VNF, Marc Pappinutti, it was  decided that the canals would remain the property of the state.

There had been rumours of the likely collapse of the decentralisation experiment  for some time and although an official announcement was to have been made in June it came as no surprise to canal users when this early decision was made public.

Patriat  has announced that the Region will invest several million Euros a year in the waterways and continue to co-operate with both the State and the VNF on on the development of the local canals.  He said that  the waterways are a real treasure that must not be abandoned.

Francois Patriat  had forewarned of problems with the deal in November last year when he told French waterway magazine 'Fluvial', "We will definitely only take over jurisdiction of our canals if the state gives us sufficient finance and personnel to be able to develop them.

"If the state does not give us sufficient resources I will give it up", he announced.

Jo Parffitt, a former President of the Friends of the Canal du Nivernais and until recently a boat yard owner on the River Yonne at Migennes near Auxerre, believes that it is a good thing that the canals are going back to the state: "The fact is" he said,"the gap between funding and the cost of maintaining the canals is getting wider year by year and it is made much worse because the government promised that the canals would be in good order for the handover — and and they simply were not. The regional government inherited major problems without the funding necessary to deal with them."

Monday, February 06, 2012

K&A mooring group scrapping prompts canal users' fury

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’?

London Olympic trading deal for boat-based businesses

British Waterways is offering floating businesses from across the country the chance to go to London to trade during the Olympic summer on waterways on the doorstep of the Olympic Park.

BW national boat trading manager, Phil Spencer, said: “We hope to help floating businesses create a ‘market’ on the canals in London and encourage towpath visitors to discover what’s on offer afloat.”

London Mayor, Boris Johnson has designated The Regent’s Canal towpath an official Olympic walking and cycling route and he recently confirmed that Victoria Park will be one of the official Live Sites which will have live coverage of events on big screens as well as news, information and community events during summer 2012 from 27th July – 12th August.

Traders who want take up the offers can apply for mooring berths with discounts on offer for consecutive weeks and long stay bookings.

For more information email:  OlyMoorings@britishwaterways.co.uk 
or phone: 0207 985 7315

British Waterways' statement about its Olympic Mooring strategy
"Last year British Waterways took the decision to create a mooring zone within central London to help manage boat traffic, ensure trading boats can operate safely and efficiently, and support security during next summer’s Olympic Games period. 

"This means that boaters can pre-book a guaranteed berth for set week/s at a time to ensure they are at the heart of the city in what is set to be an amazing summer of sport, culture and excitement. 

"British Waterways is working closely with local boaters to minimise disruption during the period."

Sunday, February 05, 2012

K&A Canal boaters pitch for CART Council places

Two active Kennet & Avon Canal boaters have thrown their hats in the ring and are standing for election for boaters' seats on the Canal & River Trust Council.

Both Rob Dean and Steve Rudd will be well known to many boaters on the K&A and both  are standing for election to represent the interests of all boating users of the waterways. 

Rob Dean who has led a small group of members of the Newbury Branch of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust to run the Newbury Waterways Festival in recent years says that he is standing independently rather than as a representative of any organisation so that he can represent the interests of all boaters.

Steve Rudd is never afraid to speak out for interests of boaters — whether it be at a canal user's forum or a public meeting about red diesel. He is active with the Bruce Trust — the Kennet & Avon Canal based charity that operates specially designed and purpose built boats that make it possible for disabled people and their families to have a boating holiday.

The Canal & River Trust Council will have 35 members with four of them elected by 'boat-licence holding' canal users. All BW boat licence holders will be receiving ballot papers in the next few days.

Election statements

Rob Dean
Rob Dean: Picture by Bob Naylor©
Our waterways are principally for boats and boaters. It’s great to see the many other users but the experience they come for is only possible because of the boats. 
To thrive, the waterways must be navigable and affordable to boaters. The dedicated and hard working individuals who restored the waterways over the last half century were mostly boaters. Today’s boaters have a responsibility to keep the waterways alive.
The CRT is both an opportunity and a threat. Well run, it could avoid the stifling bureaucracy and costs of a government-owned body. And boaters could have more influence in how it is run. But there must be change.  It won’t work as BW rebadged and the limited funding available must go into front line services, not expensive management.  A charity must be run more cheaply than BW was.
The charity will succeed best if its focus is local.  Local boaters, boat clubs and existing canal societies know their waterways better than any national head office possibly can.  Head Office should be slim and concentrate on support to local teams who have as much say in the running of their waterway as possible.
About me
  • I am a boat owner based on the Kennet & Avon. 
  • I spend a lot of time boating and really enjoy the waterways lifestyle.  
  • I work on my own boat and travel as far as each summer has allowed.  
  • I still have much of the system to explore.
  • I have spent 34 years with the Diplomatic Service and now have more time to spend boating and supporting the waterways movement. 
  • I am qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant so I understand the numbers.  
  • I have spent the last 5 years as a Board Director so I have a very clear idea of how the CRT can be run without expensive Directors.
  • I understand how a charity works because I am ‘hands-on’ active with the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust.  I manage the annual Newbury Waterways Festival and am currently focused on helping to set up a Trust Trip Boat operation in Newbury.
  • I am standing independently rather than a representative of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust or any other organisation.

I will
  • Devote my time and energy to representing all boaters whether they have shiny new boats or rather scruffy ones like mine.  Whether they live aboard or only manage a week or two each year.
  • Ensure I listen to fellow boaters and faithfully represent their views.
  • Play an active role on the CRT Council both in formal meetings and outside.  I will hold the Trustees to account for their use of the charities funds, for their stewardship of the waterways, and for their attention to needs of boaters who are the core of the waterways.
I think I can do this well and I ask for your vote please.

Steve Rudd

Steve Rudd: Picture by Bob Naylor©
My introduction to the canals was as a student in Birmingham (1968-1972) where, with a group of friends, we would hire a boat on the Shropshire Union Canal at weekends. Thereafter, with my family we enjoyed many canal and river holidays.

In 1990 I joined the Bruce Trust as a volunteer engineer and for 15 years provided engineering support to its fleet of boats and supported my wife, Danese, who was the Trust Administrator. 

For a similar period I (with others) helped organise and run the residential weekend training courses for the Bruce Trust to train the able-bodied helpers that will bring their groups of disabled people on holiday each year. In total I have been a volunteer for Bruce Trust for 21 years.

For the last five years I have also been a part owner in a narrowboat on the K&A (currently on the Oxford Canal).

Since the Heritage Lottery improvement works on the K&A I have observed the gradual decline in the quality of the canal, with equipment inoperable and unrepaired for years on end and the disappointing level of regular maintenance undertaken by BW.

 Last summer we enjoyed a week on the Canal du Nivernais in France, and what a joy it was to be on a truly well maintained and cherished waterway. This is what we must aim to achieve with the Canal & River Trust and not simply replicate the gradual decline of standards under BW.

 If elected I will do my utmost to ensure that the focus of the Canal & River Trust will be the maintenance and improvement of the waterways.