New idea floated for canals
A call for the Kennet and Avon Canal to be taken out of state ownership and put under the control of a charitable trust was being made today.
The Government agency which currently looks after the nation's canal network, British Waterways, says it should be replaced by a new trust body to spearhead the renaissance of the 200-year-old system.
British Waterways believes trust status would enable it to encourage greater community ownership of the country's waterways, more involvement from the voluntary sector and a wider funding base.
It says the move could help to make the waterways safer, better maintained and more vibrant, with increased community support helping to ensure that they never revert to the dereliction and decline that saw historic canals abandoned and filled-in during the 20th century.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Chairman Tony Hales said: "The waterways have had an extraordinary rebirth since the middle of the last century when all but a handful of enthusiasts viewed them as dangerous ditches. Today, they offer some of the greenest recreational facilities, they are breathing new life into scores of waterside towns and cities, and they collectively comprise one of the most important examples of industrial heritage anywhere in the world.
"The network is more than just a pretty place though: it is important in alleviating flooding; it provides refuges for threatened wildlife; it offers alternative transport routes and; thanks to the latest technology, it is even helping to generate clean electricity. For this to continue, we need to look at a new model of ownership for our waterways, one which provides greater certainty and flexibility over funding and gives communities more of a role in the running of their local canal or river."
British Waterways believes that it should become a third sector, 'public interest company' or trust in the next decade and is suggesting that, as part of this, its annual deficit grant funding could be replaced by new government contracts.
It said this would give a clearer understanding of the public benefits which the Government wants the waterways to continue to deliver and allow British Waterways greater certainty in planning future expenditure.
Mr Hales said: "The public sector model has arguably seen the waterways through difficult times and enabled their rebirth in the last decade. We strongly believe that a new voluntary sector model is the next logical step for us. It would still embrace all that the public and private sectors can offer but, more importantly, allow the passion and support amongst the voluntary sector to make a much greater contribution to the management and financing of the nation's historic waterways.
"In the long term we believe that the waterways should join the great family of voluntary sector organisations and good causes which have achieved so much for our heritage, wildlife and landscapes. This change will take time to implement fully and successfully, so we believe it is right to start the debate now."
Over the next six months British Waterways will be holding a series of meetings to discuss its strategy with councils, devolved assemblies, partners, waterway communities and independent sector organisations. In particular it will be discussing the ideas with Defra, which sponsors and funds the organisation's activities in England and Wales. It will be seeking to raise greater public awareness of the contribution waterways make to modern Britain and to debate the most appropriate structure for British Waterways as the guardian of the nation's historic waterways.