Pennine Waterways News

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

British Waterways Proposes Re-structure

British Waterways has today launched its vision for its future, entitled "Twenty Twenty - a Vision for for the Future of our Canals and Rivers".

This is the result of a major strategic review that has taken place and follows the government's decision to allow BW to retain its successful property portfolio.

The plans include increasing efficiencies, opening up new funding and partnership opportunities, creating closer links with local communities and the start a move towards the waterways achieving a 'third sector' trust or charitable status similar to that of the National Trust.

As a first step towards greater efficiency, BW proposes a restructure of its own operations in England and Wales, by removing an entire layer of management and creating eleven new, smaller, 'hands-on' waterway units. The move would make around 100 office staff redundant, but the £10 million annual saving would be redirected towards waterway maintenance.

Under the new structure, BW would put a greater emphasis on working with volunteers and local communities.

BW Chief Executive, Robin Evans, said: "Our absolute priority must be to maintain investment in the waterways and this means reducing spending elsewhere. Our proposed new structure will both redirect important funding to essential maintenance work but also make us much more responsive to customers and partners."

In the longer term, BW calls for some fresh thinking about what the waterways mean to Britain and how their sustainable future might be secured. It proposes that, by 2020, it should become a third sector 'public interest company' or trust. BW believes that such a change could stimulate greater participation in the waterways by volunteers and other individuals, enhance openness and accountability for communities and waterway users, create opportunities for new sources of income such as grants and donations, and ensure the historic network is held in trust for the nation.

For the area covered by Pennine Waterways website, the proposed changes would result in smaller North West and Yorkshire units, based at the existing Wigan and Leeds offices, and a new Peak and Pennine unit, which could include the Huddersfield Narrow, Rochdale and Peak Forest Canals, based at Northwich.

Extract from BW map of proposed new units

Pennine Waterways comment:
While a Peak and Pennine unit sounds like a good idea, basing its offices at Northwich seems ludicrous! If the aim is for the unit to be more in touch and responsive, running it from the extreme western edge of the area will not achieve that. For example, Standedge Tunnel is closer to both Wigan and Leeds. It can certainly be argued that the present areas are too large - I was told by a boater who phoned Wigan to report a problem with a lock on the Ashton Canal that the person on the other end said "There's already somebody on their way - it's at Marple, isn't it?" An office at Northwich will not stop that sort of thing happening. Somewhere between Manchester and Marple would be more appropriate!

BW says that the exact boundaries of the new units are to be subject of consultation, so perhaps their office locations are, too?

More information about BW's proposals can be found on its website, here:
The document "Twenty Twenty - a Vision for for the Future of our Canals and Rivers" can be downloaded here.

What do you think? Add your own comment below.


  1. is that a call for a waterways office at Portland Basin?

  2. I wish I could make up my mind about this one! On the face of it, it's the right way to go for all sorts of reasons, but...

    1) The "new" units are more or less the ones we had just a couple of years ago, so why not acknowledge that?

    2) Why does the strategy document have to be a trendy bit of arty design? It must have cost a packet in itself.

    3) The actual message is "We're going to sack 100 people, then think about how to get round to using volunteers over the next 10 years".

    If I trusted Robin and his crew more, I might be more excited. Must be becoming a Grumpy Old Boater, I guess.



  3. Perhaps abandoning the contentious redevelopment at Marple Wharf, and putting Peak & Pennine there, would be the best thing to do.

    The new waterway boundaries don't take effect until October and are out for consultation, so maybe the combined might of PW and the Marple Civic Society could campaign for this...


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