Leaked Quango List May Open Floodgates On The River Thames

TUGn, the Thames User Group (Navigation) , which represents some 30,000 boaters on the Thames, has reacted strongly against the suggestion in recent press reports that Thames should be merged with British Waterways as part of Government’s proposed Big Society process.

The leaked list of quangos to be abolished by the Government includes British Waterways (BW), which is to be changed into a mutualised entity within the Civil Society. The Environment Agency’s (EA) – which manages the Thames – future is to be decided later. However, Defra have already suggested the EA navigations could be included within the mutualised organisation. Such a move puts the retention of the Thames Lock keeper in real danger and could lead to asset stripping of the Thames. If this happens all the communities along the river from Lechlade to Teddington are in serious risk of major flooding when extreme conditions on the river occur.

The EA is responsible for all water issues including flood, water supply and waste – and for fisheries, angling, recreation and navigation. TUGn have met with Defra and with Lord Smith, Chair of EA. They have a campaign to protect the interests of the Thames boaters, businesses and the half million plus constituents who live on the Thames corridor.

Upheaval

TUGn believe that that a mutualisation scheme for the BW navigations will entail extraordinary upheaval with a risk of failure.  The Thames should only be incorporated when this has proved to be successful.  

Michael Shefras, the TUGn Coordinator said “The River Thames is currently well managed and after many years of close liaison with the River Managers, the EA Thames Region is probably in the best condition for its disparate users since the demise of the Thames Conservancy. TUGn certainly do not want to negate this achievement with an intemperate move to an untried body whose governance and funding is still suspect.

There is no capacity to include the Thames navigation at the same time. Failure is too much for the Thames User to contemplate!”

TUGn will be continuing to take the matter forward, talking with the River User Groups, River Thames Alliance Members and will continue talking with Government and BW.

TUGn was formed to coordinate any necessary action that might affect the health of the River Thames as used by the members of the regional boating bodies. Its membership covers all boats used on the Thames from Paddlers, Rowers, Sailors and other unpowered craft through cruising powered boats; the trade and the passenger boats. Approximately 30% of the inland boating community.

It has been very active over the past five years working to maintain standards and has had a major part working with the Regional Director in getting the Thames Boating Customer Charter introduced this year. TUGn also campaigned against lock closures and sale of lock cottages.

With the Ministers statement in June that Government was looking favourably at setting up a completely new Waterways body to assume the responsibilities now being handled by British Waterways and that perhaps this new organisation could assimilate the Environment Agency navigations, TUGn began campaigning on behalf of its members. TUGn understands that every sector of the community will face budget restrictions, but will continue to work with the managers of the Thames to ensure that the best possible service and maintenance of the infrastructure continues into the future.

It understands that every sector of the community will face budget restrictions, but will continue to work with the managers of the Thames to ensure that the best possible service and maintenance of the structure continues in the best way into the future.

TUGn will work with Defra, BW, EA and Ministers in any way necessary to ensure that any new Waterways Body is fit for purpose, and at that time would consider the future of the home for the Thames.

For any more information please contact Michael Shefras, TUGn Coordinator by e-mail michael@shefras.demon.co.uk

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