CRT Head of Boating runs hire boat company

On the day that the Canal and River Trust held its launch in London, boaters have discovered that Head of Boating Sally Ash has been the director of a canal holiday brokerage company since 2004. Liveaboard boaters have often speculated about the reason behind her department’s policy of harassment and bullying of boaters without home moorings, and this conflict of interest provides a possible explanation.

According to Companies House, Sally Ash is a Director of Drifters Leisure Ltd, company no. 02972938, formed in 1994, which sells hire boat holidays throughout the country on behalf of different firms. She became BW’s Head of Boating Development in 2001. Former City financier Nigel Stevens, who owns Shire Cruisers, is also a director of Drifters Leisure and one of the company’s founders. Mr Stevens is one of the two boating business representatives recently elected to the CRT Council and was the chair of the British Waterways Advisory Foundation. The chair of hire boat trade body APCO, Tim Parker, who has voluntarily contributed his expertise to Ms Ash’s Boating team at CRT, was also a director of Drifters until his appointment was terminated in 2011; he ran Black Prince Holidays until he retired in 2010.

Surely the marketing of canal holidays and direct involvement in the hire boat industry is incompatible with the position of Head of Boating at CRT, a role which requires the postholder to balance the interests of all types of boaters? Or perhaps we are being too naive. Perhaps the true vision of the CRT is to create a waterway theme park, with the only boaters being tourists? After all, Lynne Berry, Deputy Chair of the Trustees, said in October 2011 that “we need to make every inch of the waterways generate revenue”. Reportedly, “chuggers” have already been accosting boaters in Lincoln to sign direct debits to the new charity.

The pieces of the jigsaw are beginning to fit together. For instance, the BW Boating team’s  2012 boaters’ survey asked an unprecedented number of questions about congestion, designed to lead those responding to state that the difficulties they encountered were caused by moored boats. This survey also asked some very intrusive questions of continuous cruisers, to the point that a number of boaters complained. The 2009 consultations on national mooring policy and local mooring strategies included numerous proposals for visitor moorings exclusively reserved for hire boats.

You can read the Companies House entry, which includes Ms Ash’s full name, address, director identity no. and date of birth here
You can download it here company-director-check-co-ukdirector909732480
Yo can access the Companies House entry and order the accounts for Drifters Leisure Ltd here

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