User Group Meeting: “Not a good time to become a charity” says K and A Manager

Several of us attended the User Group Meeting in Devizes on 4th April. The meeting covered local management issues and briefly touched on national BW matters. Functions such as enforcement are now done by a centralised team which is not managed from Devizes, so little information was provided on these matters. Waterway manager Mark Stephens gave a brief update on national developments and their impact on the K and A.

BW’s funding from DEFRA has been reduced by around 10% and all areas will suffer cuts, including redundancies, across the range of BW functions including maintenance and enforcement (there is no sign of redundancy for BW’s fat cat directors however).

The temporary trustees who will handle BW’s transition to a charity have been appointed. However, Mark Stephens said “now is not a good time to become a charity” and he added that the start-up costs of the charity are huge and it will cost as much to raise charitable funding as BW will receive in donations in the first 10 years. The new Kennet and Avon Waterway Partnership Board, the prototype for local waterway management under the new charity, has been appointed (its first meeting was on 6th April); there is a liveaboard boater on the board.

This year, the K and A will be able to do around 80% of the essential repairs which have been identified so far. There will be no money to repair towpath surfaces, some of which have deteriorated considerably since the Sustrans upgrade. The winter stoppages have been decided and are being consulted on; the deadline for comments is 3rd June. Hanham lock will be repaired in September; several locks at Crofton from October to December; locks 73 and 90 in January, and lock 76 in February. The floating landing stage upstream of County lock is on the priority list for repair; at present the only upstream landing stage is under the road bridge – if you miss it and have to turn round, you risk getting caught in the weir stream.

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