The first ever hybrid meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways (APPGW) took place on Wednesday 2nd November, with MPs in a meeting room in Westminster while representatives of waterway organisations were able to join by video link.
The hybrid APPGW meeting was chaired by Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and APPGW Chair, and was also attended by Heather Wheeler MP for South Derbyshire, Wendy Morton MP for Aldridge and Brownhills, and Suzanne Webb MP for Stourbridge. Other MPs and peers joined by video or sent representatives to attend on their behalf.
The main purpose of the meeting was to highlight to MPs the importance of waterway funding, particularly in the context of DEFRA’s review of Canal & River Trust’s grant funding which is currently taking place.
As Richard Parry, Chief Executive of Canal & River Trust, explained in his presentation, the outcome of the DEFRA review will be critical for Canal & River Trust’s long-term financial position, with the current grant funding contract only in place until 2027.
Richard gave an overview of the Trust’s achievements during its first ten years, and explained the importance of the Trust’s waterways to the 9 million people who live within a 10 to 15 minute walk of them. He also highlighted the importance of the inland waterways to the government’s plans for ‘levelling up’, with 61% of households within 1km of their waterways experiencing wellbeing inequalities.
Richard also outlined the wider benefits that waterways can bring through access to the outdoors, mobilising volunteers and community support, water transfer, waterborne freight and helping to tackle climate change. New research published in Canal & River Trust’s new Valuing our Waterways report, shows that their waterways provide £4.6 billion in social value each year, as well as £1.5 billion in annual economic value.
Our Chief Executive, Jonathan Smith, then gave a presentation detailing our new report: Waterways for Today. This report demonstrates how the country’s network of 5000 miles of inland waterways can all contribute to the country’s economic recovery. It details the 12 most significant benefits that the inland waterways can bring to our economy, environment, local communities and lives. The target audience for the report is politicians, at national, devolved and local level. Jonathan outlined the key recommendations identified in the report, which has been sent to all MPs with waterways in their constituencies.
A lively Q&A session followed, with questions raised by waterway organisation representatives and discussed by the MPs and presenters on subjects such as the impact of climate change on the costs of maintaining safe waterways, heritage structures at risk and how waterways under restoration and those run by other navigation authorities can also get better support from government.
The meeting closed with the MPs agreeing to put in requests for an adjournment debate on the subject of waterway funding and the other issues discussed during the meeting.
Thank you to IWA members who encouraged their MPs to attend in person.
All Party Parliamentary Groups are informal cross-party groups that are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords. Groups can decide to invite non-parliamentarians to their meetings, but they are not public meetings. Since the first Covid lockdown the APPGW meetings have been held entirely online until now, allowing many more waterways organisations to be invited than was the case when the meetings took place in small meeting rooms at Westminster.