Fund Britain’s Waterways (FBW) is a coalition of organisations representing hundreds of thousands of users and supporters of inland waterways. We are campaigning for national and local government to act now and protect the public benefit and natural capital of our waterways.
Join us in the fight to #FundBritainsWaterways by signing our petition. With your help, our canals and rivers may stand a better chance of securing desperately needed funding.
The Fund Britain’s Waterways group has been set up in response to the threat posed to our canals and rivers by inadequate funding. The funding situation is already causing deterioration and will only worsen with the challenges of high inflation and the impact of climate change, which are both at a level unforeseen when current funding was agreed. FBW has come together to campaign to persuade national and local government to ensure that the benefits provided to the public do not continue to be eroded.
Responsibility for managing Britain’s 5,000 miles of navigable inland waterways is fragmented between different organisations. The Canal & River Trust is the largest with 2,000 miles. In July 2023, a year behind schedule, Defra announced future funding for the Canal & River Trust and the announcement confirmed our fears of further substantial cuts to the already inadequate level of funding. Other organisations such as the Environment Agency and Scottish Canals face similar problems. Today the entire network is at risk due to significant underinvestment. The consequences of failing to maintain waterway infrastructure were clearly shown by the evacuation of 1,500 local residents in case the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir collapsed in 2019, but it is as if the lessons have not yet been learnt.
The value of Britain’s inland waterways was demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic and is acknowledged in Defra’s own Environmental Improvement Plan. They are widely understood to provide levelling up, economic, environmental, health and wellbeing benefits for us all. The combined annual economic and social value of CRT waterways alone has been quantified as £6.1bn, including cost savings of £1.1bn for the NHS from active use of the waterways and towpaths – leveraged from current government investment of only £52.6m per year. Despite greater understanding of their value, and the deteriorating state of the infrastructure today, the Government appears intent on significantly reducing its funding for the waterways.
Trade body for the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry, representing 1400+ member businesses, through regional and group specific member associations which include:
British Marine’s Inland Boating Association with over 100 independent companies offering river and canal holidays on hire boats, hotel boats, plus passenger trip boats and business services
British Marine’s Passenger Boat Association representing all sectors of the passenger boat industry, including scheduled transport services, pleasure trips, private & business hire
The Broads Hire Boat Federation including operators of holiday hire cruisers and day-hire craft on the Norfolk Broads
British Marine’s London and Thames Valley Regional Association which has over 250 members, of which over 80 operate their business alongside the non-tidal and tidal River Thames
The Yacht Harbour Association, representing marina and mooring operators, boatyards, professionals, consultants and suppliers of equipment and services to the marina industry, both in the UK and overseas
The national governing body for dinghy, motor and sail cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sportsboats, windsurfing and personal watercraft, and a leading representative body for inland waterways cruising in the UK.
Government needs to recognise that saying they value the inland waterways is not enough to prevent their decline. Whilst we in FBW understand the financial pressures that everyone faces, the financial cuts are too deep, and adequate public funding needs to be allocated to maintain these national assets.
Les Etheridge, Chair of the FBW steering group and IWA National Chair
LOVE YOUR WATERWAYS
Britain's waterways are vital; together we can campaign for them now and for the future.
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