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Updates from Navigation Committee

5th June 2024

Navigation Committee last met on 22nd May. The topic of most concern continues to be the situation of our waterways, because of the combined impact of the winter storms, failures of ageing infrastructure, inadequate maintenance, and inadequate funding.

Waterway Funding and Condition

Canal & River Trust continues to have major unplanned stoppages (e.g. Easenhall cutting on the North Oxford Canal and Lowsonford Locks on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal, both now reopened, and the failure of another lock cill on the Wigan Flight on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal).

As reported in a recent IWA press release, Anglian waterways are suffering from an apparent epidemic of stoppages by the Environment Agency, the Cam Conservators and most recently by CRT on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. As a result the Upper Great Ouse, the Ely Ouse and the Middle Levels are all isolated from one another, and no boats are able to get to the extremities of the Ely Ouse’s tributaries at Cambridge or Brandon. Whilst the waterways are open either side of all these closures, the result is a fragmented system with users prevented from accessing key facilities and services and hire boats trapped.

Boaters’ Survey

Thanks are due to all who responded to the Boaters’ User Experience Survey 2023. As well as providing a snapshot of waterways condition from user experience in 2023, this will act as a useful benchmark for monitoring the condition in future years. A report will be published shortly and it is planned to share a summary report with navigation authorities.

Ongoing Campaigns

  • Residential Boating

Indications are that more boaters are static and fewer making long trips, which may be because more boats are residential, demonstrating a change in the use of the waterways. Defra has shown some interest and recognised some issues and explained that the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has responsibility for the housing aspect. Navigation Committee is continuing to press for the revision of the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities’ document “Residential use of Inland Waterways” as the definitive statement.

  • Neath and Tennant Canals

In a positive development, an options appraisal study for the Neath and Tennant Canals has been announced by Neath Port Talbot Council, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Places initiative. Navigation Committee will be keen to contribute and to encourage the sustainable regeneration of the canal system.

  • HS2

Navigation Committee received an update from IWA’s HS2 Lead Representative, Phil Sharpe, explaining that even though HS2 has been cancelled north of Birmingham, uncertainty continues about the implications for waterways. This is partly because of the intention to continue with the Northern Powerhouse Rail section towards Manchester and partly because the connection of HS2 to the West Coast Mainline at Handsacre is problematic.


Navigation Committee benefited from several meetings with navigation authorities and with Defra during April and May. A meeting with the Environment Agency was particularly helpful since it increased the seniority of EA representatives known to the Committee by introducing the Deputy Director Asset Management Systems, who has recently assumed responsibility for navigation assets as well as for flood and coastal assets. Other meetings included CRT (the National User Forum, the Council Boater Representatives Group, and the regular Navigation Committee liaison meeting), the Environment Agency National Waterways Forum and the CEO of Scottish Canals.

Consultation Responses

Three consultations are currently open, with a common deadline of 9th August 2024:

Navigation Committee will be responding to all three on behalf of IWA. Input is welcomed and should be sent to Amy Tillson.

Inland Waterways Freight Group

The Group has put together a long and a short version of a report on the “Benefits of Transporting Freight on Rivers and the Likely Results of Underfunding of Waterways” which will be published shortly. Plans are in hand for work with a university to produce a water freight study and policy document. A survey is in progress to gather information from water freight operators to help properly understand the size and make-up of the sector and its contribution to the UK economy. A case study has been completed of the socio-economic benefits of using water freight at scale on a large project.

Campaigning activities have included working alongside the Save Chatham Docks Group, Arcelor Mittal and Kelly Tolhurst (former MP for Chatham and Rochester) to save Chatham Docks from redevelopment, and writing to Gravesham Council about their grant of planning consent for a development at Northfleet riverside which will see several working wharves closed down. A submission to the Department for Transport about the use of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is almost ready. Looking ahead, the Freight Group is working on its approach to influence the next government, and starting work on new projects about improving perception of transport by water and influencing planning policy.

Sustainable Boating Group

Little progress is likely to be made with the adoption of HVO until its wholesale price, compared with mineral diesel, can be stabilised. The premium has recently varied between 12% and 35%. The HVO Working Group is trying to understand the reasons for this volatility, which are complex.

The Sustainable Boating Group had a stand at Electrika, the first boat show for electric boats. The show was small but successful and a variety of useful contacts were made. The Group was also present on IWA’s stand at Crick Boat Show.


Sue O’Hare
Chair of Navigation Committee
5th June 2024

14th April 2024

Boaters’ Survey

There was a good response to the IWA Boaters’ User Experience Survey 2023 and thanks to Peter Marlow a draft summary report has been produced. Ivor Caplan will bring a final report to the Navigation Committee meeting on 22 May and it will then go forward to the Trustees meeting on 29 May.

Salter’s Lode

Following the IWA press release on 6 March ( the Environment Agency comms team requested that their response was added to the website article, and provided the correct contact points and protocol for articles concerning EA waterways.

IWA was subsequently notified that de-silting work would commence between Denver and Salter’s Lode from 2 April and would be carried out sequentially, starting at Denver Lock and moving downstream to Salter’s Lode, and would take several weeks to complete.

Passage through Salter’s Lode Lock and hence transit between the Middle Level Navigations and the Great Ouse will not be available until these works are complete. Navigation Committee is concerned about the slow progress and the continuing uncertain completion date, and suggested that the dredging could start at Salter’s Lode where the problem is and alternative faster techniques could be used, but neither suggestion was accepted.

As a result of the correspondence Navigation Committee has an introductory meeting scheduled for 19 April with Rachael McFarlane, maternity cover for Jo Scully as job-share EA National Navigation Manager.

Tidal Trent

Nick Roberts of Trentlink has raised concerns that West Stockwith and Keadby Locks (between the tidal Trent and the Chesterfield Canal and the Stainforth & Keadby Canal respectively) may not be manned and available every day and/or on every tide over summer, owing to resource shortages in CRT. Nick is coordinating nine organisations, including IWA and NABO, who are all keen to ensure that the locks continue to be available for safety reasons as well as ensuring availability of navigation.

Forthcoming meetings

  • CRT National User Forum, 17 April
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 22 April
  • EA National Waterways Forum, 25 April
  • CRT Council boater representatives group, 2 May


Sue O’Hare
Deputy Chair (Navigation and Campaigns)
14 April 2024

23rd March 2024

Navigation Committee held its annual face-to-face meeting at the Roundhouse in Birmingham on Saturday 23rd March 2024. It was good to be together and to discuss various areas where positive progress has been made, particularly in view of the increasingly apparent impact of inadequate funding on waterways across the country. The rationale for the Fund Britain’s Waterways campaign is becoming ever more starkly clear. 


Waterway Funding and Condition 

Starting with the Canal & River Trust, Sue O’Hare reported on her first CRT Council meeting as IWA’s new representative, on 20th March in Liverpool. Two sobering themes ran through the meeting. Firstly, the major storms over winter were unprecedented in both their number and their broad impact across the country, resulting in widespread damage and a knock-on effect on planned maintenance work. Secondly, the incident at Toddbrook Reservoir in 2019 has led to an unprecedented programme of work on reservoirs, which is currently taking up half of CRT’s total infrastructure spend with clear implications for work on waterways. 

The committee was concerned to see an analysis of CRT stoppage data for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. This showed that the canal was open end-to-end for 100 days fewer in 2023 than in 2016, and that the number of unplanned stoppages had risen from 4 in 2016 to about 26 in 2023. Anecdotally this substantial decline in availability appears to be causing a reduction in cruising as boaters are uncertain about being able to reach their destination. This sample data shows the scope for further analysis and discussion. 

Funding-related issues are becoming evident across Environment Agency waterways. On the Thames, volunteer lock keepers are to be removed for this summer, meaning a 30% reduction in the number of lock keepers, and six locks have major problems. In East Anglia, the lack of dredging by the EA means that Salter’s Lode Lock cannot be opened. Since this is the link between the Middle Level Navigations and the Great Ouse, 130 miles of waterway have been cut off from the rest of the network with no opening date at the time of writing. Boaters have been stranded and businesses are suffering. Lack of maintenance in adjacent areas is also calling into question the effectiveness of flood defence and alleviation plans for local communities.  

The committee heard of long winter closures on Scottish canals and many other concerns there. In Wales, correspondence has continued with Neath Port Talbot Council about the proposed reduction in funding for the Neath Canal and the effect it will have on public access to the towpath.  

More positively, boaters are continuing to complete the IWA Silver Propeller Challenge. The Challenge has been running since 2018 and offers a plaque for everyone who visits 20 different places on the list of underused waterways by any type of boat, canoe or paddleboard. 

In order to gather data about the boater experience in current conditions, Navigation Committee launched the Boaters’ User Experience Survey 2023 on 29th February, with a deadline of 29th March for responses. The results will be reported on in a later edition of Waterways. 


Trentlink and the Tidal Trent  

We were joined at this meeting by Nick Roberts of the Trentlink group as a guest speaker. Nick explained the aim of the group to increase the number of vessels using the tidal Trent and to improve the navigation. It is primarily a Facebook group which has grown to almost 2,000 members, with an associated website to store documents. There is a long way to go to realise the vision of the Trent as a generally accepted route between the Midland and Northern waterways with the benefits of greatly reduced lockage and increased speed. However a huge amount of effort has resulted in an impressive repository of useful documents for boaters, as well as practical work to improve ease and safety of navigation. We are keen to continue working closely with Nick and Trentlink and wish them every success. 


Consultation Responses 

Navigation Committee responded to a consultation by Natural Resources Wales on reducing the flood risk for properties alongside the river Neath. Two of the five options proposed involve complete or partial demolition of Aberdulais Aqueduct, which carries the Tennant Canal over the River Neath. The aqueduct is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and its removal would frustrate restoration proposals to bring the Neath and Tennant Canals back to life as well as impacting the wellbeing, environmental and heritage benefits. 

A response was also submitted to the River Thames Scheme consultation on proposals to reduce flood risk on the Lower Thames between Egham and Teddington. Navigation Committee supported Paddle UK (formerly British Canoeing) in stressing the need to safeguard navigation and access to the channels where the River Thames flows. 

Lastly, an IWA representation was submitted to the Port of London Authority on a Harbour Revision Order. Also on the Thames, intensive discussions between several parties and CRT have resulted in a safer and more workable solution than the originally proposed reduction in opening hours for Limehouse Lock between the Regent’s Canal and the tidal Thames.  


Inland Waterways Freight Group 

The Freight Group has continued to focus on getting firm data on the inland waterways freight sector. The Group is putting together documents to support the case for the use of HVO in small (gross tonnage less than 500) vessels operating on Category C and D waters, working with the Sustainable Boating Group.  


Sustainable Boating Group 

The HVO Joint Working Group continues to meet and now includes representation from British Marine. The premium of HVO to mineral diesel is still too high and is also very volatile. The IWA/Towpath Talk Sustainable Boating Award has been launched in both Towpath Talk and Waterways, with a closing date of 1st July 2024. The Sustainable Boating Group will have a presence at Electrika 2024, an exhibition of electric narrowboats and boating, to be held on May 3rd and 4th at Brinklow Marina. The Group organised a visit to Barrus in Bicester to hear about the hydrogen-powered narrowboat they have built. 


Navigation Committee Chair and Deputy Chairs 

Owing to increased commitments John Pomfret has stepped down as Deputy Chair of Navigation Committee, although we will continue to value his expert contributions as a member. We welcome Roger Stocker as John’s successor. Roger will work alongside Ivor Caplan and Sue O’Hare, who will continue as Deputy Chair and Chair respectively. The Committee recognises John’s enormous contributions over many years and has recorded its thanks. 


Sue O’Hare

Chair of Navigation Committee and Trustee

25th March 2024 


31st January 2024

Navigation Committee’s first meeting of 2024 took place on 31st January.  Much of our discussion reflected the consequences of inadequate funding on the condition of waterways.  More positively, the Committee received updates on the ongoing Bridgwater Docks and HS2 campaigns, and from the Inland Waterways Freight Group and the Sustainable Boating Group.

Waterway Funding and Condition

Navigation Committee has recently made two interventions in specific funding-related situations. We sent a letter to Neath Port Talbot Council expressing concern about the proposed cessation of funding for the Neath Canal and the effect it would have on public access to the towpath. We also submitted a representation to the Secretary of State for Transport regarding the toll increases imposed on boaters on Broads Authority navigations, urging the government to recognise the necessity of financial support for navigation to ensure the Broads’ essential character can be preserved.

The major topic discussed in the most recent regular meeting with the Canal & River Trust on 11th December 2023 was the serious impact that unplanned and lengthy stoppages are having on boaters. Three case studies from individual boaters were provided to Canal & River Trust in advance of the meeting and clearly made an impact, being shared at senior level within CRT.  A response outlining CRT’s plans to improve the situation is expected.

Some Environment Agency waterways, particularly the non-tidal Thames, are suffering from reduced maintenance coupled with flooding.  The National Navigation Team recently responded to the request for waterway condition data that we made over a year ago. It transpires that there is only one Key Performance Indicator, which is that 80% of essential assets are at or above target condition. While there is a duty to provide navigation and the aim is to exceed the KPI, it is the current target and is all that is reported on. The data showed an increasing trend from 80% in 2016/17 to 86% in 2022/23. Unfortunately this trend is not borne out by reported user experiences on some waterways, showing the inadequacy of a single high-level KPI covering all waterways. The EA also provided an estimate of the number of unplanned navigation days lost over the last three years, but this does not show any consistent trend.

Navigation Committee has been developing a method of gathering data about the condition of waterways, and there will be further news in the near future.

Bridgwater Docks

IWA West Country Branch reported on the real start of the Bridgwater Docks regeneration project, enabled by substantial grants from the Towns Fund and the Active Travel Fund. The new unitary authority Somerset Council will manage the project and transfer ownership of the Docks to Bridgwater Town Council when work is complete.


Since the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2 was announced, there had been little further information, until a meeting of the House of Commons Transport Committee on 10th January heard evidence from the HS2 Executive Chair. IWA’s HS2 lead Phil Sharpe reported on possible implications for the Trent & Mersey and Staffordshire & Worcestershire canals which mean that uncertainty may yet continue for some time.

Inland Waterways Freight Group

To underpin its work the Freight Group has been updating IWA’s Freight Policy. It has agreed on three work streams and targets for this year. In summary, the first is to develop a policy brief for civil servants and ministers based on quantitative information about the freight sector. The second is to influence government to commit to setting a target for the increase in the tonnage moved by water in a set time frame. The third, working with the Sustainable Boating Group, is to put together a case for HVO to be considered the only current low carbon option for freight vessels on UK categorised waters, and then to press for a mechanism for it to be made affordable.

Sustainable Boating Group

The HVO Joint Working Group representing IWA, RYA and the Cruising Association made a presentation to the APPG for the Waterways on 28th November. On the same day meetings were held with the Department for Transport and with Zemo, a major consultant to DfT on the subject of sustainable fuels. Following the DfT meeting, DfT changed their guidance on HVO on boats such that fuel supplied to an inland waterways craft can now be used for any purpose, domestic or propulsion. This has greatly simplified the marketing of HVO and slightly reduced the price, but HVO is still unacceptably more expensive than mineral diesel and more work with government is required.

The Sustainable Boating Group is setting up a working group to develop a national standard for installation of electric hook-ups. Involvement is to be sought from DfT, the EA, Association of Inland Navigation Authorities and others.

Three members of the Sustainable Boating Group, Bowman Bradley, Jonathan Mosse and Adam Wyllie, now sit on various Boat Safety Scheme committees.

The new IWA/Towpath Talk Sustainable Boating Award was launched in the Spring 2024 issue of Waterways and will be featured in the March edition of Towpath Talk.

Limehouse Lock

Paul Strudwick (London Region Chair) and Sue O’Hare (Navigation Committee Chair) joined the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, the Barge Association, Rammey Marsh Cruising Club and the RYA in signing a letter sent by St Pancras Cruising Club to CRT explaining concerns about the safety risks introduced by the revised opening hours for Limehouse Lock between the Regent’s Canal and the tidal Thames. Paul Strudwick is leading for IWA in ongoing discussions.

Committee Membership

Owing to increasing work commitments Alison Smedley has stepped down as both a member of Navigation Committee and the IWA representative on Scottish Waterways for All. The Committee recognises Alison’s enormous contributions over many years and has recorded its thanks.


Sue O’Hare

Chair of Navigation Committee and Trustee

2nd February 2024

29th November 2023

Navigation Committee’s last meeting of 2023 took place on 29th November. Our discussions reflected the Fund Britain’s Waterways campaign and ongoing debates about funding for navigation authorities.

IWA’s first meeting with the inland waterways team at Defra for some years took place on 27th November, at their request. We had a positive discussion about the benefits of waterways and highlighted recent research by British Marine which estimates the market generated by boaters to have delivered £3.1bn in GVA to the UK economy in 2022/23, helping to sustain thousands of businesses across the UK – the majority of which are small, family-run businesses that are vital links in the rural economy. Defra is doing a piece of work on rural growth, linking with DCMS on the development of a sustainable tourism plan, and welcomed British Marine’s findings as directly relevant. On the question of funding, the Defra team followed the government line closely and suggested that CRT and other navigation authorities should look for alternative funding from other departments such as DCMS and the Department for Transport.

Navigation Committee has recently become aware of funding-related issues on the Broads. The Broads Hire Boat Federation has lodged a formal objection to the 13% increase in boat tolls that the Broads Authority introduced for 2023/24. At the same time five local MPs have written to the Broads Authority expressing their concerns about the further 8.5% increase planned for 2024/25. Clearly navigation is of vital importance to the Broads and there is a need for sufficient funding to maintain safe and appealing waterways, and Navigation Committee plans to make representations along these lines. We were pleased to have a very helpful discussion with the new Chair of the Broads Society (an IWA corporate member) to understand more of the background.

Navigation Committee has been discussing for some time how best to monitor the condition of waterways, partly in response to concerns from members and partly in view of the likelihood that funding for maintenance will decrease. We are also keen to understand why the number of boats cruising appears to be reducing and whether the two are related. Look out for developments on this subject in the near future.

A highlight of the last few weeks has been the progress of the IWA Sustainable Boating Group in its work on making HVO available to leisure boaters at an acceptable cost. The Chair Bowman Bradley presented at the recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways on 28th November, together with Crown Oils. The same day representatives of IWA, RYA, the Cruising Association and Crown Oils attended a meeting with the Department for Transport. Both meetings were very positive in moving the agenda forward.

Lastly, a vacancy has arisen for a North East Region representative on Navigation Committee and I would welcome hearing from anyone interested in joining us.


Sue O’Hare

Chair of Navigation Committee and Trustee

4th December 2023

12th July 2023

Navigation Committee’s meeting on 12th July came two days after Defra’s long-delayed announcement of substantial cuts in grant funding to the Canal & River Trust (CRT) from 2027, which was inevitably the central focus of the meeting. Even before the future cuts, CRT is in a difficult financial position and there was much discussion of the visible impacts of the current situation (closures particularly on the Northern canals, reduced vegetation management, removal of litter bins). The need for the ‘Fund Britain’s Waterways’ action group has been amply demonstrated and Navigation Committee is keen to provide its support through helping to spread the message about the benefits of waterways and the threats they face.

Navigation Committee’s two subgroups on freight and sustainable boating play an important role. We were delighted to welcome John Spencer of GPS Marine to the meeting as the new Chair of the Inland Waterways Freight Group. The reconstituted group met recently to identify the key issues that prevent water freight playing a more important part in the UK’s transport mix and to agree its agenda. The focus will be on areas of immediate concern where IWA can lend support, and on the production of a report on how water freight can provide economic, environmental, and societal benefits. Anyone with relevant knowledge who is interested in joining the group would be welcome.

The Sustainable Boating Group has produced publications on electric narrow boating and environmentally conscious boater behaviour which will shortly be available, in addition to position papers on standards for electrical hook-ups and the environmental impact of dredging which are in discussion with CRT. The group will be reviewing IWA’s Briefing Note on Environmental Guidance for Boaters, particularly in the light of recent legislation which gives local authorities the discretion to extend the scope of their smoke control orders to include moored vessels. A working group to encourage the take-up of HVO has been set up with the Royal Yachting Association and the Cruising Association and a letter has been sent to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.

The use of waterways for transfer of drinking water to areas of most need was considered, following a recent workshop about the proposed Grand Union Canal scheme. This use is well established on the Llangollen and Gloucester & Sharpness Canals, but a new scheme would introduce a flow and require a water level rise, with impacts on the banks and on air draft at bridges and tunnels as well as possible surges, all of which are currently being modelled.

IWA’s HS2 lead Phil Sharpe continues to review HS2 developments and most recently has submitted written evidence to the Select Committee on subsidence risks, including the proposal of an alternative route to avoid the unstable Cheshire brine fields around the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Jonathan Mosse was approved by Navigation Committee and subsequently by Trustees as IWA’s new representative on the Boat Safety Scheme Advisory Committee. Adam Wyllie is representing IWA in a working group trying to mitigate the safety and inconvenience issues being caused by the discontinuation of small sizes of Calor gas bottles.

Lastly, an updated version of IWA’s Policy on Residential Boating has been approved by Trustees and is available on the Library page of the website.


Sue O’Hare
IWA Deputy National Chair and Chair of Navigation Committee
16 July 2023

24th May 2023

Navigation Committee’s recent meeting on 24th May reflected the concern in IWA as a whole about the funding situation for our inland waterways. It is very clear that there is an urgent need for the ‘Protect Our Waterways’ campaign. We must spread the message about the benefits of waterways and the threats they face from inadequate funding as far and as fast as possible.

Major points on the agenda included the recent liaison meeting with CRT’s National Boating Manager and the second meeting of the Environment Agency National Waterways Forum (NWF), both of which had funding as a thread running through them.

Navigation Committee’s liaison with the CRT National Boating Manager is part of IWA’s strong links into CRT at senior level. We have a representative on CRT Council (now Jonathan Smith) and Hannah Sterritt (Trustee and South West & South Wales Region Chair) has recently been appointed to CRT’s Navigation Advisory Group. The IWA National Chair and Chief Executive meet regularly with their CRT counterparts, and an IWA representative attends the CRT National User Forum meetings.

In recent meetings CRT has discussed the recent cost saving and income generation measures which boaters are likely to be feeling. The purpose of these measures is to address the current financial situation, and an unfavourable outcome to the grant review would have an even bigger impact. With the National Boating Manager we also discussed possible extension of the Gold Licence to the Middle Level Navigations, frustration about the lack of government support for the energy costs of continuous cruisers, the sale of Northwich Yard and leasing of Braunston Stop House, ongoing siltation in Gloucester Docks, and the headlines of the Boater Census.

The Environment Agency NWF heard about progress against the Navigation business plan, which is less than had been hoped because current funding is less than half of what was requested in the last Spending Review. A request was made for data on benefits of waterways to help EA build a business case for improved funding in the next Spending Review. IWA has put forward the ‘Waterways for Today’ report as well as other helpful reports, all available in the library section of the website.

Navigation Committee is continuing to consider ways in which we can record and communicate the declining condition of waterways and therefore the need for long term sustained funding. More positively, the Inland Waterways Freight Group will shortly announce a new Chair and increased level of activity. The Sustainable Boating Group is working on standards for electrical hook-ups, the environmental impact of dredging, the pricing of HVO, domestic energy strategy and reducing the need to run engines at moorings. IWA in Scotland is actively campaigning for ways to accommodate more boats on the Lowland Canals. Chris Howes has produced a guide to the tidal crossing at Denver between the Middle Level Navigations and the River Great Ouse, which will shortly be available on the website. A revised version of the Residential Boating Policy will be submitted to Trustees for approval. The Silver Propeller Challenge location at the end of the connected section of the Montgomery Canal has been moved to the end of the newly reopened section at Crickheath.

Lastly, we must congratulate Bowman Bradley on his appointment as Chair of the Boat Safety Scheme Technical Committee. Bowman was previously IWA’s representative on the BSS Advisory Committee and a replacement is needed. Please do get in touch if you are interested.


Sue O’Hare
IWA Deputy National Chair and Chair of Navigation Committee

1st February 2023

Navigation Committee’s first meeting of 2023 on 1 February had another busy agenda and this was followed on 28th March by our first live meeting for a long time, at the Roundhouse Birmingham. Major points included the recent liaison meeting with CRT’s National Boating Manager and the first meeting of the IWA representatives on the various Environment Agency (EA) stakeholder groups. We also reported on a useful meeting with the new Chair of AINA (the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities) and look forward to closer working with AINA in areas including sustainable boating and residential boating.

Topics discussed with CRT included waterway condition data, dredging, volunteering opportunities in reservoir maintenance, plans for water transfer projects, provision of electric hook-ups, and the sale of Northwich Yard. We put forward a proposal to extend the current Gold Licence covering CRT and EA waterways to include the Middle Level Navigations. On the River Trent we expressed concern about a proposed move to online-only booking for locks. We also supported the Trentlink group’s request for the reopening of the Stainforth & Keadby Canal, which provides the “safe” route between the tidal Trent and the North-East waterways avoiding the Humber Estuary. The canal had been closed since November 2022 following a bridge strike, but shortly after our meeting it was re-opened to boats pending permanent repair.

CRT reported the results of the first phase of its consultation on customer service facilities. Its proposal was based on IWA’s Policy on the Provision of Boaters’ Facilities and responses showed broad agreement. CRT also explained that a consultation on a 10-year pricing framework for licence fees was to take place in response to the financial pressures it faces. At the late March meeting the Committee finalised its response to this consultation by confirming its policy that boats with a licence issued on a continuous cruising basis should not be charged more for this and noting our concerns that further increases could drive boaters off the waterways. Our response will also emphasise the major financial contribution from boating and the importance of the government grant in enabling the wider public benefits of the waterways.

On EA waters the situation in each of the local areas is very different, but there are common themes including the lack of sustainable and predictable funding, the minor role of navigation within EA, the complexity of the EA organisation and resulting difficult communications, lack of reliable and publicly available data on assets and their condition, and pollution and its impact on navigation as well as environmentally.

The most concerning outcome from our CRT discussions was data supporting IWA’s contention that the condition of its waterways has been declining in recent years, this is especially ominous in view of the continuing uncertainty over the future government grant.  IWA’s major campaign Protect Our Waterways is focused on proper funding for all  waterways and Navigation Committee will be fully supporting it. Initial discussion took place at the March meeting on how we can record and communicate the declining condition of waterways and therefore the need for long term sustained funding.

While CRT may be in the spotlight at present, the problems of inadequate waterway funding are much wider. The latest EA Navigation update states that the financial settlement for 2022-2023 onwards was less than half the funding requested, for both revenue and capital. Scottish Canals needs £75 million to catch up with current outstanding maintenance.

Two major consultations are running in the area of water resources, one on draft best value regional plans for five (largely English) regions and one on management plans for individual water companies. Amy Tillson has been working on IWA’s national response to these consultation to complement responses from Regions. We are also registering IWA’s interest in the River Thames Scheme, a major new scheme in Surrey with the aims of improving flood protection and the environment, but also with possible implications for navigation.

Two particular areas of Navigations Committee’s remit were progressed at the late March meeting. Firstly, waterways freight which has always been fundamental to IWA thinking, under a proposed new chairmanship of this group it was confirmed that our support would continue for ongoing freight initiatives which often struggle to get established and maintain viability.  We also agreed to initiate a new Environment Group to progress this important area in relation to navigation, as an example the Sustainable Boating Group’s current work in showing that better dredging will reduce the power consumption required by cruising boats will benefit from a consideration of the linked environmental criteria.

Ongoing Navigation Committee activities include the oversight of relevant campaigns (community moorings, freight, HS2, sustainable boating) and the review and updating of policies. We have agreed updates to the IWA Policy on the Provision of Boaters’ Facilities for approval by Trustees, and the Vegetation Management and Residential Boating Policies are in progress.  Navigation Committee confirmed its longstanding support for continuous cruising and for residential boating in general.


Sue O’Hare
IWA Deputy Chair and Chair of Navigation Committee

30th November 2022

Following the sad loss of Steve Warwicker in June 2022, I was honoured to be asked to take over as interim Chair of Navigation Committee. It is proving to be a busy, enjoyable and fulfilling role, with a great deal of work going on, and I thought it was time for an update.

Firstly we have refreshed the membership of the committee to make sure there is representation from each Region and from Scotland. We have welcomed new regional representatives Iain Duncan (North East), Jonathan Mosse (Scotland), Andrew Strawson (South West & South Wales) and David Struckett (West Midlands), with a continuing vacancy for Eastern Region. Amy Tillson (IWA Campaigns Officer) and Paul Greenhalgh (volunteer) are now members and Jessal Murarji (IWA Honorary Consulting Engineer) has joined as a corresponding member.

Trustees have confirmed the remit of Navigation Committee and the committee has spent some time considering the areas to be prioritised. In line with the concerns expressed by many IWA members, we will be focusing in two main areas: waterway funding and waterway condition. The Canal & River Trust is very much in the spotlight at present pending the outcome of its Grant Review, but the Environment Agency and other navigation authorities face similar financial challenges. IWA provides the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways and helped arrange the meeting on CRT funding on 2 November 2022. This led to the Westminster Hall debate on the future of the waterways on 22 November 2022, which I was pleased to attend on behalf of IWA. The APPGW will next be turning its attention to Environment Agency waterways.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the condition of waterways is declining, in terms of asset maintenance, vegetation management, dredging and water resources. In order to support a campaign we are seeking to collect an evidence base, including data made available by navigation authorities and data collected independently by IWA.

In terms of relationships with navigation authorities, we have broadened our agenda to include the Broads Authority, the Middle Level Navigations and Scottish Canals. We have reinstated regular liaison meetings with the CRT National Boating Manager and the Environment Agency National Navigation Team. I am representing IWA on the new Environment Agency National Waterways Forum, with Verna Smith as my deputy. IWA continues to have representatives on the Stakeholder Engagement Groups for the Anglian Waterways (Chris Howes), the River Medway (Mike Marsh), the River Thames (Verna Smith) and the River Wye (Jonathan Mosse); this group of IWA representatives will be meeting shortly to share information and agree a common approach. IWA was recently consulted by the Broads Authority about appointments to its Navigation Committee. A meeting is to be scheduled with the new Chair of the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities.

One of Navigation Committee’s responsibilities is to provide support for Branches and Regions with local matters where specialist advice or a national perspective is needed. A good example was a recent approach by Lydney Yacht Club for support with the regeneration of Lydney Harbour. A second was support to the North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch in its successful objection to a proposal by CRT to add “restrictors” to the balance beams of the listed Hazelhurst Lock on the Caldon Canal. Other current matters include Bridgwater Docks, the River Great Ouse at St Ives, the North Walsham & Dilham Canal, the Tennant Canal, and the tidal Trent.

Another Navigation Committee responsibility is to respond on behalf of IWA to relevant consultations. We are currently considering the consultations on the five draft best value regional plans for water resource management in England and parts of Wales, as well as the proposals for the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project Tidal Barrier.

Ongoing activities include the oversight of relevant campaigns (community moorings, freight, HS2, sustainable boating) and the review and updating of policies. We are considering possible additions to the list of Silver Propeller Challenge locations for 2023. The most recently updated policy is the Policy on Moorings on Navigable Waterways, which is available with the other IWA external policies on the Library page of the IWA website.

Navigation Committee has a vital role and a broad scope and only IWA can do all this. If you would like to get involved please do get in touch. You would be most welcome.


Sue O’Hare
IWA Deputy Chair and Chair of Navigation Committee
7 December 2022