A transfer of responsibility for the non-tidal Thames from the Environment Agency to the Canal and River Trust is back on the political agenda.

Moves to hand the Thames and other EA rivers to the charity had been shelved under the coalition government.

Now Waterways Minister Rory Stewart has told the two organisations to look at the plan again. As a result a joint working group has been set up.

The River Thames Alliance which represents a range of councils, companies and individuals with an interest in the Thames is in the process of consulting members on their views. River user groups have been informed.

The complexity of the EA’s role on the river presents one of the challenges – it is responsible for everything from regulation, to flood prevention and navigation.

The canal trust was set up as a charity and took over from British Waterways in 2012. In an interview with River Thames News last year chief executive Richard Parry outlined why a transfer of responsibility would be good for the Thames. Read the interview HERE. Others on the river see it as a backward step.

Defra has said that it has always been a long-term policy aim  to go ahead with the changes.

A statement issued by the two organisations said: “The Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust have established a joint working group to explore different options for running the 620 miles of EA-managed river navigations.

“It still remains the Government’s ambition to transfer the EA’s responsibility for navigation of the rivers to the Trust, subject to affordability and approval by the Trust’s Board and the Minister. This will help realise the benefits of a sustainable navigation and give the public greater involvement in the running of the waterways.

“The working group will begin with an information and data gathering exercise looking at all of the EA’s navigations, including: the non-tidal River Thames; the River Wye; the non-tidal River Medway; the East Anglian navigations and Rye Harbour. The next step will be to investigate the various potential options required for such a complex move and to understand the aspirations and views of users.

“No decisions have yet been made on the details of a potential move, however the EA, the Trust and Defra are committed to finding a sustainable future for the EA’s river navigations and to working with the communities who use them.”

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Story dated Feb 29th 2016