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St Neots Pic:Alison Smedley


News has emerged that the Environment Agency is considering closing some of its waterways.

Although the waterways are in East Anglia, developments are being keenly followed by all those connected with the Thames, funding for which has been cut annually over the past few years.

The suggestion is that some waterways may have to be closed on health and safety grounds because of problems in funding repairs.

The latest developments emerged from the Inland Waterways Association who revealed details of behind-the-scenes talks between the EA and the Canal and River Trust. It remains government policy that the CRT should take over agency navigations including the Thames although progress has been slow because of ministerial changes before and after the last General Election.

The IWA said: "The cash-strapped Environment Agency is considering closing rivers to navigation on ‘health and safety’ grounds instead of securing proper resources from Defra for their maintenance.

"The association will campaign vigorously to prevent the government agency ignoring its legal obligation to maintain navigation rights on much of its Anglian network."

It says EA officials privately admitted that funding cuts could lead to the closures of a number of river navigations, despite their status being protected under the [Parliamentary] Anglian Water Act 1977.

It states: "The IWA has been warning for many years that just such an action was going to be the likely result of years of persistent and deteriorating underfunding from successive governments, and remains convinced that a properly resourced management transfer of the navigations to CRT is the best solution to protect the health and leisure benefits the waterways bring to local communities."

IWA national chairman Les Etheridge said: “Whether or not the EA waterways are transferred to CRT, these navigations need to receive increased funding from Government in order to halt the progressive deterioration that is currently taking place.

" IWA’s wish to see the EA navigations transferred to CRT has always been conditional upon sufficient funding being provided and threats of closure to currently navigable waterways while in the government’s care are simply unacceptable.

"Waterways provide far too much to the nation in terms of health benefits, recreation and regeneration for this to be a sensible option and we must not allow it to happen.”

The Environment Agency has not commented.
Story dated February 4th 2017