On 21 June 2010, Official Report, column 4WS, I made a statement about inland waterways policy for England and Wales. I said that we were considering the appropriate civil society model for British Waterways, including the possible inclusion of the Environment Agency’s navigations. On 14 October, the Government subsequently announced their intention to move British Waterways in England and Wales from being a public corporation to a New Waterways Charity—subject to parliamentary approval.
On February 28 I announced that I wished to take a phased approach to the delivery of my vision for a “national trust for the waterways”. In phase 1, the liabilities and assets of British Waterways in England and Wales will transfer into the new charity, alongside an “endowment” consisting of the property portfolio owned by British Waterways in England and Wales. In phase 2, the EA navigations would transfer to the new charity, if sufficient funding can be found in the next spending review to enable the charity to take on the liabilities associated with them, and subject to the agreement of the charity’s trustees.
Today, I am announcing the publication of the Government’s consultation on the New Waterways Charity, which is available at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult
This consultation document puts Government’s commitment to localism at the centre of plans for the New Waterways Charity. Moving the powers, functions and assets of BW to civil society through the creation of a “national trust for the waterways” will allow stakeholders the opportunity to play a role in the governance of the waterways and to bring their expertise and passion to the operation of the organisation. The transfer will also promote greater engagement of local communities, leading to a range of enhanced public benefits including amenity, green travel to work, health and well-being and support to inner city and rural regeneration.
This proposal will also enable the waterways now owned and run by BW in England and Wales to be placed on a more financially sustainable long-term footing. The New Waterways Charity will have access to new sources of income from both commercial and private sources, including legacies, donations, increased borrowing and fundraising, as well as the chance to grow a volunteer base.
This consultation will consider the charity’s scope, governance, the charitable constitution, sustainable business model, as well as the process for managing the transition. The consultation will close on 30 June 2011.