Victory for campaigners

The Government has ended recent speculation about the sale of British Waterways’ (BW) property endowment in England and Wales.

A report published yesterday concluded there was no inancial or economic case to sell off the property assets and a sale of the property endowment would not achieve best public value, according to a statment on the BW website.

BW waterside land and buildings, which range from brownfield regeneration sites to 18th century warehouses, fund a significant proportion of the maintenance of Britain’s historic waterways and have been vital to the recent renaissance of the 200-year-old network.

“BW canals, rivers and docks create over £500
million of public benefit annually,” BW chairman, Tony Hales, commented. “We share and welcome the Government’s commitment to unlocking the potential of the network and delivering best value for money to the taxpayer. We need long-term security for the future of the historic network and believe third sector status together with our property endowment provides the basis for that security.”

A statement on the Waterways preservation charity IWA website reads: ‘IWA has long advocated a more independent ‘National Waterways Conservancy’.

As such we see value in British Waterways’ third sector ideas. This announcement provides scope for more movement in that direction.

A change in status should enable British Waterways to develop its property income stream in a more effective manner, freeing itself from some of the limitations on borrowing and investment that it is currently shackled with.

This should allow it to focus more on active restoration and regeneration as well as generating more income. IWA therefore supports further investigation of this approach.

Waterway facts

  • 11 million people visit the waterways each year
  • 32,500 licensed boats on the network, more than at the height of the Industrial Revolution
  • £1½ billion is spent by visitors to the waterways each year on goods and services
  • 22,000 jobs are supported
  • Half the population of the UK lives within five miles of a BW waterway
  • 95% of people say that waterways are an important part of the nation’s heritage