Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
220. Has that been the only benefit of your
organisation; what other benefits have there been of the establishment
of your organisation?
(Dr Fletcher) In addition to producing a cohesive
strategy for all inland waterways, and sharing best practice,
and for the big to help the small, and for the small to give a
united voice to the big, to share on environmental issues, safety,
signage, redevelopment, ability to bid for funds in the optimum
way from other sources, from Europe, from RDAs, I think there
is a very wide range of positive benefits.
221. So you would not agree that there have
not been any tangible benefits from your organisation?
(Dr Fletcher) I think there have been tremendous benefits,
staggering benefits, just in the very short time of the existence
of the Association. Perhaps I should ask a smaller navigation
authority to comment.
(Mr Holroyde) It has been terribly useful, Madam Chairman,
because, as a very small authority, we are running our own little
bit, but we have to connect with all the other navigations. It
is really an accident of fate that we have the network split up
into very small bits; and since the Association has formed it
has provided us with an opportunity to talk to other navigations,
share problems, share opportunities, represent our views towards
the Government, towards DETR, and others and I can see this continuing
to be an enormous advantage, as time goes on.
222. Dr Fletcher, I want to concentrate on the
issue of commercial freight, and in your report you do say there
has been a strategic analysis on the scope of water-borne freight.
Can there be any significant increase in the freight on waterways?
(Dr Fletcher) Yes. Our analysis shows that many waterways
are underused, and I think particularly the broader waterways
and the rivers have much more potential, and perhaps I could identify
a few of the areas, one or two have been brought to your attention
already; it is a question of taking waste and recyclable materials,
where they can now not go into landfill sites, it is possible
to move these by waterways. I gather, on the Thames, where half
a million tonnes, or more, are currently being carried, there
is much more potential on these waterways, on the Gloucester and
Sharpness Canal, the Grand Union, the River Lee, to Edmonton,
and so on, and so on. So there are many, many opportunities.
223. Can I draw your attention to the report
from the Humber Barges, and they are high on trying to improve
the freight on them. How often do you meet them, Dr Fletcher,
to discuss their problems?
(Dr Fletcher) Every couple of months, probably.
224. What do they flag up as their real problems?
(Dr Fletcher) They are looking for improved facilities
for landing their materials, access points, they are looking for
adequate depth for the barges to go on.
225. What about charges; have they raised that
with you, the question of the access charges and the licensing
(Dr Fletcher) Yes, we have been in close dialogue
with them, and indeed other freight carriers, as to whether the
tolling system is the correct way of charging, and whether that
represents a level playing-field relative to the roads and the
railways, which are not tolled. So we have had those discussions,
and we are now in discussions with the DETR as to whether that
scheme can be changed.
226. Is there any hope that we could encourage
greater freight by abolishing tolls, or reducing charges, so that
there is an encouragement for people to use the waterways for
(Dr Fletcher) Yes, there is, but members obviously
need funds to maintain the channels and the landing-stages, and
so on, on their waterways, so they need the funds from somewhere;
and maybe the proposed Track Access Grant, whereby navigation
authorities can receive a grant from Government for maintaining
the track, is perhaps a good substitute for tolls. So that it
is something that we are interested in pursuing, and we are in
discussion with the Government along those lines.
227. What are the prospects of them having some
(Dr Fletcher) It is for the Government to decide.
As always, we are enthusiastic and optimistic, so I think there
must be a good chance; but it is for the Government to decide,
not the navigation authorities.
228. Gentlemen, in terms of your ongoing work,
we have heard evidence that some of the smaller navigation authorities
do not adhere to acceptable minimum standards of environmental
practice. Is this the case?
(Dr Fletcher) I believe that is not the case, and
we are actually developing, as AINA, a code of best practice to
deal with these issues, but perhaps a smaller navigation authority
(Mr Holroyde) Certainly, as far as we are concerned,
Chairman, we are very environmentally conscious and work very
closely with the Environment Agency to see that standards are
maintained; and I think if you visited the river you would see
no problem whatsoever.
229. So you are saying, Dr Fletcher, that you
have no evidence that some of the smaller navigation authorities
have fallen below the acceptable minimum standards?
(Dr Fletcher) I think a number of our members do not
have sufficient funds to adequately fulfil their obligations,
whether they are for navigation or indeed for environment, and
therefore I think some organisations just have not been able to
afford it. Environment costs money, and some of our members do
not have sufficient money to do these things as they would wish.
I do not think it is ignorance on their part, it is economics.
230. Does that imply then that, for example,
you would not favour the establishment of a set of minimum environmental
(Dr Fletcher) As I explained to you; no, your allegation
is incorrect. We do believe that there should be an established
set of standards, and that is why we are producing a best practice
guide on exactly that point; we are producing that using best
practice biodiversity action plan arrangements, and that will
be a code which will be voluntarily adopted by all AINA members.
231. How can they afford to implement it, if
you say that the cost of implementing it, for some of the smaller
navigation authorities, is beyond their means?
(Dr Fletcher) For some it will be difficult; and what
we are also doing, as I explained earlier to the Chairman, is
trying to help certainly the smaller navigation authorities, help
find means of funding, whether it is applying for Lottery money,
European money, or perhaps by earning money from their own track
by innovative means that they had not thought of; so we are also
assisting them in means of getting the money.
232. And how would you see a minimum set of
standards being enforced?
(Dr Fletcher) They are enforced by the navigation
authorities themselves. AINA is a trade association, we can only
set best practice standards; it is up to that navigation authority
themselves to implement those standards.
233. Would you like to have greater powers?
(Dr Fletcher) No. The trade association does not need
powers, it is a consensus organisation representing the views
of its members. The authority to implement comes through the navigation
authority members themselves, not through AINA.
234. Do you have anything further to add, Mr
(Mr Holroyde) No. I agree entirely with this, I think
this is the right way forward, standards being set to which we
all subscribe and which we will make happen. But Dr Fletcher did
mention that some smaller navigations find it difficult, because
of the financial situation, to meet their obligations, and this
is all tied up with the cost of maintaining a navigation, and
maybe that has some influence on other issues, like leisure usage
becoming very expensive, and thus not in everyone's reach.
235. Do you have anything to add, Mr Burgess?
(Mr Burgess) I would add that we have a two-year timetable
ourselves, within which we would intend to produce a generic framework
for ways and means by which navigation should be managed in a
holistic environment way.
236. What does that mean actually, Mr Burgess?
(Mr Burgess) Dr Fletcher referred to our strategy
earlier on, and you will see, in that, that there are many issues
that the Association has to engage itself in and represent those
issues that navigation authorities have to bear in mind; freight
is one of them, and major conservation, and many others. So we
want to take on board all of these things and produce a generic
framework which will be of assistance, backed up by best practice
guidance on many specific issues, which will be of assistance
to navigation authorities, for them to implement as best they
Chairman: Mr Donaldson: I am sorry.
237. Do you think that it is best that the smaller
navigation authorities therefore should be self-regulating, in
terms of minimum standards, or do you see the need for a new strategic
(Dr Fletcher) The Association does not have a view
on having a singular strategic navigation authority, because,
the consensus of 30 navigation authorities is needed. Not all
of us agree on that point.
238. So, because there is not a consensus, you
do not have a view?
(Dr Fletcher) I do not have a view because I am a
Chairman representing 30 other organisations. I have a personal
view but that is not appropriate for this session.
239. In your written evidence, you stress a
lot the importance of strategic issues and new regional guidance.
What links do you have with Regional Development Agencies, regional
Chambers and regional Assemblies?
(Dr Fletcher) We have good and developing links. I
think the Regional Development Agencies have far more to do, with
regard to the waterways, but there is a growing realisation, as
I think you heard in previous evidence, of the value for waterways
to regenerate wide areas associated with a waterway, and I think
the Regional Development Agencies have a major role to play in
that; we are seeking to develop our links with them and they are
ever-growing. One of the things we are attempting to do is to
have a strategic review of all the waterways, with all the RDAs,
so we can produce a national strategic plan of how the waterways
and the RDAs may relate one with another; so those discussions
are ongoing, and we are very optimistic that we can fulfil that
much greater potential than we have in the past. But we, AINA,
are new, and, of course, the RDAs are relatively new, so I think
we have got some way to go yet.