Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Community Boats Association (IW 54)



  The Community Boats Association welcomes the Select Committee's inquiry into the potential of the inland waterways and is pleased to have the opportunity to submit evidence.


  1.  The Community Boats Association is a national waterways charity, founded in 1985. It currently has a membership of 83 non-profitmaking member organisations which run boats and waterside centres on the inland waterways as a means of providing personal, social and environmental education programmes to socially and economically disadvantaged sections of the community. It also has 26 individual members to whom it provides advice about setting up a community boat scheme, or who support the aims and objectives of the Association. The objectives are to:

    —  Provide training, advice and information to its members.

    —  Promote and create access opportunities to the waterways for disadvantaged groups.

    —  Support and develop new community boating organisations.

  It has a voluntary management committee and employs a part-time National Training Officer, part funded by British Waterways. The officers of the Association have wide experience of community boating and are all actively involved in running their own community boat projects—please see Appendix A for details. The National Training Officer oversees the Certificate in Community Boat Management—please see Appendix B for details.

  2.  Community Boats Association members have up to 30 years experience of offering education, training and recreational activities on Britain's waterways for the benefit of the following groups:

    (a)  children and students in full time education;

    (b)  youth groups;

    (c )  social education of young people;

    (d)  people with physical disabilities;

    (e)  frail and elderly people;

    (f)  people with learning difficulties;

    (g)  people with mental health problems;

    (h)  ethnic minorities;

    (i)  people disadvantaged by social, economic or cultural circumstances;

    (j)  offenders on rehabilitation schemes;

    (k)  and other special needs groups.

  They operate 120 specially equipped boats, running both day and residential programmes for 83,000 disadvantaged people annually. They also provide a broad range of volunteering opportunities to their local communities.

  For more detailed information please see Appendix C: 1999 Annual Report and Accounts, leaflets and articles from Community Boat News.


Urban and rural regeneration

  3.  Urban and rural regeneration has opened up the waterways system and made cruising safer for Community Boats Association members' user groups, staff and boats. Regeneration has also provided members with SRB funding and opportunities to implement projects in for example:

    —  social inclusion;

    —  anti-poverty;

    —  crime prevention;

    —  education;

    —  environmental improvements; and

    —  employment and training.

  4.  Where practicable, facilities for community boats and community boat schemes should be encouraged and included as part of planning gain. This would improve the facilities of existing projects and encourage introduction of new schemes.

  5.  Where new developments include provision of public slipways, visitors' moorings and passenger boat moorings, it is important for the sustainability of the waterways that these facilities are kept public and not unreasonably restricted, locked or closed due to pressure from businesses or residents.

  6.  It is essential for the sustainability of the waterways that wharfs and boatyard facilities are retained. One Community Boats Association member based in the West Midlands has reported that their boat has to travel two and a half days to the nearest (not necessarily their preferred) boat yard; another tells of six month waiting lists for slipways on the Thames.

  7.  For many Community Boats Association members and their users, part of the charm of the waterways is their grittiness and slight air of dilapidation—it would be a pity if the waterways became too gentrified due to regeneration.

Leisure, recreation, tourism and industrial heritage

  8.  The provision of leisure, recreation and educational activities on the waterways is a major part of the work of Community Boat Association members, who have been putting "access for all" into practice for many years. Member organisations are at the cutting edge of making waterways more accessible, both physically and intellectually as exemplified by the following projects:

    —  Boats for the Handicapped and Gloucester DART have produced joystick steering systems for use by their disabled passengers;

    —  the River Thames Boat Project and the Hillingdon Narrow Boat Trust worked in partnership to run a personal development training scheme for British Airways undergraduate and apprentice engineers—their task was to run a holiday on the Thames for a group of young people with disabilities;

    —  the Waterways Centre, Goole has developed a wide range of activities including local history projects, Waterways Working for Women—a training scheme to encourage women to gain employment on the waterways; and an education programme for gifted children; and

    —  the Bridgewater YMCA run an innovative programme encouraging young people off the streets and into constructive activities on the canal.

  9.  Safe working practices for members' staff, volunteers and user groups are essential for their enjoyment of the waterways. During the last five years the Association has developed the Certificate in Community Boat Management, an accredited training scheme now in widespread use. The Association is grateful for the support it has received from BW to develop and run the CCBM.

  10.  The Association plans to develop the training scheme further into areas such as first aid and firefighting. In addition there is scope for a wide range of other public/private partnerships with CBA members. These could develop projects locally, regionally and nationally and fill gaps in the provision of water based community services, though not of course to duplicate them, through for example:

    —  encouraging local people to create community boat projects where none are operating;

    —  developing policies nationally that improve access not only to the towpath, and tourist and industrial heritage sites, but also onto the water, thereby linking access points on and off the water to leisure and shopping facilities and other places of interest; and by consulting Community Boats Association members locally about access issues;

    —  providing opportunities for staff secondment to Association members' projects;

    —  developing schemes for the procurement of goods and services.

  11.  IWAAC Waterways and the Disadvantaged working group: Miranda Jaggers, Chair of the Community Boats Association, is a member of the working group and through her the CBA has made a valuable contribution to its work. IWAAC visits have been made to member organisations in Goole, Runcorn, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bridgewater and Kingston-upon-Thames. The Association looks forward to the key recommendations soon to be published in the Waterways and the Disadvantaged working group's report.

The Environment and the enhancement of wildlife

  12.  The waterways create valuable "green corridors" into the heart of our cities enabling wildlife to flourish. By bringing the countryside into the town, they provide some of the most disadvantaged sections of the community with access to open spaces, wildlife and opportunities to improve their quality of life.

  13.  Many Community Boats Association members run environmental education and habitat improvement projects. They offer a range of education, employment and training opportunities through projects involving local schools and colleges, the New Deal and the rehabilitation of offenders including:

    —  The Safe Anchor Trust which enables offenders to provide reparation to the community through environmental work on the West Yorkshire canals;

    —  The River Thames Boat Project has developed an educational package for Key Stage2 environmental studies; and was a partner in the EA South East Region's recent Millennium Festival providing environmental activities to disabled children and disaffected young people.

  14.  Encroachment through redevelopment is becoming critical for the environmental sustainability of some of our rivers and canals. It causes the loss and degradation of important habitats, increased river flows and siltation, as recent studies on the tidal Thames by EA fisheries officers have shown.


  15.  The Association supports increased use of the waterways for freight transport on rivers and wide canals. It is, however, very concerned about the loss of wharfage and boat yards to residential and commercial development which are essential for the sustainability of both leisure and commercial traffic on our rivers and canals.


  16.  The Community Boats Association and its members welcomes the policies and initiatives set out in Waterways for Tomorrow. They have been fulfilling a number of these for some years as indicated in the following paragraphs and:

  5.9—Are currently working in partnership with BW to encourage good and safe navigation practice through the CCBM

  5.11—Share the objectives of the Waterways Trust to preserve and protect the natural and built environment of the inland waterways; promote their restoration and development and use; provide facilities for leisure and recreational use; and educate the public about the waterways and their history.

  6.3 & 6.16—Are grateful to the support they have received from British Waterways and the Environment Agency. They look forward to the forthcoming IWAAC report on ways of improving access to the waterways for the disadvantaged; and to future partnership projects with BW, the EA and other navigation and local authorities that encourage access for children and young adults, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.

  6.40—Note that BW plans to create a fleet of floating classrooms as part of the London Waterway Partnership. Community Boats Association welcomes BW's involvement in Beauchamp Lodge Settlement's project to build a floating classroom. Members based in London and elsewhere have been conducting educational programmes on the canals and on the Thames for many years. They look forward to being included among the local education and training trusts to run the fleet of floating classrooms and to teach subjects such as heritage and ecology.

  17.  There is great scope for the development of the Community Boats Association and the work of its members. Many parts of the country are still not served by a community boat and consequently large numbers of disadvantaged people cannot get afloat to discover the waterways and by so doing develop their full potential. As highlighted above there are a number of partnership opportunities for BW, the EA, other navigation authorities and riparian local authorities, but duplication should be avoided.

  18.  Funding, especially core funding is, inevitably, a constant issue for both the members and the Community Boats Association itself. It is important to note that the Association is fundamentally a voluntary organisation. It is reliant on unpaid volunteers to carry out its work, who, in addition to working in their individual organisation, spend a large amount of time promoting the Association, liaising with BW and the EA, working with its members, developing training and seeking funds to keep the organisation alive. If the Community Boats Association is to continue to flourish and expand its services a paid secretariat is necessary.

  19.  The Association has consulted its members on how best it can support them for the future. It has concluded that the priorities are to broaden the scope of the training scheme and enable members to improve their marketing. A bid to the National Lotteries Charities Board is currently being prepared in order to provide office premises and three full-time staff:

    —  Information and Marketing Officer—to meet the Association's and members needs in management, communications, outreach and fundraising;

    —  Training Officer—to identify skills needs, develop new courses, manage accreditation of training centres and monitor training standards, create new and sustain existing partnerships and encourage best practice;

    —  Office Manager—to manage internal communications, financial control, time tabling and monitoring.

  If the application is successful, it will enable the Association to move towards providing an improved level of service to its members and their user groups; and create an interface with, and links to AINA, IWAAC, Government Office Regions, local authorities (education, social services and the probation service), Young People's Services, Learning and Skills Councils, IWA, the Fieldfare Trust and other statutory and voluntary organisations.


  20.  There is a need for more joined-up thinking from navigation authorities, local councils and voluntary organisations to encourage leisure, commercial and community use of the waterways and safeguard canal, river and estuarine habitats for the benefit of all who use them.

  21.  An important role for elected bodies and official agencies alike should be to build on the work already being performed by voluntary organisations such as the CBA, to provide a benevolent umbrella for their activities and to assist, where necessary, in extending the provision of comprehensive water based community services, whilst taking care to avoid duplication.

  22.  The Association will strive towards making its work and that of its members more widely known and understood. If sustainable funding and support in kind can be secured it expects to play an ever more important role in encouraging, and increasing the use and understanding of the waterways, particularly by those who are marginalised and excluded from enjoying the assets the waterways have to offer.

September 2000

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