Memorandum by the Community Boats Association
POTENTIAL OF THE INLAND WATERWAYS
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
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 projectsplease see Appendix A
for details. The National Training Officer oversees the Certificate
in Community Boat Managementplease 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;
(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;
(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:
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 dilapidationit 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
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 engineerstheir 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 Womena 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
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:
5.9Are currently working in partnership
with BW to encourage good and safe navigation practice through
5.11Share 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 & 6.16Are 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.
6.40Note 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
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 Officerto
meet the Association's and members needs in management, communications,
outreach and fundraising;
Training Officerto 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 Managerto 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.