Memorandum by The British Marine Industries
Federation (IW 72)
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
THE BMIF AND
The British Marine Industries Federation (BMIF)
is the national trade association for the boating and watersports
industry. Our 1,500 members provide the boats, equipment, facilities
and services that enable a great many people to enjoy boating
and watersports on the coastal and inland waterways of our country.
The UK boating industry is a significant contributor to the UK
economy and provides employment to 24,000 people.
A high proportion of BMIF member companies have
interests in inland waterways market deriving their business from
the country's canals, rivers and the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads.
BMIF members build narrowboats, operate hire fleets and provide
moorings and other services. These businesses are central to the
recreational use of inland waterways and attracting tourism from
international visitors. BMIF's 1,500 members are predominantly
small and medium sized enterprises. The inland marine sector is
almost wholly comprised of small, lifestyle, family owned businesses.
The BMIF is a national federation of constituent
marine industry associations. We have a national structure of
group associations which provide a focus for sectoral issues (for
example, the British Marine Electronics Association representing
electronics manufacturers, dealers and service engineers) and
a network of regional associations that provide local marine business
forums around the country. The following BMIF associations have
specific interests in inland waterways issues:
The Anglian Marine Industries Associationhave
members operating a variety of marine businesses on the Norfolk
and Suffolk Broads.
Association of Pleasure Craft Operatorsrepresenting
inland waterways businesses predominantly operating hire fleets,
passenger boats and hotel boats on the canal network.
British Hire Cruiser Federationnational
forum for BMIF associations representing inland hire boat holiday
Canal Boatbuilders Associationrepresents
narrowboat builders and related businesses.
BMIF Eastrepresents companies
operating businesses on the Fenland waterways operated by the
Kent & Sussex Marine Industries
Associationrepresenting members operating marine businesses
on the River Medway.
Thames Boating Trades Associationregional
association representing all types of marine businesses operating
on the River Thames.
Thames Hire Cruiser Associationgroup
association representing hire boat companies operating on the
The Yacht Harbour Associationrepresents
companies operating marinas and mooring on the inland waterways.
The BMIF can offer a wealth of knowledge, expertise
and experience to the Select Committee on all issues related to
The BMIF welcomes the publication by Government
of Waterways for Tomorrow as a daughter document to the
Integrated Transport White Paper. It is a forward looking document
that sets out a positive framework for the future management of
this national asset that should encourage greater use and interest.
However, the document highlights again the urgent need to properly
address the systematic neglect by previous Governments of their
waterways maintenance responsibilities as set out by Parliament
in 1960s, 70s and 80s legislation. The principle recommendation
arising out of the last Select Committee Inquiry into inland waterways
10 years ago was that the backlog of maintenance should be tackled
immediately. It is encouraging that the current Government has
responded to the continued lobbying on this issue by navigation
body management and waterways users by allocating additional funding
in British Waterways and Environment Agency budgets to specifically
address the maintenance backlog. The vision set out in Waterways
for Tomorrow sets out a clear and positive way forward for
the waterways into the 21st Century. To turn this vision into
reality will require funding and clearance of the maintenance
backlog on our rivers and canals needs to remain a priority.
The BMIF is pleased to endorse the general principles
of the Waterways for Tomorrow document. It is the clear
intention of this document to be comprehensive, supportive and
constructive in its treatment of inland waterways. The BMIF has
always endeavoured to work constructively with Government and
senior management within navigation bodies who are responsible
for the management of our inland waterways. Over recent years,
we have placed significant effort into building new cultural relationships
with both British Waterways and the Environment Agency and have
achieved success in making progress on long standing issues of
contention related to the waterways management. The BMIF will
continue to take a partnership approach and would wish to play
a part in helping to deliver the vision set out in Waterways
The BMIF considers leisure, recreation and tourism
as being the principal use that attracts the widest utilisation
of the country's inland waterways. As will be seen from the general
tenor of this evidence it is boating that is the core activity
and interest that attracts people to our waterways. It is our
view that navigation is the principal use that should be given
The BMIF offers the following comments in the
areas on which the Select Committee has specifically sought views:
Leisure, recreation, tourism and heritage
The prime interests of our members lie in the
leisure, recreation and tourism usage of inland waterways. Britains
system of inland waterways is used by and is important to millions
of British people, often with widely different interests. Boating
is key to the leisure, recreation and tourism function of our
inland waterways and boats are an integral part of the scenery
of our canals, rivers and Broads. In addition to the great many
people who take their recreation afloat, there are many to whom
watching boating activity is the key attraction of the inland
waterways experience. We believe that the presence of boats bring
waterways alive. We consider boating to be the prime leisure and
recreation use of our inland waterways alongside angling, walking,
cycling, bird watching and other environmental and heritage interests.
We believe that our inland waterways can accommodate this diverse
range of interests without conflict and that, in the main, these
interests are compatible with the incidence of conflict being
The holiday hire boat sector is strategically
important to new participation in boating and introducing people
to the heritage of our inland waterways. It is known that many
people gain their first experience of boating by taking a hire
boat holiday and that many progress to become boating enthusiasts
who purchase their own boats. Boating tourism contributes to the
local economy, with holidaymakers spending in shops, pubs and
restaurants adjacent to the waterways. Those who progress to boat
ownership create business for the inland marine industry who provide
the boats, equipment, moorings and services to support inland
waterway boating. Canal and river cruising has in the past attracted
many international visitors to our country's inland waterways.
This international tourism has been adversely affected by the
strength of the pound in recent years.
There has been a steady decline in hire boat
bookings over recent years and there is genuine concern about
the current state of the hire cruiser industry in the United Kingdom.
The industry (including navigation bodies) has endeavoured to
analyse and take action on the issues facing the industry. The
BMIF has led a number of initiatives aimed at improving the competitiveness
of UK hire boat companies, including the development of a national
boat grading scheme, boat handover procedures and marketing programmes.
The industry welcomes the specific reference in Waterways for
Tomorrow encouraging navigation, tourist and local authorities
to work in partnership with the inland waterways industry to encourage
hire boat tourism. The BMIF and its constituent association the
British Hire Cruiser Federation has already established a dialogue
with the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities to explore
the scope for increased co-operation and support.
There is no doubt that inland waterways provide
an important catalyst for urban and rural regeneration that brings
economic and social benefit. There are many fine examples around
the country where regeneration projects and new developments have
exploited the added value offered by waterfront locations, often
integrating waterways back into the community. It is notable that
many new residential and commercial developments face onto and
take advantage of the waterway rather than turning their blindside
as historically waterside warehouses and mills previously did.
Canals were built for boats to navigate. Boating
and watersport activity is an established and attractive feature
of the country's rivers, Broads and other inland waters. It follows
that the boats based on our inland waterways requires the moorings,
maintenance, provisions and services that is provided by the inland
marine industry. These businesses require waterside premises and
the opportunity to develop, modernise and refurbish them. We welcome
the scope for mixed waterside developments that can incorporate
marine businesses, both in urban and rural locations. The BMIF
has extensive experience of the application of planning policies
relevant to marine developments and has retained a Planning Consultant
for over 25 years to liaise with relevant authorities on structure
and local plans and advise members on their own developments.
We are anxious for authorities to recognise the value of marine
businesses and boating activity to the local economy. People enjoy
their recreation through boating spend money in waterside shops,
public houses, restaurants in addition to being customers of the
marine industry. The BMIF is always concerned where any development
leads to the loss of marine facilities or access to the water.
For example, we remain concerned about the loss of traditional
boatyards on the River Thames where many sites have been developed
for residential and other non-marine uses. It is important to
the continuation of boating on our inland waterways that we develop
and modernise inland marinas, hire fleet bases, boatyards, etc.
The BMIF has much planning expertise to contribute to urban and
rural regeneration projects that incorporates the establishment,
expansion or modernisation of marine businesses.
Environment and the enhancement of wildlife
The inland waterways of our country accommodate
a variety of flora and fauna. It is this quality of landscape
and rich wildlife habitat that the many people who boat on our
inland waterways wish to enjoy. The BMIF is committed to ensuring
that the continued development of boating and water based leisure
activity is achieved through a careful, beneficial and fundamental
harmonious relationship with the environment. The BMIF has conducted
an environmental action programme since 1991 to ensure that the
industry plays an active part in safeguarding the marine environment.
Our work has included an in-depth independent environmental review
of the marine industry, development of an award winning environmental
code of practice for marine companies and our Navigate with
Nature education initiative designed to raise awareness of
environmental issues among boat users. The BMIF has worked closely
with navigation bodies on a number of initiatives within this
industry action programme.
Water transfer, drainage and telecommunications
The industry recognises that the navigation
bodies have long experience and expertise in managing drainage
and water transfer schemes. Recent projects utilising waterways
as a conduit for telecommunications are welcomed as innovative
additional uses of the national waterway network. The BMIF has
always taken a positive view on the commercial activities of navigation
bodies as being a means of contributing additional finance to
the navigation function and on the understanding that any activity
does not have an adverse impact on navigation or the historic
fabric of the waterways.
The BMIF is aware and supportive of the Governments
stated intention to look to increase the percentage of freight
traffic on inland waterways as part of its integrated transport
policy. Given the limited dimensions of the majority of the canal
network, it is likely that rivers and wider waterways offer the
most potential to contribute to an increase in the carriage of
freight by inland waterway. There is a need to be realistic about
this potential and it is likely to be cargoes that have a source
and destination adjacent to the waterways that offer the most
potential. The BMIF would support the use of fiscal and other
measures to provide an incentive to increase the carriage of freight
by inland waterways.
BMIF members operate businesses that are located
on waterways managed by British Waterways, the Broads Authority,
the Environment Agency and a number of other smaller navigation
bodies. Accordingly, there is a diverse range of views within
the inland marine industry on the merits and deficiencies of the
performance of each navigation body and the optimum approach to
managing the navigation function on a national basis.
There have been many studies carried out over
a number of decades to try and find the best way to deal with
the operation of Britain's inland navigations. It would appear
that successive Governments have never pursued the concept of
one national navigation authority on the grounds that there were
too many differing views to warrant the parliamentary time that
would be needed to achieve a satisfactory and acceptable legislative
The last review of navigation functions took
place during 1995. At that time, the BMIF supported a recommendation
for the existing navigation bodies to retain their functions but
to work together under a newly created umbrella body. Since 1995,
there have been a number of developments that have had an impact
on the situation. These include:
The navigation functions of the former
National Rivers Authority being incorporated into the new Environment
The formation of the Association
of Inland Navigation Authorities.
Increased co-operation between British
Waterways and the Environment Agency.
New senior management within British
It is our view that it would be timely to formally
respond to a further consultation from Government on this issue.
The BMIF would need to fully consult within its association and
membership prior to formulating a national view on this issue.
The BMIF welcomes the statement contained within
Waterways for Tomorrow that "the Government wants
to see new road and other development proposals take proper account
of waterway restoration" and the stated intention to publish
guidance for the local planning authorities. It is encouraging
to see this approach adopted as Government policy after repeated
statements that no more waterways with the potential for restoration
will be handicapped by ill-considered road developments. However,
there is a great danger that this undertaking has come too late
to prevent the potential restoration of the Lichfield and Hatherton
Canals by the lack of appropriate crossings being built into the
plans for the Birmingham Northern Relief Road. The BMIF urges
the Select Committee to familiarise itself with this restoration
project which would benefit a depressed area and open up many
miles of canal to future opportunities. We would hope that the
Committee can bring influence to bear upon the Government to take
retrospective action to influence the builders of the BNRR to
incorporate crossings at the design stage.
The BMIF applauds the renewed interest in inland
waterways that has been demonstrated by the current Government.
We welcome the strategic vision set out in Waterways for Tomorrow
but stress that increased public funding will be required to fulfil
the potential that has been identified.
The BMIF is grateful for the opportunity to
contribute written evidence on behalf of the boating industry
to the Select Committee and would very much like to assist the
Committees deliberations by presenting oral evidence.