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

Supplementary memorandum by The Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (IW 39A)


  1.  There has been much discussion in the past on the need for an overarching body to plan, regulate and conserve the inland waterways of the UK. In this paper, the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs reviews the background and current need for such an organisation. In summary, we believe that the easiest way forward is to enhance what already exists and to promote IWAAC into the wider role, covering all aspects of the multifunctional use of the waterways and their development. We seek to provide further evidence to the Select Committee, which they may find helpful in determining a route to enact the exciting prospects forecast by the Deputy Prime Minister.


  2.  The aim of this paper is to provide the Select Committee enquiry with an additional evidence on the particular subject of an overarching body. We seek to prove that IWAAC is in itself an undervalued asset and should be considered for a wider strategic role within the organisation and management of the inland waterways.


  3.  The Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, in response to the Department of the Environment consultation request, put forward the view in 1995 that a National Navigation Authority would be useful in promoting the multifunctional leisure use of the inland waterways. Much discussion has taken place since then on the organisation of the waterways involving all the other user groups. The IWAAC report to Government describing the inland waterways as an undervalued asset has been widely accepted and has culminated in the overall thrust of the daughter transport White Paper, Waterways For Tomorrow. The Deputy Prime Minister in his Foreword to the White Paper said,

    "We recognise their heritage value needs conserving. But waterways are not a museum. Innovation uses such as water transfer and telecommunications are being developed. The waterways contribute to the renaissance of our inner cities; they enhance residential developments; they offer important environmental and educational benefits; and they have continuing scope for transporting freight. Taken together with the ever-growing leisure market our waterways are a sustainable resource that can flourish. The prospects are exciting."

  4.  The AWCC recognise that the White Paper, and all that has led up to it, is a major step forward in Government policy and would fully support the implementation of the general principals that it contains. We confirmed our agreement in written evidence to the Select Committee for the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs enquiry into the inland waterways. In particular, we supported the view in Chapter Eight of the White Paper that the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA) had a "positive and developing role". However, we now believe that this role has limitations, which would restrict the strategic planning and advisory role that they could assume. This view is based on the statements made by the Chairman of AINA at the Parliamentary Waterways Group (PWG) meeting at Westminster on 24 October 2000 and at the second sitting of the Select Committee on 15 November 2000, where he described AINA as a trade association. He specifically excluded AINA from the strategic role. We have consequently advised the Chairman of the PWG that AINA can be viewed only as a professional interest group and that the waterways community must look elsewhere for its main strategic guidance. This was reflected in our oral evidence to the Select Committee.

  5.  We fully supported the developing role of IWAAC in our evidence to the Select Committee and suggested that this role could be further expanded. The rest of this paper is devoted to an expansion of what the role should encompass and how it can be achieved.


  6.  The role of IWAAC may be divided into two parts. The statutory role provided for in legislation since 1968 and an extended remit sanctioned by recent Waterways Ministers.

  7.  Statutory Role. IWAAC was created by the Transport Act 1968. The Council's primary role is to provide advice to British Waterways (BW) and Ministers on amenity and recreation. Its functions are set out mainly in section 110(2) of the Transport Act 1968. Broadly they are:

    —  To advise BW and Ministers on proposals to add to or reduce the cruising waterways;

    —  To make recommendations on matters:

      —  Affecting the use or development of the cruising waterways for amenity or recreational purposes; and

      —  Concerning the provision of services and facilities for amenity or recreational purposes on commercial and cruising waterways.

  8.  Other statutory functions include provision for the Council to be consulted on proposed orders:

    —  Under Schedule 13 to the Transport Act 1968 for changing the status or maintenance obligations of BW's waterways;

    —  Under Schedule 1 to the British Waterways Act 1983 for additions to BW's undertaking; and

    —  Under regulations under the Transport and Works Act 1992 for works on BW waterways.

    —  Under Schedule 2 of the British Waterways Act 1995.

    —  Responsibility for operating and planning the operation of the network, both in the long and short term, currently rests with the British Waterways Board, within the limits of the policies and approvals set by Government.

  9.  The Council's Extended Remit. The main and recent request from Ministers is that IWAAC should follow-up, in light of response from BW and Government, ideas in the report "Britain's Inland Waterways: An Undervalued Asset" that require further development. Other aspects of the remit are:

    —  focus on issues connected with amenity and recreation on BW's navigations. This will include advice on:

      —  broadening the customer base;

      —  the role of waterways in rural and urban regeneration;

      —  environmental protection, conservation, heritage and education; and

      —  the balance between different uses and benefits of the waterways;

    —  work as a statutory consultee on proposals affecting the BW network;

    —  BW to regard IWAAC as a resource of expertise on which to draw. BW should involve IWAAC in its activities, consult it on decisions and policy at early formative stages and use it as a sounding board for the Board's proposals; and

    —  the Department will seek to involve IWAAC in the development of BW policy on amenity of waterway restoration schemes in the UK.

  10.  Council's Working Methods and Procedures. There are 5-6 council meetings a year, usually in London. Issues will arise that require specialist consideration. In these circumstances the Chairman will decide whether to delegate consideration to a Council member who may have experience of the particular subject, or hand it on to the Secretariat for report.

  11.  Time Input and Remuneration. Members are unpaid but can claim from BW out of pocket expenses and allowances for loss of remunerative time. In practice most members can expect to spend less than one day a month on IWAAC business. An appointment is generally for three years.

  12.  Comment. The above summary of the role of IWAAC was provided by the DETR. The groundbreaking IWAAC report, Britain's Inland Waterways: An Undervalued Asset, and the Council's subsequent examination of waterways restoration priorities were of course not limited to the BW network. Ministers have increasingly asked for more comprehensive advice. The White Paper, Waterways For Tomorrow, "invite(s) IWAAC to prepare a good practice document with a view to it being published jointly with DETR explaining the contribution that inland waterways can make to regeneration and other projects, and highlighting examples of good planning" (paragraph 6.73.) Hence, there is growing acceptance of the need for overarching planning advice.


  13.  When the Water Space Amenity Commission (WSAC) was founded in 1974, its role was to advise the Secretary of State on matters relating to a national strategy and policy for water relating to recreation and amenity. WSAC was also there to:

    —  advise water authorities on the discharge of their related functions;

    —  to encourage and assist water authorities in the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the discharge of the functions set out in Section 24 of the 1973 Water Act; and

    —  it also included advice to Local Authorities in respect of their planning powers for developments on water and on waterside lands, together with planning advice on recreational management.

  14.  Membership included representatives' from the Countryside Commission; the English Tourist Board; the Sports Council; the Association of Local Authorities and other such bodies interested in the use of water and any land associated with water for the purposes of recreation or in the enhancement and preservation of amenity. The Chairman of IWAAC was quite naturally a member of WSAC. Clearly, water privatisation and other structural changes meant that successor bodies had to be considered and WSAC foundered on the rocks. However, the concept of the formulation, promotion and advice on the execution of a national policy for water relating to recreation and amenity still holds true. It is this point that Nigel Spearing (Associate Member and former MP) made so effectively at the PWG on 24 October 2000. It is with this aim in mind that we believe that IWAAC's brief from Government needs to be enhanced.


  15.  An overarching strategic authority is a public body that is necessarily divorced from the day to day running of the given activity and the natural tensions that are associated with operational affairs. It must have flexibility and vision, provided by the expertise of its members, to set the long-term objectives and planning requirements for the activity. It may be appointed by Government, but will be free from the constraints of a Government Department.

  16.  Who should not be The Body:

    —  Why cannot BW do it? BW cannot do it because their driving force is concerned with efficient operations. They should not be deviated from or burdened by what is a long-term activity, related to but not part of their day to day activity. They should make a contribution, but should not be The Body.

    —  Why cannot DETR do it? DETR should not do it because their bread and butter is policy development and implementation. Their driving force is political and it will always be short-term. Strategic planning advice is required for good policy development but it is better produced by an independent body.

    —  Why cannot AINA do it? AINA cannot do it because they are a Trade Association, as discussed above.


  17.  There is a general expectation that the inland waterways of the UK will remain a public asset, regardless of the arrangements made for their efficient operation. An overarching body, even if it did not hold the physical assets, could easily fulfil the role of regulator, conserver and strategic planner—an honest broker in public eyes. The message from the past, which is echoed in the current White Paper is that the planning system in the UK needs to be supplemented if the undervalued asset contained within the waterways is to be released and made available in a reasonable timeframe. What else is required to complete an overarching mandate? The 10 functions that need to be conducted by The Body are proposed as follows:

    —  The Body must be able to hear all views and then recommend to the DETR the Planning Policy Guidance papers that are needed to cover the broader issues of waterways in the context of their place in the wider community. Such PPG's would supplement and enhance the existing range of PPG's.

    —  The Body needs to collect, collate and disseminate knowledge of benchmark standards and ultimately to broker National Standards, which could be implemented in terms of national policy through DETR.

    —  There is a need to resolve the tensions that exist within and between the large organisations covering the operation of the inland waterways. The Body could ensure that the tensions are understood and positive solutions recommended.

    —  There is a need to prevent "reinventing the wheel". The Body could act as a clearing house to ensure that especially scarce and development funds are put to the best use and avoid duplication. Joint commissioning of research with The Body responsible for co-ordination is a clear option here.

    —  There needs to be an "open" data resource bank, to enable The Body to draw on the widest knowledge base to assist in its debate.

    —  There is a need to improve networking systems within all waterway operators to ensure that even the slowest and smallest participants can be kept up to speed.

    —  Hence, The Body needs to provide first class, impartial, rigorous advice to government and all operators of inland waterways.

    —  The membership of The Body would need to embrace the full range of waterway interests, including water resources, water space management, wild life and all aspects of the natural environment and heritage.

    —  Above all, there is a need to create the means by which the wide diversity of interests can be understood with the view to identifying common ground. A dialogue between all players can sometimes resolve deep divides.

    —  Hence, overall there is a need to create a means by which the vision of the future development, maintenance and improvement of all aspects of our inland waterways (Canals, Rivers and Lakes) can be seen as a comprehensive national asset and be viewed accordingly.


  18.  There has been much discussion over many years on a suitable scheme to promote good and workable standards for boat safety. BW has struggled manfully with the scheme in a leadership role, but it is still unsatisfactory. A high level review has been put in place by the Waterways Minister. Representatives of BW and the EA team lead the review team. IWAAC has supplied two independent members and the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs has supplied the technical observer. If we could all have our time again, it is now quite clear that an overarching body, as described above, could have set the ground rules by generating workable standards with national and international standards authorities. It would have saved an enormous amount of time, money and frustration and is just one example of how points two and three above could have a practical significance.

Can IWAAC provide the solution?

  19.  IWAAC is the natural precursor of the proposed overarching body because it has developed the ability to call upon and use a wide diversity of relevant expertise that has proven useful to Ministers, the Department and the waterways community as a whole. It is seen to be independent and impartial, mainly because of the quality and diversity of its membership. It can easily and quickly assume an extended role to seek information from an even wider range of specific interest bodies, including AINA, and to generate the wide variety of strategic planning and other guidance data needed for an effective forward plan. It already fits the definition given in paragraph 15 above.


  20.  We believe the IWAAC should be directed by Ministers to define a process for evolution and we would recommend a phased approach with appropriate endorsement at each stage. The implementation plan should include the following points:

    —  Phase 1. IWAAC should be given a free hand to put in place the good planning guidance as suggested in the White Paper (paragraph 6.73). They should also consider the extent to which new waterways specific PPG's would be beneficial. The membership should be expanded immediately to allow a wide-ranging voice of opinion and expertise so that they may report quickly on this planning guidance.

    —  Phase 2. IWAAC should then be given a remit to examine and report in full on all the aspects of the legal framework that need changing, including in particular their own status established in the now outdated 1968 Act. They should specifically consider whether IWAAC should evolve into the strategic body, say, along the lines of the former WSAC model, or whether a completely different body is needed. The result of Phase 1 should naturally be part of their consideration with firm recommendations for new PPG's.

    —  Phase 3. Enact the legislation and form The Body. We would propose a two to three year timescale for complete implementation.


  21.  We have attended all the public hearings of the Select Committee and it is quite clear to us from the discussion and evidence presented that BW cannot be all things to all men and do them all with superb excellence. As a body, BW has shown their vision and commitment to the waterways through the particular act of creating The Waterways Trust, but it also shows most vividly the need to create the right body for the right job. The Trust will do what BW cannot. The specific role of BW should be to run a world class navigation operation and leisure provider. This they will be able to do if they are given help with strategic planning. Strategic planning in the waterways context has to be improved if the vision of the undervalued asset is ever to be released. Now is the time to make rapid progress in achieving this vision. The role of IWAAC is key to the process and the evolution of an overarching body in the style of the WSAC model would help greatly with achievement of this vision. There is an opportunity at hand now, to build our particular New Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land—based very much on waterways in town and country alike.


  22.  In summary, the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs recommends that:

    —  An overarching body is necessary and should be formed as soon as possible.

    —  It should be based loosely on the model of the former WSAC.

    —  IWAAC should be given responsibility for defining the process of implementation.

  We commend our solution to the Select Committee and to the Secretary of State.


  I would like to acknowledge with many thanks the help and advice give in the writing this paper by Dr Roger Squires. Also, to members of the National Executive Committee of the AWCC. I must also thank members of staff of IWAAC, DETR and IWA for their complete co-operation in supplying detailed information.

David Pearce MSc MPhil CEng MIEE RCNC

Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, Southampton

December 2000

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