Conservation & the Environment
Future of new waterways charity secured by £1 billion investment
The new charity established to look after England and Wales’ network canals and rivers will be given over £1 billion of Government help to give it the best possible start, Environment Minister Richard Benyon, announced today.
This unprecedented funding for a new charity paves the way for the launch of the new Canal & River Trust later this year – a new “national trust for the waterways” that will harness the support of thousands of supporters and volunteers to help look after the canals and rivers in England and Wales for the benefit of future generations.
This is a good deal for the taxpayer, the waterways and for the millions of people that enjoy them. Releasing the nation’s waterways from Government control gives more certainty than ever to their financial future. The Canal & River Trust’s charitable status will mean new opportunities for revenue through donations, charitable grants and legacies, increased borrowing powers, efficiencies and volunteering activity.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:
“The Canal & River Trust will be a national trust for the waterways, maintaining and restoring 2,000 miles of heritage sites, wildlife habitats and open spaces so that we can all enjoy them for generations to come.
“Bringing our waterways into the Big Society puts decision-making into the hands of the thousands of people who cherish the waterways near their homes. Our £1 billion investment will get this new charity off to the strongest start possible, and let local communities and volunteers shape the future of our world-famous waterways.”
Tony Hales, the chairman of the Trustees of the Canal & River Trust said:
”We congratulate the minister on this settlement which creates a bedrock on which to build the future prosperity of our precious waterways. In the 20th century the network was saved from destruction by
committed waterway campaigners, volunteers and staff. In the last decade alone British Waterways has made an enormous contribution to securing the network’s future. In the 21st century they will be held in trust for the nation as a national treasure and a haven for people and wildlife.
“With greater certainty of funding than ever before, we now have the opportunity to attract new investment and new supporters and give a greater role to the millions of people who live alongside and on the waterways.”
In order to help the Canal & River Trust get off to the best possible start, Defra has committed a property endowment worth £460 million and funding of £800 million over the next 15 years to help put the nation’s historic network on a firm footing for the future. In addition the new Trust will give local communities and stakeholders a greater role in caring for their waterways.
The funding deal has the following components:
Core grant of £39m per year (index linked to inflation from 2015/16 onwards) From 2015/16, an additional grant of 10m per year (reduced gradually over the last five years of the grant agreement, tied to three performance measures): - satisfactory condition of principal assets - satisfactory condition of towpaths - satisfactory flood risk management measures A £25m one-off grant to be spread across the next few months, and a capped ‘last resort’ Government guarantee in relation to the historic public sector pension liability; The government has already announced that the £460m commercial property endowment used by British Waterways to fund the infrastructure network will be transferred to the CRT for the same purposes. The inland waterways managed by the Environment Agency will transfer to the new waterways charity from 2015/16, subject to the next spending review and the agreement of the charity’s trustees.
Plans to let 100 wild beavers roam free in Scotland has been slammed by Game Keepers as posing a threat to the environment and a flood risk.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson is considering proposals to deal with the rogue beavers which are building lodges in waterways between Aberfeldy, Forfar, Dundee and Perth.
Scottish Natural Heritage advised that one option was to leave them in the wild because trapping them could prove too expensive. But the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), warned that this could lead to major flooding and forestry problems and it is calling for further research before a final decision is taken.
It says it has evidence that beavers which have escaped from captivity in Perthshire and Angus are now causing serious flood problems on agricultural land, rendering parts of fields unproductive, and have also caused damage to forestry on riverbanks, with potential threats to homes from the destruction of natural flood defences.
SGA spokesman Bert Burnett said: "The freak rainstorms we have been having recently have shown some areas to be more prone to flooding than others and, if there are beavers there, it is likely this will occur on a more regular basis.
"The genuine fear is that, if we leave things the way they are, then we could be creating a problem
which may have to be solved, at great public cost, at a later date.
"We have armies of members who are assessing rivers every day and could relay the necessary information. We don't feel that enough effort has been made to trap the animals to date and we would be happy to help. We have many people well-versed in trapping techniques."
in 24 European countries.
The SGA is now asking ministers to look more closely at the situation and has offered the expertise of its membership to help conduct field research.
One farmer in Angus, who didn't want to be named, said every week he had to destroy their lodges on a burn to prevent large-scale flooding, with the animals regularly raising the water level by over 1ft.
An estimated 100 beavers, a species it is illegal to release under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, have taken residence in the area since they were freed or escaped from private collections.
This is completely separate from the 11 beavers from Norway which were released in May 2009 in woodland in the Knapdale area of Argyll.
They were part of an official but controversial five-year trial reintroduction being run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland.
Beavers were hunted to extinction in Scotland in the 16th century and by the 18th century they were close to extinction in Europe. Since the 1920s, they have been successfully reintroduced
He said: "They are very efficient and, if they dam up a small burn, the water level doesn't need to rise very far before it covers the ends of drains, which then don't work, causing flooding to fields."
Nick Halfhide, SNH head of operations, said: "We have given advice to the Minister about the options available, and are awaiting his decision.
"We're also planning a thorough survey of the Tayside beavers later this winter to understand better where these beavers are and their numbers. We very much welcome the SGA's offer of help with this, and other possible management in the future."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "This matter is under consideration by Scotland's Environment Minister. A decision on the way forward will be made shortly."
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