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Navigating and living on the waterways of Great Britain & Ireland and news of canal developments.
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TOPIC: Environment Agency - Thames Navigation Users Forum (EA TNUF)

Environment Agency - Thames Navigation Users Forum (EA TNUF) 03 Nov 2019 22:44 #111129

  • Andy Soper
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I attended the Thames Navigation Users Forum on 29 October 2019.

This is now only twice (down from three) a year. The River User Group chairmen now have separate meetings with EA officers three times a year in addition to their attendance at TNUF. The EA Waterways manager believes this gives him a better understanding of users needs. Boater and river groups are not entirely convinced by this approach as it is a reversion to a format of fifteen years ago.

The meeting was flagged to abandon the old format of a over the last period. Barry Russell, the Waterway Manager, then gave a 40 minute presentation on achievements by EA.

Capital spend has been authorised to increase by an extra £1.6M to 3.5M this year which may reduce some of the backlog of maintenance. All lock-houses have now been allocated to EA staff ( but not all to lock-keepers). All locks, including Blakes, now have a designated lock and weir keeper. The waterways head count is capped at 96.5 FTE but as they now need 3 more full-time team-leaders (to meet current management policy) the relief lock-keeper numbers will be reduced. John Dutson, ex Royal Marine, ex lock-keeper is now the Waterway Operations manager. The two long-standing team leader candidates were unsuccessful.

Barry reported on resourcing issues, overnight weir work affects assisted passage as the Working Time Directive requires time off the following day. Nothing new – but they have failed to explain this to their leaders. Although office staff were supposed to back-up lock manning and help by managing volunteers the number of occasions in any one month can be counted on one hand!

5600 boats (of 9000) have been checked with 89% found to be registered.

37 unregistered boats have been removed from the river at a cost of ca £1500 per boat. Probably no recovery of costs from owners.

Suicides are increasing with extra effort required by lockstaff and managers to help search.

Cherry Orchard Gardens in Molesey is absorbing significant EA effort. Land has remained unregistered since Thames Conservancy times and now EA, the land neighbours and the boat squatters are in dispute as to who owns what. A waste of EA effort.....

Apparently the Molesley and Sunbury reach residents are flooding EA with so many complaints about unauthorised mooring that it is affecting their ability to provide normal service elsewhere.

Choices – this boils down to pumpouts, assisted passage and rubbish.

Pump-outs – £18K income £40K cost – but EA continue to fail to understand the basic principle that as the ENVIRONMENT agency they should support this whatever the cost! FREE pumpouts – as in NL!

Rubbish – costs about £70K pa but again EA fail to see that this is an essential service. The suggestion of rubbish barges at remote locations only accessible by boaters took them by surprise.

Assisted passage – better described as managed passage for user safety – continues to be an anxiety. A number of members pointed out that the 250 volunteers were used very inefficiently as they can only be deployed under the direct supervision of an EA paid employee – mainly due to Union opposition and a weak management response. The usual platitudes about volunteers not wanting the responsibility were trotted out and rebutted – forcefully by this volunteer!

The first two are small change for the waterway and the latter a continuing sore! So much for user choices!

National Navigation presented by - Andy Wilkinson and Sam Holland

The aim is 'Sustainable Navigation' whatever that means! Some of you will remember 'Navigating forward' which died without trace and now they talk about 'Service delivery nationally'. By April 2020 it should be clear what boaters should be paying for what sponsors and events should be paying etc and there will be a 12 weeks consultation Apr – June 2020.

RUG Chairs raised the following issues:

1/2 Shirley and Ian (rep Tim) trees - Oxford Council / CRT / EA
plan. Value of the waterways?
3 Assisted Passage / trees / signage / dredging esp Benson.
4/5 trees , illegal mooring - Sonning lock, Dreadnought reach and Kennet mouth.
6 trees, Boulters and Cookham. Bourne end marina public moorings (missing).
7 trees, Old Windsor, Romney, Maidenhead.
Extra 24 hour moorings. Lack of EA presence at RUG meetings.
8 Boat names and illegal mooring

Mooring management
Invitation to tender for contract may be issued in weeks – but it is two years overdue.
BR assured us that it would be in place for next year!

My notes may appear to be a little negative but I was encouraged that at last EA managers may be willing to listen......
The following user(s) said Thank You: Peter Mossman, Keith Norfolk, Dean Marriott

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Best Wishes
Andy Soper
DBA Director Representation and Treasurer
mv Neeltje
0044 (0) 303 666 0636

You don't need a barge to join - a dream of boating in Europe will do'. See www.barges.org
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