Many of the canals and some of the rivers of England and Wales are run and maintained by the Canal and River Trust, set up as a charity in 2012 to succeed the nationalised British Waterways. This does not include the Wey, the Arun or our canal, but many of us will have experienced and enjoyed the 2,000-mile Canal and River Trust network. The Canal and River Trust has been a great improvement on its predecessor, being more customer-focused and welcoming help from volunteers.
The Canal and River Trust is alarmed by a proposal to cut its government funding from 2027 to 2037 by over £300 million in real terms, a 40% reduction that, the Canal and River Trust says, will ‘have devastating consequences on our canals and the people and wildlife who rely on them - such a steep reduction will inevitably result in a decline in the overall condition of our waterway network, and, alarmingly, the possibility of canal closures. It puts at risk invaluable natural habitats, historic infrastructure and cherished public spaces.’
Also fighting these cuts is the Inland Waterways Association (the IWA), via its ’Fund Britain’s Waterways’ campaign. The IWA was formed in 1946 when canals were neglected and under threat of closure, and it was public’s main voice while the network was nationalised. It says it is ‘the only independent national charity dedicated to supporting and regenerating Britain’s navigable rivers and canals as places for leisure, living and business.’ Much of the 1,000 miles of canal restoration achieved or in progress could not have happened without the IWA.
The Wey & Arun Canal Trust is a corporate member of the IWA. The IWA has been of great assistance to our canal, including visits from its Waterway Recovery Group, whose volunteers have joined us at weekends and sometimes for longer ‘Canal Camps’.
The Wey & Arun Canal Trust supports these campaigns. Will you also support these campaigns personally? The Canal & River Trust website at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk gives more information about the cuts and includes an ‘easy to use online tool to voice your concerns’. If you are not already a member, the IWA invites you to join, at www.waterways.org.uk. As well as all the other benefits of membership, your subscription can help with this campaign. The IWA also encourages you to sign their petition.