Memorandum submitted by The Horseboating
Society (BW 12)
The Horseboating Society (HBS) requests central
government to reinstate and maintain full and ongoing funding
of the inland waterways, especially in relation to the work of
British Waterways. We are aware of the enormous improvements that
have been brought about over the last decade due to the increased
funding made available from the government. We wish these better
standards on the waterways to be maintained and built upon to
continue to benefit all members of the community.
We note in "Waterways for Tomorrow",
Defra, June 2000 (ch 3, para 3.3, 3.5, 3.6) the reference to IWAAC's
report and we support those findings in "Britain's Inland
Waterways: An Undervalued Asset", IWAAC 1996. We agree with
IWAAC that the waterways were the "Cinderella among our heritage
and conservation assets" and the "system is not a museum
but a useable asset and its heritage a living one". The waterways
are now well promoted by BW and user numbers have increased dramatically
but this process continues to need to be supported to gain maximum
potential. We note the government's positive response (ch 3, para
1. The Horseboating Society was founded
in 2001 with the primary aim of preserving and promoting horseboating
on Britain's inland waterways.
2. The 200-year old canal system we have
today was designed and built for the horse-drawn age.
3. This organic, horseera design
is what gives the waterways their unique human scale recognised
in the Defra document "Waterways for Tomorrow", published
June 2000 (WfT, chapter 6, paragraph 6.19)
4. Cargo traffic on Britain's rivers and
canals was primarily horse-drawn from earliest times until the
1920s, continuing until the 1960s. Passenger boats operated until
superseded by rail and improved road transport.
5. Horseboating then found a continuing
role in leisure and tourism and the interpretation of the heritage
of the waterways. There are a small number of passenger trip-boat
operations on the navigations of British Waterways (BW) and other
authorities (National Trust, and Devon County Council).
6. These 12 passenger boats were at a peak
of operation in 1980s but their numbers declined by 2005 to only
five, of which three were on BW waters. This is in contrast to
the increase in use of horse drawn vehicles on roads and tracks.
These horse drawn trip boats provide many thousands of passengers
each year with an introduction to cruising on the waterways, with
also the unique opportunity of experiencing the horse drawn heritage
of the canals.
7. Early in 2005 in consultation with HBS,
BW issued an Operating Instruction to its managers to assist the
passage of both horse drawn commercial trip boats and those horseboats
involved with heritage and educational work along the system.
8. However such operations are very vulnerable
to increased charges (eg for mooring and licences or increased
staff levels) as they have inherent high labour overheads to attend
to the welfare of the boathorse(s) both while it is working, during
its non-working periods and after the end of its working life.
9. The Horseboating Society is keeping alive
the horse drawn use of the national waterway network by making
short and long distance journeys with historic horseboats. The
HBS is currently in receipt of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and
is half way through a 3 year programme of events recreating the
story of the horsedrawn waterway era. The culmination of the project
is to journey with Britain's oldest wooden narrow boat, built
in 1854, to attend the World Canals Conference being held in England
at Liverpool in 2007. British Waterways has been fully supportive
of these efforts.
10. All members of the community can join
The Horseboating Society for a modest subscription (£10 per
annum in 2007).It is one of the waterway organisations which enable
anyone to go boating without the need to own or hire a boat. At
present we represent about 1,000 with many more supporters.
11. Soon after our formation BW invited
the HBS to be represented at national level on user group meetings
and to participate in the British Waterways Advisory Forum. We
are represented at national meetings almost monthly. We feel that
we are making some progress (albeit slowly) in educating BW staff
about the importance and needs of horseboating.
12. One problem encountered is that knowledge
about horsedrawn operation and the associated detailed infrastructure
has been almost lost since the 1950s. To attempt to rectify this,
the HBS have published a guidance document on retaining horseboating
heritage features. This was formally accepted by BW's chief executive
in 2005 and has since been developed further in consultation with
senior BW staff.
13. We have been encouraged by the recent
appointment of heritage advisors in each of BW's management units.
We hope BW will be able to give increased focus and care of the
built and living heritage of the waterways.
14. Despite our involvement and the acceptance
of our advice at the highest levels we are concerned that the
tension between BW's roles as a self-sufficient quasi-commercial
organisation and the custodian of a potential world standard heritage
asset can lead to our advice being ignored on the ground. We find
this is because of commercialism, income generation and pressure
to maintain the waterways at the lowest possible cost, as well
as a constant drive to modernise the system.
15. The pressures for income generating
activity by BW have already contributed to the failure of two
horse drawn trip boat operations (Foxton Boat Services and Calder
Valley Cruising) because of the boat moorings created on their
long established plying (cruising) routes. This is also causing
difficulty to some of the remaining horseboating operators, who
are finding that increasing pleasure-boat numbers and mooring
facilities cause serious operating difficulties requiring extra
staff. This led to The Horseboating Society making an Official
Complaint to BW in late 2005 in order to both look at the case
of Calder Valley Cruising and to prevent such an occurrence again.
Currently a director of BW meets with us to discuss the prospects
of "increasing awareness, understanding and appreciation"
of these horse drawn passenger trip-boats.
16. We note in WfT, ch 3, paras 3.17 and
3.18 that conflicts are recognised but the expectation is for
them to be overcome by the management processes of BW.
17. We are pleased to note that the Montgomery
Canal Partnership "will actively encourage and support optimum
boat designs ... with a presumption in favour of horse-drawn trip
boats" due to their environmentally friendly nature. (Montgomery
Canal: Regeneration through Sustainable RestorationSummary
Document September 2005, p 9).
18. We would like to see more BW support
given to horseboating operations where problems or conflicts arise
on the network in line with WfT ch 8, para 6.60.
19. Most users of the waterways are casual
leisure visitorssuch as walkers, joggers, cyclists and
those visitors enjoying heritage, wildlife, or waterside pubs
and restaurants. 165 million visits per year were cited in "Waterways
for Tomorrow" in 2000, (WfT, ch 6, para 6.2) but numbers
are believed to have almost doubled now. These visitors are the
chief beneficiaries of our society's educational activities, whether
they meet us along the waterway corridor or at waterway events.
20. There is no direct income to BW from
these visitors beyond grant-in-aid from central government, and
the open nature of the waterway system makes it impossible to
control or charge for access, except for a few sites and where
BW controls car parking.
21. In common with many other organisations
we are concerned that the effects of the reduction in this grant
increased charges to the minority
captive audience of boat users and anglers;
a particular risk to the types of
historic boat which are more expensive to maintain or operate,
such as horseboats;
increased pressure to redevelop rather
than conserve the waterways;
pressure to maintain and restore
on the cheap leading to poor design, and subsequent loss of the
heritage and horse drawn feel of waterways;
postponement of major and minor repairs
and routine maintenance, causing long closures of some waterways
on safety grounds This can be the towing path alone and/or the
water channel. Consequently there is a loss of amenity to all
the many varied types of users of the waterways; and
a loss of confidence in the waterways
by commercial developers seeking to regenerate canal side land
BW PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT/STEWARDSHIP
22. Our evidence concentrates on BW's stewardship
of historic assets at detail level.
23. The Defra document cites original features
indicating individual company variations as an attraction. Substantial
amounts of this variation have already been lost over the past
50 years, as economies have led to standardisation, such as of
lock-gates and paddle-gear.
24. Our HBS guidance document describes
the function and use of heritage items of canal "furniture".
While not needed by the majority of pleasure-boaters, they are
still needed by those using horsedrawn and other historic craft
and they contribute to the heritage ambience and tell the story
of the waterways.
25. The Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club
(hNBOC) has also published a document, "Our Disappearing
Heritage", that describes losses of heritage features.
26. HBS would like to see proper funding
and the strengthening of BW's role as stewards of unique living
history that is available for use in modern and old ways.
27. Boats moored to the towing path are
one of the major problems for horseboating nowadays. The boats
with their chimneys, TV aerials, and other items on the roofs
obstruct towlines of horseboats.
28. We are pleased to see BW encouraging
the development of off-line marinas, which may eventually reduce
this problem. Their attendance at the Dairy Show at Stoneleigh
2006 was an example of BW reaching farmers with the view of attracting
them to consider setting up marinas on waterside farmland.
29. The number of boats being built now
far exceeds current marina capacity. The projected increase in
the number of boats will also in the medium term overwhelm the
projected marina capacity. Long linear moorings along the waterway
corridor have increased greatly in recent years.
30. We are concerned that BW's increasing
reliance on income from users is leading them to pursue income
from licences and mooring fees by encouraging unsustainable growth
in boat numbers and tolerating moorings to the towing path. This
has already led to loss of amenity and destruction of atmosphere
on some parts of the waterways, like the Trent and Mersey or the
southern section of the Oxford Canal. Long linear moorings to
the towpath are a major problem to horse drawn boats on journeys
as our towline must be disconnected or lifted with difficulty
on poles over moored boats.
31. HBS believes there is potential for
more visitors to the waterway system to enjoy the unique experience
of the horse drawn passenger boats, offering an hour trip or two
day cruise. It is essential for these home and overseas visitors
to have confidence in a well-maintained waterway system they wish
to sample and enjoy.
BW RELATIONSHIP WITH
32. Our evidence concentrates on BW's relationships
with Local Authorities.
33. Local Authorities do much work around
the waterways such as the installation of lighting in urban areas,
signage and motorcycle barriers and resurfacing of towing paths.
They are rightly expressing pride in their local waterway environment.
34. However the danger is that financial
and other pressures mean that BW is allowing these Local Authorities
to carry out works without due regard to or understanding of the
needs of waterway users and without adequate controls to preserve
35. Such examples include the use of tarmac
on towing paths which may be suitable for cyclists, but is not
for long distance walkers, or horses which may slip and fall.
Installation of street lamp-posts and signposts creates a barrier
to towing lines when put at the water's edge instead of to the
back of the towing path. This is found in Stalybridge town centre
on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The route over Hyde Bank Tunnel
on the Lower Peak Forest Canal has been spoilt and made very difficult
for a boathorse by the introduction of steps and chicanes. Had
the Local Authority been made aware by BW of the ongoing use of
waterways by boathorses, a different style of barrier to motorbikes
could have been created.
36. It is worth paying particular attention
to motorcycle barriers. Both BW and Local Authorities have installed
these across towing paths in an attempt to prevent abuse of the
towing path by motorcyclists. They have the unfortunate side effect
of preventing access to legitimate users such as boathorses and
wheelchair users and those with baby buggies. HBS was involved
in a 2005 consultation between BW and users. We applaud BW's audit
of these motorcycle barriers during the winter of 2006-07. We
hope very much that many of these barriers will be removed or
replaced with others of designs that will not adversely affect
the passage of boathorses and other legitimate users.
37. In December 2005 a pedestrian access
point to the towing path was redesigned at Hanover Street North,
Audenshaw, Manchester. This was a joint project between BW and
the Local Authority and Groundwork. A steep flight of steps was
put in, making boathorse use impossible even though we have used
this location for access from 1978 to 2005 to reach the horseboat
Maria, the flagship of The Horseboating Society.
38. One effect of the Defra cuts to BW in
2006 has been that BW NW Waterways has run out of its budget to
be able to put in a ramp for us now at this location. We are bitterly
disappointed by this.
39. BW has made and unfortunately continues
to make mistakes in our opinion. However, we believe that most
of the present management are working hard to promote waterways
for very many varied types of users, and to listen to customer
opinions. We hope BW will further recognise the heritage value
of their assets. We believe that these opinions are shared by
many other waterway user organisations.
40. We would like to see BW's mission more
geared to preservation and conservation of the heritage assetssimilar
to English Heritagethan to modernisation and exploitation
of this unique asset. The canal heritage is unique in its vernacular
built structures, and it is freely available and within easy reach
of the great majority of the population.
41. Their funding model needs to recognise
and support this. Funding should be in proportion to users. The
vast majority of users are funded at present through grant in
aid because of their inherent free access to the system.
42. Cuts to BW's grant-in-aid are already
having unfortunate effects such as the cancellation of the 2006-07
winter dredging of some canals like the Lower Peak Forest Canal.
This will now allow silting up to continue and could lead to blockages.
43. Unlike the road system, if a waterway
is closed for a period because it has become impassable or unsafe,
there is rarely an easy alternative route. Diversions can add
several days to a boating journey. The adequately funded maintenance
of the waterways is essential if we are to keep the network open
44. The towing paths have been subject to
a BW "Veg Pledge, from the hedge to the water's edge"
since the winter of 2004-05 which ensures that paths will be cut
as a minimum at least once a year. This had become essential as
vegetation cutting had been reduced and subsequent tall soft vegetation
and trees were covering the paths. With so much increased use
by walkers, runners, cyclists, and anglers as well as boaters
the towing paths need to be kept clear to allow all to enjoy and
share the towing paths. Cuts in BW funding would see a back-slide
in the much welcomed Veg Pledge which is essential as it sets
a minimum standard.
45. The cutting of towing path vegetation
to the standards that would have been expected when the corridor
was a working horsedrawn system especially helps horseboating
as the removal of trees at the water's edge stops trees from fouling
46. The Horseboating Society wishes Central
Government to continue to support BW's role as steward of the
heritage asset, both with the fine words in "Waterways for
Tomorrow" and with sustained funding to support the use of
waterways by the wider public.
47. Grant-in-aid needs to at least stay
in line with BW's rising costs in order to maintain the waterways
to their much improved standard in recent years. We do not wish
to see a return to the crumbling towing paths and silted up and
closed waterways of a few decades ago.
48. We feel that the current management
of BW have shown more interest and encouragement for horseboating
than any other in the decades between1950-2000.
The Horseboating Society