Thursday, 1 July 2010


British Waterways’ Annual Report & Accounts 2009/10 is available to view online at

British Waterways’ 2009/10 Annual Report & Accounts, published today (1 July 2010), highlights growing momentum for the creation of a ‘national trust’ to care for the country's historic canals, rivers and docks. The proposal has won widespread stakeholder support and interest from the UK government as an example of delivering Big Society principles.

The Report details a record number of people visiting the waterways and their towpaths (up 26% to 13 million adults) together with a continued growth in the record number of boats (up 3% to 34,944). 91% of people now think that the waterways are an important part of the nation’s heritage.

Tony Hales, BW chairman, comments: “There is widespread support for the nation’s canals and rivers. A charitable trust for the waterways will allow this local enthusiasm and energy to flow into the task of ensuring a sustainable future for this important part of the nation’s heritage.”

Acknowledging that there are increasing pressures on the availability of government funding together with the current annual funding deficit of £30m in England & Wales, Tony continues: “We have a lot of work to do if we are to turn this proposal for a waterways charity into reality. The ideas and aspirations that exist amongst waterway supporters will need to be turned into hard won cash and activity to maintain, expand and improve the nation’s canals and rivers.”

Despite commercial activity being adversely affected by the recession (particularly the impact it has had on property development activities), BW restructured its operations and was able to maintain its spend on waterway maintenance and major works at over £100m (£101.6m). This included the replacement of 228 lock gate leaves as well as spend of £3.9m on dredging, £6.8m on vegetation management and £3.7m to man bridges and locks for customers. The percentage of BW’s principle waterway structures in the worst condition was further reduced to 18.7% (down 39% since 2002).

Tony concludes: “Despite a difficult financial climate, we have started to see some recovery in the values of our property estate and were still able to generate over £100m of vital self-earned income for reinvestment in the waterways.

“In this age of austerity the waterways will undoubtedly have to shoulder their share of government spending cuts which can only exacerbate the funding shortfall that currently exists across the waterways in England and Wales. This reconfirms our belief that together with waterway supporters and partners we can create a more sustainable future for the waterways by establishing a charitable trust for the nation’s canals and rivers. This is undoubtedly a goal worth achieving.”

Other highlights in the Report include the opening of Three Mills Lock, the award of World Heritage Status to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the launch of the Waterways Action Squad which attracted 270 youth volunteers in its first six months, and the restoration of Stourport Basins which was selected by popular vote as the best Heritage Lottery project of the year.

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