We have reported a record year for the waterways across England and Wales, with the publication of our Annual Report & Accounts for 2014/15. We have documented the highest ever levels of interest in visiting, caring for and using its waterways:
- An unprecedented 19.5 million people made 400 million visits to their local canal or river, based upon our regular surveys.
- Volunteering with us rose by 14% and exceeded 400,000 hours for the first time – with volunteers involved in everything from conservation and education to working as lock keepers.
- Over 100 community groups have now ‘adopted' their stretch of canal – working with us to look after their local waterway.
- At 31 March, over 11,000 people were donating each month to support our work – contributing to voluntary donations of £1.6 million – and rising still, with 13,000 ‘Friends' donating as at 1 July.
- A small increase in the number of boats on the canals – up 1% to 32,700 boats licensed at 31 March.
A strong financial performance in 2014/15 saw income rise 10% to £180 million, with £137 million invested by the Trust on our charitable activities (up from £124 million in 2013/14). This included the spend on repairing and improving the condition of our 200-year old network of reservoirs, aqueducts, locks, bridges, towpaths, culverts and embankments as well as the replacement of 150 lock gates and dredging 130,000 tonnes of silt to improve the passage for boaters.
Ten year strategy
The year also saw the launch of our ambitious vision, supported by a ten-year strategy that sets out the future trajectory for the organisation. This includes wider public engagement and improved customer service, increased community involvement, support for further restoration of derelict waterways, and continued growth in volunteering.
Richard Parry, our chief executive comments: “When the Trust was first conceived, those involved must have hoped for something like the year we have enjoyed, with growing income and more work delivered – and with more interest in canals than since the hey-day of the Industrial Revolution.
“We've established a strong financial foundation; inspired growing interest in visiting, caring for, and using our canals and rivers; and developed an ever-widening range of relationships with third parties willing to promote, fund and support us.
“The creation of the charity provided the opportunity to secure the waterways' long term future and to make them central to public life. Whilst we know there is much more we can do, the progress we have made shows what is possible.”
Chair Tony Hales, who will retire from the Canal & River Trust after its Annual Public Meeting in September, comments: “Our canals are better used, enjoyed and valued than ever before and our new strategy has people at its heart. I am particularly pleased that this past year has seen so many new people getting involved with our work either as volunteers or partners.
“The last three years have given me immense satisfaction, seeing the Canal & River Trust grow, thrive and attract ever increasing numbers of volunteers, supporters and partners. When we started this journey in July 2012, whilst we hoped for encouragement, we could not have envisaged the tremendous support and goodwill that we have received.”
Other successes set out in the Annual Report & Accounts
- The condition of the Trust's locks, bridges, aqueducts and other principal assets improved with only 14% in the lowest condition grades (D and E), continuing the improving trend seen over the past decade.
- A continued growth in the number of children who took part in one of the Trust's Explorers education events – to a record 43,000.
- £12 million secured from lotteries, grant making trusts and other funders to help look after the nation's third largest collection of listed structures and hundreds of wildlife and conservation sites.
- Working with volunteers to reconnect a short stretch of Montgomery Canal to the main canal network, opening it up to boats for the first time in 80 years.
- The appointment of a boater welfare officer to work with partner agencies in support of boaters who have fallen on hard times.
- Influencing government to adopt our proposal, with the Inland Waterways Association, to re-align HS2 at Fradley Junction in Staffordshire, to reduce its impact on this important canal location.
- Completion of the first phase of a major project to improve access to the national important waterways archives – with 37,000 records and over 22,000 historic images now available digitally for the first time.
- Award of the Carbon Trust Standard for cutting emissions by 13.5 per cent – the equivalent to an annual reduction of around 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The Canal & River Trust's Annual Public Meeting will take place at 10am on 23 September at Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, London, SW1P 3NZ. To book a place visit: canalrivertrustapm.eventbrite.com.