Over 70 miles of waterways were pruned back before the early start of the nesting season called a halt to the works. More than £1m has been spent on the programme to date and the remaining money – over £500,000 – has been ring fenced so the work can be completed in the autumn.
After listening to boaters at the autumn's local user group meetings, we decided that this was work that could make a real difference to the boating community. The national boating organisations were also asked to help find the areas that most concerned their members. We were able to allocate the additional money because of careful management of costs and success in earning income over the year.
Local waterway teams, working closely with our contracting partner, Fountains, transformed stretches of canals and rivers across the country, including:
- Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation – over 8½ miles between Long Sandal and Rotherham to clear sight lines for the commercial traffic.
- Kennet & Avon Canal – cutting back vegetation between Bath and Hilperton.
- Grand Union Paddington Arm – almost 2 miles of work carried out between Paddington and Perivale is already having a significant impact.
- Lancaster Canal – various lengths from the bottom to top, including at Preston, Galgate and Lancaster.
- Shropshire Union Canal – work at Church Eaton, to address local complaints.
Vince Moran, operations director at Canal & River Trust, said: “Offside vegetation is one of the things we hear most about from boaters. It's an activity that has to take a lower priority than core structural work, but when we have the opportunity to tackle it we will. We were hoping to do more but, despite all the rain, it was an unseasonably warm winter which saw birds nesting early, meaning we legally had to call an early halt to the works.
"However, we've been able to make some big improvements this winter and I hope that boaters will be able to experience the difference themselves while they're cruising. We've also ring fenced the additional money we had planned to spend and will finish off the programme in the autumn.”