A ground-breaking agreement with Natural England sets sail a new way of working to improve the environment of our inland waterways.
Meeting on the banks of the Pocklington Canal, the focal point of an ambitious £460,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England chief executive James Cross and the Trust’s chief executive Richard Parry will sign a Memorandum of Understanding, cementing their mutual collaboration to protect England’s canals and make them more accessible to the public.
The Pocklington HLF bid - to be submitted in November by the Trust, supported by NE and partners, will enhance and protect the special wildlife of the canal making it more accessible to visitors.
Forty years ago the canal had declined into abandonment and disrepair, only narrowly escaping fate as a dumping ground for treated sewage sludge. Thanks to the work of local volunteers and campaigners it was saved from its fate, and is now almost completely protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Designated for its rare aquatic plants, breeding birds and outstanding variety of dragonfly and damselfly, it is a success story we hope to replicate across the canal network – as we work with Natural England to encourage communities to take a more active role in canal management.
Richard Parry said: “Our network of canals and rivers is home to some of the nations most important and well-loved wildlife and that in turn makes them special places for people to escape to.
“This agreement will make it quicker and easier for us to improve our waterways for those visiting and living nearby whilst using our collective expertise to protect some of our most cherished, and in some cases, vulnerable species.
Natural England will now begin the process of exploring an organisational licence for the Trust, which will allow the movement of protected species such as water voles, bats, badgers and native crayfish during routine canal maintenance works.
Organisational licences are awarded on the basis of ‘earned recognition’ – in this case recognising the expertise and competence of the Trust in understanding how to avoid, mitigate and compensate for impacts on protected species.
They have the dual function of ensuring that protected species remain safeguarded, whilst saving the time and money associated with applying for an individual licence every time one is required. We currently hold a similar licence to handle floating water plantain. Organisational licences form part of Natural England's efforts to cut red tape and create a more efficient organisation.