We were contacted by Natural England (NE) on 15 August asking for the imposition of certain conditions within the section of canal that is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to prevent damage from the anticipated boat movements during the festival.
The main concern that NE have is to protect the aquatic plants which grow below the water surface in the shallows at the edges of the canal. The passage or mooring of boats in the shallows can damage these plants therefore NE had asked for boats to be single moored to prevent passing boats travelling too closely to the offside vegetation (which would not normally be disturbed by navigation).
As the guardian of the Ashby Canal we have a legal, and charitable, obligation to manage the SSSI in such a way that we preserve the canal's ecology but we also have to balance that with our support for the festival and protecting the interests of our boating customers. We therefore held a meeting with NE on 21 August to discuss our concerns.
Following this meeting NE has agreed to our suggestion to install 200m of temporary nico-spanning to protect the plants from wash thereby allowing double mooring in specific locations. We are confident that these measures will allow sufficient mooring space for the number of boats expected to attend but it may reduce the navigation to a single boat width in some places.
No threat to navigation
We can assure all boaters that there is no threat to navigation and no proposal to close the canal to boats. The canal was built for boats, and will continue to be enjoyed by boats, however we also have to recognise that it has become an important wildlife habitat – which is part of the canal's appeal - and that we have to take a balanced approach.
We are working with the event organisers, Ashby Canal Association, who manage the moorings at the festival. We are encouraging all boaters wishing to attend to book in advance so that they can be allocated to a mooring length. This will help to manage where boats moor to prevent unnecessary disturbance and protect the SSSI.
We are very sorry that we've had to introduce these restrictions so close to the event. We're working hard with Natural England and the Ashby Canal Association to ensure a successful festival whilst also protecting the valuable habitats which make the canal so special and popular.