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The charity making life better by water

A narrow boat moors on the offside of the canal with the sunset reflecting on the water

Keep Canals Alive

Demand action from Government to secure the future of our canals.

Our much-loved canal network, which delivers so much benefit to people and for nature, relies on funding from multiple sources: government grant being one of them.

In July 2023 Government announced a new funding settlement, spanning from 2027 to 2037, to follow on from our current grant agreement. Whilst we welcome this further long-term commitment to the nation's historic waterways, the amount awarded represents a steep reduction in funding of over £300 million in real terms over a ten-year period. A reduction that will have devastating consequences on our canals and the people and wildlife who rely on them.

Such a steep reduction will inevitably result in a decline in the overall condition of our waterway network, and, alarmingly, the possibility of canal closures. It puts at risk invaluable natural habitats, historic infrastructure and cherished public spaces.

That's why we're reaching out to you, our passionate and engaged community, to join us in our mission to #KeepCanalsAlive.

Hear from our chief executive, Richard Parry

  • Read the video transcript

    The government has just made an announcement about the future funding of the nation’s 250-year-old canals. In short, it puts this much-loved canal network at risk, and we’re determined to fight for its future. So, we’re asking all of you who value the canals to join us and take action to demand that they must be saved.

    The government currently contributes approximately a quarter of the cost of the operation, care, and maintenance of these precious waterways. That amount – a fraction of what it used to be – is currently frozen and, hence, is currently being eroded by the high levels of inflation we’re all suffering, and with more frequent and intense extreme weather events, this already isn’t enough to keep up with the scale of work that such old canals need to remain safe for people, the communities alongside them, and for the nature and wildlife that it provides a home for.

    We’ve been told that in the years ahead, government is planning to make year-on-year cuts to the vital funding it contributes. This means that we’re all faced with the very real likelihood that in the years ahead, there won’t be enough money to look after this much-loved canal network that today delivers so much benefit. Whilst our canals may look picturesque and tranquil. They depend upon maintaining the safe condition of thousands of assets, bridges and tunnels, embankments and culverts, reservoirs and pumping systems that need daily care and attention.

    Any deterioration would bring about a return to the decline of the 20th century when hundreds of miles of canals were lost. Whilst we will do our utmost as the national charity caring for these canals, the brutal truth is that some may have to close if there isn’t the money to look after them. Imagine the impact that would have on all our lives on the wildlife and nature they support, on the businesses that depend on them, and the tens of thousands of jobs.

    We’ve shown how today’s canals improve the well-being of those who live on or near them, often in places where access to nature is limited. Using the government’s own methodologies, we’ve shown that their value to the NHS alone is worth over £1 billion a year. The case for public investment in our waterways is overwhelming.

    So, what happens next? We must ensure that this disappointing and damaging decision is revisited. We will keep campaigning, engaging with government and opposition parties to continue to make our case. Together, we must convince the politicians making these decisions that it is vital to keep the nation’s canals safe and available for the benefit of us all.

    This won’t be easy. We’ll need to keep the momentum going. Follow our social media channels and share the news about just what’s at stake. Sign up to our newsletter so that we can keep you up to date with how you can help. And please do continue to support us. Together, we can fight for a future that sees our canals safe to flourish for the next 250 years.

Take action by emailing your local MP

Tell your local MP how much you care about the canals and why they need to be funded properly. Urge the Government to reconsider their decision and protect our waterways for the future.

What happens next?

We are sure you will share our disappointment at the Government's decision. We are determined to fight to change it, to re-state the case for the funding needed to keep canals alive and to sustain the wide range of benefits they deliver. With your help, and that of all our other users, partners, boaters, volunteers, Friends and supporters, we will continue our campaign whilst also taking every opportunity to generate funding from other sources, and to deliver our work efficiently. And following the general election in July 2024, we'll work to bring our message to the new government and call on incoming MPs to take action for canals. Together we can keep canals alive and thriving for the future.

In the meantime we'll continue to raise our voice and fight for our network.

  • We'll target the media to raise the profile of canals and their importance to everyone
  • We'll meet with MPs from all political parties to influence policy and shape manifestos, as we did on 6 March 2024 where our Chair, David Orr, met with MPs and Peers
  • We'll raise awareness of the issue with everyone who lives, works and spends time on our waterways network to build support
  • We'll keep collecting and presenting evidence that shows just how valuable canals are for people, wildlife and the economy
  • We'll continue to raise vital funds to ensure we can continue to keep canals open for all to enjoy

You can show your support by writing to your MP to demand action for canals, by helping us spread the word, or by supporting our work with a donation.

Staffs & Worcs Canal photo credit: David Williams

Last Edited: 05 July 2024

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