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Boris Johnson would take over London canals
Thursday, 11 November 2010 07:03

LONDON'S Mayor, Boris Johnson, says that he would be glad to take over the London waterways to get them out of the mess they are in at present.

It was Del Brenner of the Regents Network who put a canal question to London's Mayor Boris Johnson (pictured) at Peoples Question Time, and received a very favourable response from the Mayor and the Assembly.

Positive action needed

The question was:

"Concerning the management of London's inland waterways, we need some positive action to bring our canals in London back to life. Above all we need openness and accountability in the management of our canals—which is not one of British Waterways strong points.

"Would the Mayor consider giving our canal network a reliable and active long-term future by taking over from British Waterways, and devolving the management of our canals to the GLA Group? We need someone we can trust."

To which Mayor Boris Johnson replied:

"I'm keen on that. I like that idea."

An absolutely brilliant idea

A fuller response was made by Assembly Member and former Deputy Mayor Jenny Jones:

"It was an absolutely brilliant idea. If we can have a budget as well as the waterways that would be fantastic, and I would put myself forward to chair that."

Very satisfied with the response, Del Brenner is following it up with the Mayor's Office to discuss more details and confirm whether the good idea may become a reality.

BW a seriously failed organisation

The proposal would include London's canals, docks and the waterways in the Lee Valley and those around the Olympic Park) for instance. In other words all the waterways managed in London by the British Waterways Board, which Del Brenner considers as a seriously failed organisation.

Part of the way there

Ten years ago, the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which set up the GLA and Mayor of London, included a clause for ‘provision of facilities to benefit users of the waterways' in London. The Act states that: 'Transport for London may provide or secure the provision of such amenities and facilities as it considers would benefit persons using any waterway.' (Part IV Transport, Chapter XII, Para 256).

This could be interpreted as the opportunity for the Mayor to take over the management of the canals without further primary legislation being necessary.

The Third Way

Devolution of London's canals would fit well with the current proposals for replacing British Waterways Board with a Trust or such like. This move could result in decentralisation of the management of the canals.

Richard Benyon MP, the Waterways Minister stated (14th October 2010):

"A charitable body will give users of the waterways a greater say in their future management. This change reflects the confidence we have that the engagement of local communities and interest groups will ensure the success of this transfer to civil society. It's a great example of Government giving power back to the people."

Would achieve just that

The devolution of London's canals to the GLA Group could achieve just that, but Regents Network would press for it to happen sooner rather than later. There could be a bright future for London's canals, and it would act as an example and spur to the restructuring of our canals throughout the country.

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