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Wales’ canals under threat as UK Government announces significant cut in funding

11 Jul 2023 5 minute read
Montgomery Canal

The UK Government has been accused of putting the future of Wales’ historic canals at risk after announcing a significant funding cut.

Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, has issued a warning that a UK-wide reduction in grant funding of over £300 million in real terms, will threaten the future of the nation’s historic canals, leading to their decline and to the eventual closure of some parts of the network.

The reduced grant from 2027 will almost halve the value of public funding for canals in real terms compared with recent years.

This comes despite a UK Government Review, shared with Glandŵr Cymru and expected to be published imminently, confirming that its funding is ‘clear value for money’, with canals shown to deliver substantial benefits to the economy, to people and communities, and to nature and biodiversity.

The reduced funding comes at the same time as the costs of maintaining canals are increasing, due to the growing impact of climate change, with more periods of drought and extreme storm events taking their toll on ageing 250-year-old infrastructure.

UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey announced on Monday that the Trust will receive a funding package of £400 million between 2027 and 2037, along with £190 million between now and 2027, and that it has to increasingly move towards alternative sources of funding.

Richard Parry, Glandŵr Cymru’s chief executive, welcomed the UK Government’s commitment in providing long term support to such a critical national network, but warned that, unless a more realistic funding settlement is secured, it will turn the clock back on one of the nation’s greatest heritage regeneration stories and lead to the loss of substantial public benefits.

Grave risk

“We are tasked by government to care for and manage safely this important and historic infrastructure. The UK Government has confirmed the value and importance of the nation’s canals and their vital role in our health and wellbeing, for wildlife and nature, and in supporting jobs and the UK economy. Yet, at the same time, they have announced a funding decision which puts the very future of canals at grave risk,” Parry said.

“By sharply reducing their investment in the critical work to care for and safely manage this vulnerable national canal infrastructure, the UK Government is failing to recognise the full cost of sustaining the vital benefits they provide.

“We have ambitious plans for continued growth in income from donations, investments and other funding streams and are also growing volunteer numbers to help with our work.  However, even taking these into account, the decision by government leaves a substantial funding shortfall which puts decades of restoration and recovery of these much-loved historic waterways at risk.

“Our industrial canal heritage is as vital today as it was in the past, and will continue to be in the future, by bringing the benefits of green space and nature corridors into urban areas, as well as contributing to flood defences and transferring water to areas of shortage. It is a critical part of our national infrastructure, and its decline would impact communities across the country.”

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

Mr Parry warns the funding cuts will have a “potentially devastating impact” on the Canal & River Trust’s ability to care for and protect the 2,000-mile-long waterways network and its heritage – the locks, reservoirs, bridges, tunnels, aqueducts and embankments. At a time of increasing costs, the proposed cuts will see the value of public funding for canals reduce in real terms by more than 40% – or over £300 million in total – compared to recent levels.

“Glandŵr Cymru, together with all those who use the canals, the boat-owners and anglers, the businesses that depend upon them, and the millions of towpath users, is determined to keep making the case for a sustainable partnership with the UK government, crucially with the funding that the future of the canals depends upon,” he said.

Alternative funding

A Defra spokesperson said: “Since it was first created in 2012, we have been very clear that the Trust would have to increasingly move towards alternative sources of funding.

“To date, we have awarded them £550 million funding and are supporting the Trust with a further £590 million between now and 2037 – a significant sum of money and a sign of the importance that we place on our canals.

“We have been discussing this with the charity for some time and have been offering support on how it can increase income from other sources, as per the original objective of the grant funding.”

Many hundreds of miles of waterways were lost in the 20th century, but in the past fifty years they have experienced an extraordinary renaissance.

Today there are more boats on the canal network than at the height of the Industrial Revolution and the network provides vital green space by water and access to nature to more than ten million people each year.

Independently verified research using government methodology has found the Trust’s canals across the UK support 80,000 jobs and contribute £1.5 billion annually to the economy.

They deliver £4.6 billion of social welfare value to people and communities, including health benefits that contribute £1.1 billion in savings to the NHS from the millions of people making active use of its waterways and their towpaths.

Glandŵr Cymru says it continues to develop other sources of income, reducing the share of its funds from the UK government when compared with the former publicly-owned British Waterways, now less than 25% of its total income.


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Keri
Keri
9 months ago

Any canal users or appreciaters out there who voted for Brexit believing it would lead to more investment in this country? How’s that working out for you?

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
8 months ago
Reply to  Keri

Nothing to do with Brexit…the WG voted for it…

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
9 months ago

Yet another example of Westminster destroying Cymru’s social and environmental fabric. Because of the eccentric neoliberal economic model adopted by the Tories (and sadly to be perpetuated by UK Labour as well), and the incompetence of the Bank of England, Cymru’s nurses, teachers and many other workers, our NHS (despite the best efforts of the Welsh Labour Government and Plaid Cymru), our railways and highways, our national parks and coasts, our wildlife, our towns and cities and our people are suffering. This can only get worse. Ask yourself, ask your friends, surely an independent Cymru can do better than this…?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

Don’t lose heart, that cold cup of Coffey and her fellow environmental criminals will soon be poured down the drain…

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Aye…straight into the sewer with all the s***e where they belong…but will Kiethy be any different? Doubtful. Independence is the way we solve problems such as this.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

If we live that long, Rhun has a lot to do, a mountain to climb and then he has to come down with the tablets and herd a nation of cats…

The others, W Lab, are going nowhere…but the house of Lords or big business!

Tories out Plaid in, then we can start…

Frank
Frank
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I am all for independence but has Plaid or any other party got a plan of action? If they have isn’t it time they shared it with the voters? Currently I don’t know who to vote for!!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

I think Rhun is working on it, I know one person who is providing policy advice on a regular basis as far as the health service is concerned, which is not a bad place to start. I guess Plaid is the only horse in the race if it’s independence that is wanted but they need an army of canvassers armed with well thought out ideas. Where does one turn for that but our Universities of which we have a good few for a small country. Said ‘experts’ should be offering their services. The former MP Elfyn Llwyd (he, in my… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Mab Meirion
Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
9 months ago

Yet another reason we need to be an independent country.

… It’s like, at this point, can we really afford to keep on going down this road before we admit it is leading us off a cliff?

If you love Cymru or even if you love that Wales they have these days, surely you want better for it than this?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Judging by the down tickers, maybe not…

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago

Once I saw that name Coffey in the report I knew that the destructive instincts of the UK Gov would be deployed in force. If they were reducing spend in some areas to deploy the resources efficiently on other priorities I might be persuaded despite my priorities differing from theirs. However they are not improving anything just turning all policy areas into further opportunities for their corporate allies to extract even more out of the public purse and the public in general

Last edited 9 months ago by hdavies15
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Carpetbaggers, sadists, every type of lowlife have joined this bandwagon

Frank
Frank
9 months ago

How much longer are we going to put up with Westminster’s blatant underfunding of Wales? Are there going to be cuts to English canals or anything else? No way!! What England wants England takes. They’ve had our coal and other precious ores and minerals and now they also want our water. They will take it without any negotiation. They are in charge of the purse strings and don’t we know it! Time has come to cut ties with this very greedy country, get our share of UK assets and leg it out of this shambolic and one-sided union. All we… Read more »

David Pearn
David Pearn
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Well said.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Well, yes I would agree with most of those who have posted, but we do need to have more of a plan than jumping up and down saying we want Independence. We need everybody who can to be out there canvassing and making the key point that voting for a Tory at any level of government is about dstroying Cymru for private profit. The only solution is to be voting for non-Tory candidates. Once Cymru is Tory Free there will be more chance of influencing whoever is in power in Westminster to give us our fair share. Full independence will… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
8 months ago
Reply to  Frank

For UK read Russia.
For Westminster read Kremlin.
For Tories read Putin.

We are heading into the same situation as the Ukraine is currently experiencing right now.
If we resist then the UK troops could come.
Imperialism knows no bounds as the Ukraine found on the fateful day 22 February 2022.

We need to defeat imperialism wherever it occurries.
For a free Wales, a free Scotland, and a free Ukraine.

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