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Canal & River Trust timeline

Over the past two years British Waterways has been moving steadily towards transferring its canals and rivers to the ownership of a new waterways charity, the Canal & River Trust. Here we track the key moments in its progress.


8 February Voting in the Canal & River Trust Council elections is open from today until 9 March.

31 January The Government agrees more than £1 billion of investment to help secure the best start for the Canal & River Trust.

The names and manifestos of the private boaters and boating business candidates standing for election to the Canal & River Trust Council are published. Voting will be open from 8 February until 9 March.

25 January Daniel Charles is appointed as the Trust's individual giving manager.


22 December As the year draws to a close the Trustees publish a report on their progress to date.

20 December The Government responds to the supplementary consultation.

The response clarifies a number of technical aspects related to the Transfer Order, and confirms that the new Trust will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act for those statutory functions which it inherits from British Waterways.

12 December There are now lots of opportunities for canal users to get involved with the Trust. Many of the Waterways Partnerships are recruiting for either Chairs or Members. Nominations are also open for people to stand for election to the Trust's Council.

Recruitment is also underway for three new trustees.

21 November It is announced that nominations will open on 12 December for the elected roles on the Canal & River Trust Council. There will be four elected roles for boat license holders, two for boating businesses, and one for employees.

6 October It is announced that the new charity will be called the Canal & River Trust. The new logo, designed for free by agency Pentagram, is also unveiled.

The founding trustees release a detailed report into membership, governance, funding, management and other matters relating to the new charity.

20 September The new waterways charity starts recruiting people to chair its Local Waterways Partnerships - which will give local people a greater say in the running of their canals and rivers.

12 September Defra releases a report on its consultation about the charity move, showing broad support for the proposals. A supplementary consultation is launched into the legal framework for transfer of the waterways to the charity.

24 June Plans are announced for the NWC to join forces with The Waterways Trust in April 2012. BW chairman Tony Hales says this news is "tremendous" while Frances Done, chairman of The Waterways Trust is "delighted".

14 June 2011 The final appointments are made to the trial waterway partnerships. The new partnerships will now work with waterway managers to advise on and influence the management of canals and rivers. Roger Hanbury, chief executive at The Waterways Trust, comments: “The applications to join the trial Local Partnerships show how much enthusiasm there is for the waterways, and the substantial body of support that the new waterways charity will be able to tap into.

1 June 2011 Ruth Ruderham is appointed as the first ever head of fundraising. Simon Salem, director of marketing at British Waterways, says: "Ruth will lead the waterways charity into a new era of voluntary giving. It’s one of the most exciting fundraising challenges around right now.”

24 May 2011 The appointment of the founding trustees is announced. The eight founding trustees bring a wealth of senior level experience of managing heritage, volunteering, leisure, boating and commercial interests, and will work closely with the British Waterways Board until the charity takes control.

21 April 2011 Pentagram, a multi-award winning design agency, agrees to work free-of-charge for British Waterways. The agency will offer free advice and guidance on the new waterways charity’s name, logo and imagery. Pentagram is a global agency, whose clients include Citibank, The V&A, Tiffany & Co, The Co-operative and Tesco.

6 April 2011 Chairs are appointed to two new trial Local Waterway Partnerships in the West Midlands and the North West. Together with the trial already underway on the Kennet & Avon Canal, these new partnerships will work with local waterway managers until the new waterways charity becomes fully operational in 2012. Their role will be to advise and influence the management of canals and rivers.

March 30 2011 Defra announces the start of a three-month public consultation on the future of the waterways. Exciting times as British Waterways’ chairman Tony Hales says: "I believe the proposals will build upon the recent waterway renaissance to ensure they never again revert to the dereliction and decline that saw part of the network abandoned and filled in during the 20th century.”

February 2011 The Government announces its intention to transfer British Waterways’ owned navigations in England and Wales to the New Waterways Charity in 2012. The headline grabbing announcement that the Environment Agency’s navigations will move to the New Waterways Charity in 2015 is also made. British Waterways' chairman, Tony Hales welcomes the Government's continued commitment to the planned 'national trust for the waterways' and hopes the EA navigations will be able to benefit in the future.

January 2011 The search is on to appoint seven 'Transition Trustees' who will be instrumental in establishing the new 'national trust' for the waterways. Four trustees will be new and, to ensure continuity, three would be members of British Waterways’ existing Non-Executive Board. Transition Trustees are expected to be in post in April 2011 and will form part of the charity's first Board when the charity takes over the running of the waterways in 2012.


18 November 2010 The Scottish Government announces that British Waterways Scotland will remain in the public sector, sponsored and funded by the Scottish Government. It will not be part of the new charitable trust which British Waterways in England and Wales will become by April 2012. Steve Dunlop, director, British Waterways Scotland, says: "Whilst we will be saddened to see the end of our cross-border organisation, the Scottish Government's decision heralds an exciting new chapter for the canals in Scotland.

14 October 2010 The Government announces its intention to transfer inland waterways in England and Wales into a new charitable body.

21 June 2010: Richard Benyon, the new waterways minister, issues a written statement recognising the important role of Britain’s canals and rivers outlining the Government’s support for exploring a third sector model for the waterways. He says: “The Government considers civil society has a very valuable role to play in delivering public services as part of our commitment to creating a Big Society. We will therefore be continuing to look in detail at whether a third sector model would be appropriate for British Waterways, including the possible inclusion of the Environment Agency’s navigations as the other navigation authority grant aided by Government.”

May 2010: General election and change of government.

24 March 2010 BW welcomes the UK Government’s announcement in its Budget Statement of plans to move England & Wales’ canal network into a ‘mutual’ organisation, such as a charitable trust. The Budget statement also recognises the importance of British Waterways’ property endowment in helping to fund the long-term care of the waterways and recommends that it be ‘charity locked’ for the benefit of the network. While the proposals relate only to British Waterways’ network in England and Wales, positive discussions are underway with the Scottish Government about how Scotland’s waterways can benefit from any proposed changes.


23 December 2009 British Waterways’ chairman Tony Hales welcomes Defra’s consultation on its strategy for the inland waterways in England and Wales, Waterways for Everyone – which included the recommendation that British Waterways be mutualised.

17 December 2009 British Waterways publishes Setting a new course, Britain’s waterways in the third sector. The report, produced by a team of third sector experts, sets out in more detail what a third sector British Waterways would look like and incorporated input from waterway stakeholders including those at British Waterways' Annual Meeting.

7 December 2009 The UK Government ends speculation about the sale of British Waterways’ property endowment in England and Wales by announcing its preferred approach to "consider alternative models for the business as a whole, such as mutual or third sector structures." (The Labour Party later made this a manifesto commitment).

May – November 2009 Over six months British Waterways holds a series of stakeholder meetings to discuss its strategy with councils, devolved assemblies, partners, waterway communities and third sector organisations. In particular it discusses the ideas with Defra, which sponsors and funds the organisation’s activities in England and Wales, and with the Scottish Government, which is responsible for British Waterways Scotland. British Waterways also seeks to raise greater public awareness of the contribution waterways make to modern Britain and to debate the most appropriate structure for the new waterways charity.

18 May 2009 British Waterways launches a national debate at the House of Commons on the future of Britain’s waterways and their role in the 21st Century. British Waterways proposes that the organisation be taken out of direct state control and into a new ‘national trust’ for the waterways.

Last updated: 08/02/2012

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