It is imperative that any Third Sector/Civil Society/Big Society trust is sustainable.
Currently BW is acknowledged to be underfunded.
The Treasury are keen to relinquish responsibility for the inland waterways while ensuring the national assets are not put at ownership risk.
If the trust does not have sufficient income it will need to either close waterways or sell off what aspects of the non-operational assets they are gifted.
The cheaper solution is to think bigger. Take water as a resource and put that into the Third Sector. All aspects of water, currently within the Environment Agency, including flood defence, use and conservation, ecology (WFD), industry (OFWAT) and navigation can be set into a Water Trust.
This thinks way outside the box, but could capture the imagination of the public who would actively be involved in managing what is one of the country’s most precious resources.
Why does this idea matter?
The 200plus years heritage of the canals can either be preserved for posterity – even at a price – or consigned to a degenerating rump of open sewers through city centres or across the country. Remember that to remove and/or fill in and /or close a canal will cost government significantly more that it costs to run them. Place the waterways within an organisation that can handle the vicissitudes of needs and expertise.