Labour MEP Alex Mayer tells campaigners that continued closure of Welches Dam Lock near Manea is ridiculous and a wasted opportunity for Fens tourism
PUBLISHED: 12:35 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:35 04 April 2017
An MEP claims a blocked off lock at Manea is ridiculous and a wasted opportunity that is preventing boaters from navigating the local waterways and hindering tourism.
Alex Mayer, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough MEP, visited Welches Dam Lock on Friday (31) to meet with members of both the Peterborough Inland Waterways Association (IWA) and the Great Ouse IWA to discuss their campaign to unblock rivers and make them navigable again.
Ms Mayer agreed that opening the Welches Dam Lock, which was closed without consultation by the Environment Agency (EA) in 2006, would be a key step in allowing boaters to more easily navigate between the UK’s canal network and the Great Ouse system.
She said allowing boats to move easily around the area’s waterways would also be a boost to the tourism economy pointing out that statistics show boaters spend an average of £70 per night when they moor up.
Ms Mayer wants to put pressure on the Environment Agency to encourage them to take advantage of volunteers such as the IWAs to bring waterways like Welches Dam, which links the Horseways Channel with the Old Bedford River back into use.
She said:” We realise the EA is under pressure. It has had its funding cut by around 50 per cent in the last 10 years, which doesn’t help.
“But in this instance we are not asking for money, we are asking the EA to allow volunteers to carry out the work they need to do.”
Keith Alderton, chairman of the Great Ouse IWA branch, said they were deeply concerned not only about the waterways currently closed like Welches Dam Lock but also for the future of other rivers and canals.
He said the EA has warned where there are health and safety issues they will either carry out repairs, or if there is not money available to do that, close waterways.
“Clearly there is no money, so we are worried there will be more closures, making it even harder for boaters,” said Mr Alderton.
David Venn, chairman of the Peterborough IWA branch, said the lock at Welches Dam was closed for health and safety reasons, and the EA put in piling to protect the gates, but the piling is failing and water is getting round it.
The IWA volunteers want to carry out repairs and to clear the Horseways Channel but he said the EA has been uncooperative so far in allowing that to happen.
Irven Forbes, Anglian Waterways manager for the Environment Agency said: “The lock has been closed since 2006 because problems with its structural integrity make it dangerous to use. We share the IWA’s long-term aim of re-opening it, along with Horseway Arm, but doing so would cost in the region of £9m. Considering that we are not legally obliged to maintain these assets and relatively few people actually ever used them – just a handful a year – that expense couldn’t be justified over work on more popular routes that we are legally obliged to maintain.
“Nevertheless, we are working with the volunteers proposing to carry out repairs, to ensure their plans satisfy the strict safety regulations put in place to protect people who enter the lock.”