LETTER: ‘Can the Environment Agency please explain why they don’t keep waterways navigable’

Drainage map

Drainage map - Credit: Archant

I read with interest of John Revell’s recent attempt to navigate the Old Bedford river in his narrowboat, thwarted for the second time this year by uncut weed.

I understand that John was also one of group of boaters who, earlier this year, were prevented from navigating the Horseway Arm of the Forty-Foot drain, because the Environment Agency has closed Welches Dam lock and drained the water from that section of the navigation.

I recently wrote to DEFRA asking whose responsibility it is to maintain local navigations. DEFRA have just replied, providing me with an Environment Agency plan, dated December 2015, which confirms that both Old Bedford river and the Horseway Arm of the Forty-Foot drain are, in their own words, ‘Environment Agency Statutory Navigations’.

The Environment Agency should step up to the mark and fulfil their statutory obligation to keep these waters navigable.

We boaters have a statutory obligation to buy a boat licence before we enter the Environment Agency’s waters, so as we’re paying for the navigations, can the Environment Agency please explain why they don’t either keep them in a state we can actually use them, or refund our licences?