In a Parliamentary reception today British Waterways seemingly gained cross-party support for its plans to become a third sector organisation

In a Parliamentary reception today British Waterways seemingly gained cross-party support for its plans to become a third sector organisation over the next decade.

In the first step of its 2020 Vision, BW is proposing a public debate, looking at alternative ways of managing its waterways. Central to its 2020 Vision is the idea that rather than being publicly or privately owned, it will eventually become a third sector organisation in a similar vein to that of the National Trust. BW says this will not only help change its public image and help garner support in the local community, but it will also open up its funding options, something it hopes will help bridge its annual funding shortfall, which runs into millions.

Charlotte Atkins, Labour MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, hosted today’s reception. In her speech, Atkins underlined the importance of looking after boaters on Britain’s 2200-mile canal network. She said, “We need to ensure that we charge boaters prices that aren’t so high that only the very rich can afford it. Without the vibrancy that boaters bring and the focal point that they create, people would stop using the waterways.”

Peter Ainsworth, Conservative MP for East Surrey and Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire joined Atkins. The trio united in their support of what BW is doing to protect the future of the waterways.

BW now plans to spend the next few months consulting its stakeholders and customers to get their reactions to its proposals. BW considers this period of public debate the first step in a 10-year plan and it hopes to put forward something more concrete for consultation early next year.