In response to campaigners' letters about lock houses, Defra writes that British Waterways runs the Thames

Oh dear. If you’re looking for reassurance that central Government understands your concerns about the sale and renting out of lock houses on the Thames, look away now.

In an embarrassing slip, or rather, slips, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has been responding to campaigners that have written to it with concerns for the future of the Thames thusly: “British Waterways own 57 houses [on the Thames] and have 45 lock sites and some of the houses are not located on the lockside.”

And further: “British Waterways will still provide the same standard of service in managing weirs and water levels that are an important part of flood risk management on the Thames.”

In fact, British Waterways, which has nothing to do with the Thames, is mentioned no less than five times in the standard letter of response, and the Environment Agency, which runs the navigation, not once.

As any inland boater will know, British Waterways runs the country’s canal network, and the EA its rivers. There are crossovers, such as the Severn, but these are few and far between.

Such a stunning oversight may be symptomatic of an unwieldy bureaucracy, but it does nothing to instil confidence in those that hope the Government might understand their concerns and act on them.

After being contacted by MBM for comment on the mistake, Defra said: “This was an unfortunate oversight, a simple mistake made in drafting the letters which was not spotted before they were sent.

“Corrected letters and an apology are being sent to all concerned.”

For all the latest on the lock house story, make sure you pick up July’s MBM, out 19 June.