Lancaster Canal Trust squeezed out?

July 2017 - Lost in the battle of wills between North West Waterways Manager Chantelle Seaborn and those like Colin Ogden, who want to see swift restoration of the Lancaster Canal's Northern Reaches are the existing volunteers of the Lancaster Canal Trust, who find themselves without a role, as Peter Underwood reports.

Whilst the Owd Lanky Boaters group tops 1,000 members and Colin Ogden doggedly explores every avenue to get the restoration of the Lancaster Canal north of Tewitfield under way – even to the extent of adopting the first, abandoned lock flight if C&RT allow it – C&RT indulges in a series of public relations stunts, using the revived Lancaster Canal Partnership as the lead body.

All of which leaves the original restoration body, the Lancaster Canal Trust (LCT) distinctly sidelined and now little more than an adjunct to the partnership, led by the IWA's Audrey Smith and Chantelle herself.

The Canal Trust has also been emasculated as many of those actually doing any restoration, or fund-raising, work have been driven out, especially by C&RT's refusal to allow the Trust's volunteers to do anything at all for more than two years, following a heated row over the painting of milestones.

In recent months, the Trust has been taken over by officers acceptable to C&RT and is now allowed to attend partnership meetings and C&RT photo-opportunities. Any attempts at dissention have been stifled with no fewer than three attempts to call an Emergency General Meeting, with at least 20 members willing to back the idea, turned down by the LCT executive

However acceptable the chiefs, the Lancaster Canal Trust is now distinctly short of indians, and even the basic upkeep of sites, including one from which the Trust runs it's trip boat Waterwitch, doesn't seem to be done.

The trip boat itself is also looking sad and in need of new paint, but when former Trust committee member Frank Sanderson offered the skills of his art class of other former Trust members he was told: “No, it must be done professionally”.

It now seems the new chair has realised that all the people the new officers had discouraged were the ones now needed.

In Frank's words: “I have tried to keep out of this unpleasantness and concentrate on Canal Art at shows such as Country Fest. Perhaps this was realised as the worthy chairman came up with painting a mobile toilet block as an alternative.”

This prompted the following from one of the Trust's supporters.

"We have a mobile toilet, as everyone can see,
The chairman wants it painted up with art when we can wee.
Just think what names it could be called by all our local wit,
Bye all my troth I really think that this is not for me."

Frank Sanderson added: ““There have been no work parties for the last two years, despite Chantelle saying the embargo did not cover these two rented places, and I have never seen the stables and Millness depot looking so bad".

“I also took pictures of the monstrosity that they may tow around after we had perhaps painted sweet william, bog myrtle and lavatera all over it.

If Colin Ogden's Owd Lanky Boaters group gets the go-ahead to adopt the Tewitfield lock flight - and Roy Gibbons, C&RT's Customer Service Supervisor has already submitted the group's plans to restore the site of a lock cottage on the flight to the Trust's heritage and environment team and is offering a site meeting – it leaves the Lancaster Canal Trust looking, at best, ineffective; at worst, untrusted.

Given it's long history of lobbying for restoration of the Northern Reaches before it was emasculated by C&RT in a pointless row over whether or not milestones should be painted white, that would be a tragedy.

Photos: (1st) Lancaster Canal Trust squeezed out? (2nd) Instead the new Chair of the LCT suggested they might paint the mobile toilet instead, (3rd) The two sites used by LCT have not been cared for - despite being excluded from C&RT's ban on work parties, (4th) Some of the canal art produced by Frank Sanderson's group - but their offer to paint the LCT trip boat was turned down.

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