When in trouble - hire a spin doctor

March 2017 - Peter Underwood has been looking at the 'cunning plan' of C&RT in the North West to get out of the swamp of failure it has created on the Lancaster Canal and its abandoned Northern Reaches.

The Canal & River Trust has finally decided to do something about its squabbling with the Lancaster Canal Trust – which has effectively neutered the organisation - and the failure of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership to do anything effective about restoring the Northern Reaches.

The solution offered by North West Waterways Manager Chantelle Seaborn is appointing a former British Waterways Public Relations Manager as a £250 a day consultant spin doctor to raise the Partnership's profile.

The task shouldn't be too difficult as the partnership between local councils, the Lancaster Canal Trust and the IWA and C&RT has been virtually invisible for the past three years, with little or no money from cash-strapped councils and the Lancaster Canal Trust banned from working on the canal by Chantelle Seaborn in a spat over painting mile marker stones.

Instead the initiative has been seized by Burnley~born plumber and canal enthusiast Colin Ogden, whose 900-strong Owd Lanky Boaters Facebook Group, have restored bridges and built relationships with landowners along the defunct Northern Reaches, as well as running highly successful events such as towing Colin's boat along the canal bed to the terminus at Kendal.

He has gathered acres of press coverage along with appearances on the regional broadcast media.
However, Chantelle Seaborn doesn't seem to see his success in a positive light.

The minutes of the January meeting of the Partnership record that: “Chantelle Seaborn noted that credible organisations need to have a strong press presence and that the Lancaster Canal does face a press challenge which needs professional guidance.”

They report that Richard Trevitt of the Lancaster Canal Trust noted the 'disproportionate amount of PR gained by various splinter groups in comparison to LCRP'.

Both Chantelle Seaborn and the IWA's Audrey Smith apparently 'provided an overview re such groups'.

Just what they had to say about Colin and his substantial group of supporters is unrecorded, perhaps unsuprisingly.

Chantelle Seaborn, who declared an interest as C&RT employee, nevertheless went on to 'highly recommend' the skills of the spin doctor she was proposing to pay out of the Partnership's funds, praising her 'skills and exceptional ability to create positive PR'.

The paragon being so fully recommended is Lynn Pegler, who was a communications manager with British Waterways between 2000 and 2006 and recently re-joined the Canal & River Trust as a consultant to provide maternity cover for Chantelle Seaborn's North West press office. She runs the PR consultancy Pegler Communications.

According to the IWA's Audrey Smith the consultancy deal will provide the Partnership with a 'communication strategy, regular PR to raise its profile, and a PR protocol to manage future PR activities across the partnership and a guide to support the Chair and Project Manager when PR opportunities arise'.

Canal and River Trust enterprise manager Nick Smith asked if the £4,000 being paid to Lynn Pegler was the upper limit of the communications budget, to be told that additional marketing costs, whilst not expected, 'would be covered from alternative budget lines'.

The first fruits of that £250 a day deal may be some BBC filming on the canal for a programme later this month.

Photos: (1st) NW Waterways Manager Chantelle Seaborn, (2nd) Lynn Pegler, the former BW press officer, now employed as a PR consultant, (3rd) Cllr Nick Cotton, (4th) Canal and River Trust enterprise manager Nick Smith, (5th) Cllr Sue Sanderson.

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