Environment Agency 'extremely short-sighted' over Ely mooring sales

September 2017 - Once again the Inland Waterways Association is berating the Environment Agency in the East of England, this time over the sale of assets as Peter Underwood reports.

The organisation wrote to Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of EA, to ask him to withdraw the sale of three lengths of moorings in Ely ahead of the advertised closing date for sealed bids of 8th September. A plea that seems to have been ignored.

The plots amount to over 300 metres of river frontage in total and the IWA says that: “...disposing of this land is extremely short-sighted, given that the businesses and moorings at this location bring in an income to EA as the navigation authority.”

It also says it is: “... extremely concerned at the impact the sale will have on the three waterway-related businesses based on the site: Bridge Boatyard, which has been operating for over 40 years and which is now the only holiday boat hire company on the River Great Ouse, hotel barge Water Nimf and The Boat Yard boat restoration business.”

The association estimates that Bridge Boatyard brings between 2,000 and 2,500 people on to the river each year on their hire boats, and says the loss of the business would: “... have a serious effect on the tourism and leisure use of the river and consequently on the economy of Ely and other towns and villages along the river through loss of visitor spend.”

The IWA understands that the land is being sold as it is considered “surplus to operational requirements” but says that the moorings at the site are essential for income and the future sustainability of the river, and that the land should therefore be retained in EA ownership.

IWA National Chairman, Les Etheridge, said: “IWA considers that EA has a statutory duty, through the Anglian Water Authority Act 1977, to support recreational use of the River Great Ouse, not to hinder it.

“Whether the Environment Agency continues to be the navigation authority or whether these waterways are transferred to CRT, we think that ongoing income is essential in preventing further asset deterioration and waterway closures, and in optimising the leisure, tourism, health, well-being and economic benefits of these waterways.”

As well as asking for the sale of these three moorings to be withdrawn, the IWA has also asked Sir James for details of any other land, property or assets being considered for disposal elsewhere on the River Great Ouse, or on any other navigation run by the Environment Agency.

It says: “Where these are providing an income to EA or being used for moorings, IWA considers that they should be retained for long term benefit.”

In addition to writing to the EA, IWA has also written to local MPs and district and county council leaders, many of whom have also stated their concern at the implications of the sale.

IWA members and supporters have also written to their MPs objecting to the proposed sale and local waterway organisations such as the East Anglian Waterways Association are also campaigning about this issue.

The IWA says it has not yet heard the outcome of a meeting that was understood to take place last week between Lucy Frazer MP, the leaders of East Cambridgeshire District Council and EA to discuss the issue, and has to date received no reassurances from the Environment Agency.

Photo: Bridge Boatyard in Ely, under threat by proposed EA sell off. (picture courtesy of IWA).

User login