Canal and Rivers Trust highlight ‘devastating consequences’ of funding cut

Image: Grand Union Canal by Brentford Lock; Photograph Canal and Rivers Trust

Trust campaigns for political parties to recognise ‘devastating consequences’ of funding cut for UK’s canal network

The charity which works to maintain and improve many of the UK’s rivers and waterways, the Canal and Rivers Trust, say they are facing a “steep reduction” in funding in the run up to the general election next month.

The Trust is calling on all political parties to recognise the value of canals and invest in their future. They say many are at risk of either closing or entering a period of managed decline.

Since the Government announced a new funding settlement for the charity in July 2023, the Trust has been in a constant state of campaigning to recuperate losses they have incurred from their current grant agreement.

A £300 million cut over ten years

The Trust says the amount they were awarded from the Government represents a £300 million real terms cut over a ten-year period, a reduction they say will have “devastating consequences on our canals and the people and wildlife who rely on them.”

In the hopes of swaying an incoming Government to review their funding settlement, the Trust is calling for all political parties to commit to recognising the importance of the UK’s inland network of canals, reservoirs and docks and their contribution to communities, businesses, nature, the water supply and the fight against the effects of climate change.

When masses of rubbish gather in waterways the Trust manages, or when pollutants are illegally dumped there, the charity has to bear the brunt of the clean-up effort. Without proper funding, they will not be able to do their job properly, if at all. Filthy, littered waterways could become much more regular sights.

Image: Rubbish and debris regularly gathers and is cleared from the Grand Union Canal by Hanwell Weir, Thousands of litres of cooking oil was dumped into Grand Union Canal by Little Venice earlier this year

Donation drive “not enough to cover funding shortfall”

Volunteers from the Trust seeking small donations are being deployed across the country, including at the end of Grand Union Canal by Brentford Lock. But small donations only make up a fraction of the Trust’s income and cannot realistically bridge the £300 million funding shortfall. The majority of their funding comes from the Government.

“Such a steep reduction will inevitably result in a decline in the overall condition of our waterway network, and, alarmingly, the possibility of canal closures. It puts at risk invaluable natural habitats, historic infrastructure and cherished public spaces” the Trust adds.

The Canal and River Trust say they could assist any new government with the “enormous challenges” they will face – from the climate emergency and its impact on nature, water and the environment, to widening inequality and the cost of living and health crises.

The canal network is itself under threat from the effects of extreme weather, with resources stretched to breaking point potentially risking lives and livelihoods and nature habitats.

“Yet with the right partnership with government, we know that we can continue to play our role in tackling these challenges together, safeguarding the huge returns that a resilient canal network can deliver for the nation – valued independently at £4.6bn in annual social value and £1.5bn financial economic benefit…

“Our canals have become vital to the world today, in ways unimaginable to their original architects 250 years ago. We must not take them for granted. With the right support, our canals can continue to deliver even more environmental, social and economic benefits for all.”

To donate to the Canal and Rivers Trust or find out more information, go to their website at:

Brentford Canal festival this weekend

Trust members will be at the Brentford Canal festival this weekend, a celebration of our west London waterways and Brentford’s industrial heritage.

This is the third year of the event that takes place across various locations in Brentford: Market Place, Brentford Lock Piazza, Workhouse Dock, Bradshaw Yard, The Gauging Lock, Ferry Quays, the Grand Union Canal and River Brent.

The free day out celebrates canals and waterways. They have a 60 seater free boat trip, street, traditional and folk dance from eight dance troupes, live music across five stages with 20 performers, paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, a variety of street food and drink stalls, artisan and maker stalls, craft workshop for children, guided heritage tours.

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