Two hours: It’s not much to ask you to give up…

Chance to have your say on protecting one of our finest assets – our beloved stretch of the river

I think that a lot of people take the view that they have little control over their surroundings and the way they live their lives because they have no voice – no one to represent their ideas and to try to speak up for them.

Perhaps that’s true in some circumstances.

But for river users and river lovers there is a way to make your views known – via the River Users’ Groups (RUGs).

These bodies have been established all along the Thames and the one that represents our area – from Teddington to Bell Weir – is called RUG8.

It meets twice a year, in the spring and autumn, to discuss issues that affect the river ranging from management and maintenance, regulations, planning, crime, ecology, pollution and strategic development.

RUG8, chaired by Michael Shefras from Wraysbury, will be holding its autumn meeting in the clubhouse of the Thames Motor Yacht Club at Hampton Court on the evening of Thursday, October 11 – and I’d urge everyone who cares about our beautiful stretch of the river to come along – it’s in your own interests.

At the moment, the Thames is managed by the Environment Agency while most other navigations have now moved under the jurisdiction of the recently created Canals and Rivers Trust (CART).

A review in 2014 has been scheduled by the government to decide whether the Thames should continue to come under the EA or be moved under the jurisdiction of the trust. The majority of Thames users have said they wish the Thames to continue to be managed by the Environment Agency.

Now I’ve been fairly critical of the EA in the past over some issues but when you take into account the financial restrictions under which it operates and the complexity of the problems involved in the management of the river, I have to say it does a truly remarkable job – and I’m firmly in favour of keeping it as the responsible body.

The EA has a working group called  ‘The Future of Navigation’ to assess the sustainability of the River Thames for the next ten years and the RUGs form part of the pipeline through which you can make your views known.

Another body called the River Thames Alliance (of which all the RUGs are members) is updating its waterways plan and the rivers users’ groups have each been asked to present three priority issues that affect our stretch of the river – and that’s going to be one of the topics of discussion at the October 11 meeting.

Mike Shefras said: “It is imperative that representatives from all the groups who live beside, work beside or use the River Thames in our area be part of the ongoing debate about the management and development of the river. More than ever, we need their support at our meetings and I hope as many as possible will come along.”

Some of the topics under the spotlight include an update on the numbers of lock keepers and the leasing of their houses, reports from Surrey Police and Surrey Fire Brigade on river-related matters, reports from the EA on local issues and its customer charter and a discussion about the ‘Future of Navigation’ plan.

The meeting starts at 8pm and normally goes on for two hours or so – not a great deal of time to give up if you want to have your say about the future or our river.

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