I WENT along to the River Users’ Group Eight meeting on Tuesday at the Thames Motor Yacht Club in Molesey and was delighted to hear chairman Mike Shefras announce that after a lot of haggling with the Environment Agency the group had secured an undertaking that no more lock houses would be let for the next year while the agency re-examined the arguments about the need to have lock-keepers on site at the locks for which they are responsible.
Of course, that won’t be the end of the matter and I still think everyone who lives on our stretch of the Thames needs to remain vigilant and to continue to lobby for the lock houses to be occupied by lock-keepers.
As I’ve said in this column on several occasions, I have a good deal of sympathy with the EA which has been badly affected by Government funding cuts and by the Sword of Damocles hanging over it with the threat of responsibility for the Thames being switched to the Canals and River Trust.
And I also hear what Matt Carter from the agency has repeatedly stated about the threat of flooding on our reaches of the Thames – that the river is a very slow-reacting waterway and that there will therefore be plenty of time to send out keepers from remote locations to open the weir sluices if necessary.
I understand the financial arguments but I just think we must continue to fight to retain as many lock-keepers as possible ‘on site.’
One thing I would like to make clear is my whole-hearted support for the Environment Agency to continue to be responsible for the River Thames.
The agency has years of experience of dealing with the river and the thought of having a new and untried group with even fewer resources than the EA being asked to take on that responsibility is very worrying.
If you agree with that position, write to your local MP and say so.
ONE of the other things to come out of the RUG8 meeting was an announcement by secretary Bernard Hales that the public right of way from Chertsey Lane on the Surrey bank to the river’s edge opposite the ferry steps at the end of Wheatsheaf Lane, Staines on the Middlesex bank is to be re-opened.
That’s partly thanks to readers of this column who responded to a request to share their memories of using the right of way before it was blocked off.
Several people got in touch and that appears to have done the trick. Well done, guys.
LOOKING for something to do on Sunday? Why not get along to the Weybridge Ladies’ Rowing Club Spring Fair at their boat club site on the Thames Towpath off Walton Lane, Weybridge?
The fair will run from 11am until 3pm and will feature live music, a bouncy castle and face-painting, along with a host of stalls selling second-hand books, garden produce, homemade cakes and biscuits and the like. There will also be trial rowing demonstrations.
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