12 Jul 2012

Two thousand miles of canals transferred to new charity

A charity described as a new ‘national trust for the waterways’ is launched to help clean up 2,000 miles of historic canals and rivers across England and Wales.

Canals close to the Olympic Park in London (Getty)

The Canal & River Trust is taking over from British Waterways and the Waterways Trust to restore and conserve the waterways of England and Wales. The new charity, founded with more than £1bn of government aid, becomes the third largest owner of listed structures and buildings in the UK after the Church and the National Trust.

The move represents the first major transfer of infrastructure from the state to the charity sector.

The launch coincides with the trust’s first appeal for volunteers as 50 projects are unveiled to restore canals across England and Wales.

The trust aims to build upon the public passion for the nation’s canals which rescued them from dereliction and decline in the last century, with half of the population living within five miles of one of our canals and rivers.

By pledging time or money, the ten million people who visit the waterways can get involved in projects such as creating wildlife habitat, planting orchards and restoring neglected towpaths.

The Prince of Wales is patron of the charity, which already has the support from the government, the People’s Postcode Lottery and The Co-operative Bank. Search engine giant Google will also be working with the trust to map towpaths on Google Maps.

The trust aims to give people a greater role in managing their waterways. The move is the single largest transfer of a public body into the charitable sector and is underpinned by a guaranteed 15-year funding contract with the government.