HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc303-5W
Mr. Pearson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action the Government are taking to encourage more freight to be transported on United Kingdom inland waterways. [56429]

Ms Glenda Jackson

The Government are keen to encourage greater use of inland waterways, where that is a practical and economic option. The Department currently gives Freight Facilities Grants for inland waterways schemes where freight would otherwise have gone by road. The Department will be re-examining the rules of the scheme to try to encourage more applications for inland waterways. The budget for the Freight Facilities Grant was increased this year by one third to £40 million.

In addition the Department—as stated in the Government's White Paper "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone"—is working to update planning guidance on transport which will encourage more freight to be carried by water. Local authorities in their development plans will be expected to consider opportunities for new development which are served by waterways; and to give better protection to sites and routes, both existing and potential, which could be critical in developing infrastructure to widen transport choices, including water transport.

Mr. Pearson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action the Government are taking to encourage more leisure and tourism activities on United Kingdom inland waterways. [56430]

Mr. Meale

The Government believe the waterways are a substantial asset and have an important role in a number of areas such as leisure and tourism, heritage, amenity, conservation, regeneration and transport. We want to raise the profile of the waterways and increase their potential. We intend to publish in the next few months an inland waterways policy paper.

It is estimated that over 10 million people visit the waterways each year, representing a total of over 280 million informal visits. Within these figures there are: 1.6 million private pleasure boaters, 350,000 holiday hire boaters, 1.5 million pleasure trip boaters and 4.6 million angler visits. The inland waterways generate an estimated £10 million each year in water-related tourism expenditure, and £2.78 million in hire boat expenditure. It is estimated that 63,000 people are employed in water related jobs.

The Government-sponsored British Tourist Authority (BTA) is actively promoting the waterways of Britain and Ireland. The campaign, involving partnerships with the main waterway industry operators, local authorities and National Tourist Boards, is promoted through most of BTA's 46 overseas offices. BTA's brochure 'Waterway Britain and Ireland' presents waterway travel as an alternative, sustainable way of touring the British Isles.

The day-to-day management and operation of the inland waterway network rest with British Waterways, the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and a range of other public and private bodies. The three main navigation authorities work closely with BTA, regional and national tourist boards and with the private sector to promote leisure and tourism opportunities on their respective waterways.

The Association of Inland Navigation Authorities, which represents around 30 authorities, is finalising a strategy for the inland navigations of the United Kingdom.

This will include objectives for the navigation authorities to meet in relation to developing tourism and leisure opportunities on the waterways network.

The Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council is undertaking a report to demonstrate ways in which the waterways in West Yorkshire can be developed for tourism, leisure and community use.