"Changes being proposed to the operation of British Waterways could be a major fillip for projects like the restoration of the
Lichfield and Hatherton canals" says Michael Fabricant.
The Conservatives have just announced a plan to redirect the focus of British Waterways from property speculation to greater
investment in inland waterways.
Tim Yeo, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment has said in a letter to Michael Fabricant "A serious area for government
concern, and one which we share, was the acquisition by British Waterway of Wood Wharf in London. Wood Wharf is not part of the
canal system. It is part of London’s docklands, an eight hectare (20 acre) site in the north east corner of the Isle of Dogs, but
the BWB acquired it as "the single most valuable property development" in their portfolio. This collection of low-rise industrial,
office and warehouse units was bought by BW as part of a "master plan" for mixed development with the London Borough of Tower
Hamlets. It is now being taken forward by BW with a consortium of the Canary Wharf Group and Ballymore Properties Limited, with the
purpose of creating 1,500 new homes, 3.5 million square feet of commercial floor space, including a new hotel, shops and offices,
and a central garden. There will be some waterside leisure activities, but these will be in the context of buildings with heights
ranging from seven storeys for the residential buildings to 35 storeys in the commercial area.
"In our view it is wrong for such an agency to risk taxpayer funds in speculative commercial ventures. Last year £197.4 million
total revenues in the profit and loss account produced a £4.8 million loss transferred to reserves, and the consolidated cash flow
statement showed £49.7 million capital expenditure, but only £19.7 million receipts from fixed asset sales.
"We do not question the canal reopening and restoration projects, such as the admirable plans for Droitwich, which have won the
financial support of Worcestershire County Council, Wychavon District Council, Advantage West Midlands and the Heritage Lottery
Fund. On the contrary, the whole thrust of our proposal is that we believe the BWB should focus greater attention on such
development schemes and less attention on commercial property speculation."
Michael Fabricant agrees. "I support any measure which will improve the maintenance and restoration of our canal system. The
completion of the Lichfield and Hatherton canals will bring additional tourism to Lichfield and to Burntwood".