The new approach, contained in the Asset Portfolio which accompanies the Smarter Government White Paper, confirms and builds on the conclusions of a previous Treasury report in April 2009 which concluded there was no financial or economic case to sell off the property assets and a sale of the property endowment would not achieve best public value.
British Waterways’ waterside land and buildings, which range from brownfield regeneration sites to 18th century warehouses, fund a significant proportion of the maintenance of Britain’s historic waterways and have been vital to the recent renaissance of the 200-year-old network.
The income BW received from its property portfolio last year was £45.2m. Without this the network of canals and waterways, much-loved by many (3.4m visitors enjoying the network in a typical two-week period in 2008), would return to a state of decay and ruin.
British Waterways’ chairman, Tony Hales, comments: “British Waterways’ canals, rivers and docks create over £500 million of public benefit annually and we share and welcome the Government’s commitment to unlocking the potential of the network and delivering best value for money to the taxpayer. We are pleased that the Government wishes to explore with us the benefits of a third sector approach to the waterways. We need long-term security for the future of the historic network and believe third sector status together with our property endowment provides the basis for that security.”
“The waterways would not be the place they are today without the passion and commitment of waterway stakeholders and partners and we very much look forward to working with them to further develop our thinking on a third sector strategy.”
In the last decade Britain’s inland waterway network has undergone a widely acclaimed revival, with more than 200 miles of canals built or restored and record number of boats and towpath visitors using the system. British Waterways is influencing and enabling an estimated £10 billion of waterside regeneration, which has helped towns and communities across the country to rediscover their local waterway. This revival has been made possible thanks to the support of Defra and the Scottish Government, the lottery, local authorities and countless volunteers and enthusiasts.
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