Environment Agency navigation changes years away

Minister says body will only lose responsibilities if the next spending review provides money for change

The Environment Agency will not lose its responsibilities for ensuring rivers are navigable until 2015/16, the environment department (DEFRA) has announced.

Last year, DEFRA said it was considering moving the agency's responsibilities to a new waterways charity formed from British Waterways (ENDS Report, October 2010).

On 28 February, environment minister Richard Benyon issued a written statement to Parliament confirming the government wants the charity to incorporate the 1,000 kilometres of rivers the agency currently manages.

However, it feels the body should be established in phases. Phase one will see British Waterways' assets transferred to the charity. The agency's responsibilities would not be transferred until April 2015 at the earliest and only "if sufficient funding can be found in the next spending review".

A consultation will be issued soon.

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