The consultation sets out plans to scrap British Waterways and create a charitable trust to manage more than 4,000 kilometres of canals and rivers.

Most of the waterways in the UK are managed by either the Environment Agency or British Waterways, but the coalition government plans to ditch funding for the group.

Environment minister, Richard Benyon, said: “We want to unlock the true potential of the waterways, so that they are valued and enjoyed by even more people.

“Creating a new charitable body for waterways will give people the chance to have a greater say in the running of their local canal or river.”

British Waterways’ chairman, Tony Hales, said: “The Government is now embarking upon the biggest shake-up of the waterway governance since nationalisation in 1948.

“I believe the proposals will build upon the recent waterway renaissance to ensure they never again revert to the dereliction and decline that saw part of the network abandoned and filled in during the 20th century.”

Luke Walsh

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