As part of the consultation, which launched last week (22 August) and is expected to close on 14 November 2011, Defra is seeking feedback from waterways authorities, non-governmental organisations, local authorities and communities.

IWAC was established in 2007 by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 to advise the Government and navigation authorities on the use and development of Britain’s waterways.

The advisory council currently covers all inland waterways in England and Wales, while in Scotland it covers inland waterways which are owned or managed by British Waterways.

However, last month (July 2011), the Government announced its intention to close IWAC as part of its review of arms length bodies which plans to move management of inland waterways from British Waterways and the Environment Agency to a new charity in April 2012. This decision was agreed by Scottish ministers.

According to a Defra spokesperson, “the Government has decided there is no longer need for an organisation to provide advice for policy development and abolishing IWAC will save around £200,000 per year.”

Meanwhile, the consultation document stated: “Closing IWAC will not result in less emphasis being placed on the importance of inland waterways”, it added that in its place a proposed New Waterways charity would be formed through a long-term funding contract.

Despite its intention to close IWAC, the Government has said it wants to consider respondents’ views before reaching a final decision. The final consultation results are expected to be published in December 2011.

If IWAC is closed the Government is expected to continue to work closely with delivery bodies including the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA) stakeholder representatives, local authorities and communities.

IWAC’s chair, John Edmonds told edie that its council is currently discussing how it will respond to the consultation and is set to meet next month.

Carys Matthews

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