C R T waterways and properties won’t get the same protection from developers that the N T (National Trust) gets. The Canal & River Trust (CRT) has expressed concerns that provisions in the Growth & Infrastructure Bill, debated in a committee of the whole House in the Lords on Tuesday 22 January, will remove, or severely dilute, protections currently provided to waterways (whether as statutory undertaker land or as open space) under the present planning system.
CRT is particular concerned that land of statutory undertakers and most open space is to lose the protection of the special parliamentary procedure where a compulsory purchase proposal is objected to.
The National Trust managed River Wey.
In particular it notes that National Trust (NT) land held inalienably (including its waterways) will under the provisions of the Bill be afforded a higher threshold of justification and scrutiny in determining compulsory acquisition proposals than would be afforded to the historic CRT waterway network. The trust considers the waterway land settled on it by Government to be held in perpetuity on behalf of the nation is deserving of equal treatment to that held by NT.
CRT is not seeking outright protection of the historic waterways – it recognises that the public interest in permitting nationally significant developments (which the Bill will extend to business and commercial developments) may outweigh the public interest in preserving the waterways and their unique public benefit. Such justification should however be subject to the same threshold and scrutiny as is now thought appropriate for land held by the NT.
The trust’s understanding is that the Department for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) raised with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) the position of CRT not only as a statutory undertaker but as trustee of the Waterways Infrastructure Trust Settlement. Unfortunately CRT were neither approached about the impact of the proposed changes nor were they brought to its attention
CRT chair Tony Hales has written to DEFRA Parliamentary Under-Secretary Richard Benyon MP asking him to urgently press his ministerial colleagues at DCLG to move a modest amendment to the Bill in the Lords providing for equal treatment with NT’s land and waterways. He has also written to members of the House of Lords and other ministers in the same vein.