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The Future of Basingstoke Canal To Be Decided by Hampshire Councillor

Published on: 9 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 10 Mar, 2024

By Natalia Forero

local democracy reporter

Basingstoke Canal could stop leisure activities like boat hire and camping because they’re not financially viable.

Ash Lock in 1973 before restoration. Wikimedia

The 32-mile-long Basingstoke Canal was jointly acquired by Hampshire and Surrey County Councils in the 1970s to manage risks, protect the canal, and provide public recreation.

It is a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and due to its hydrological biodiversity and effective management of its ecosystem, it is home to numerous nationally scarce species of flora and fauna.

Ash Lock, restored, in the 1980s. Geograph.

The Basingstoke Canal Partnership was established to fund the canal operation following restoration in the late 1980s. The partnership includes a number of “riparian” partners like district, borough and town councils that contribute financially to the running of the canal.

See also: Basingstoke Canal At Risk Through Decline in Funding

In 1992, county councils for Hampshire and Surrey, as landowning authorities, created the Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA). The BCA has no legal or corporate identity but under the arrangement, Hampshire employs the staff, provides IT and finance support to the authority, and Surrey manages the visitor centre at Mytchett.

Paddleboarders on the Basingstoke Canal at Ash. Paul Appleyard 

The Canal Partnership comprises the two county councils and six local borough and district councils (Hart, Rushmoor, Guildford, Surrey Heath, Woking and Runnymede). They have provided revenue funding and supervisory management for the BCA through the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee.

However, according to a prepared report, the current arrangement is not financially sustainable. In 2023/24, the cost of the canal required a draw of £192,000 on existing reserves to cover a shortfall in income.

The canal is funded by the landowning authorities and the riparian funding partners but some have indicated the reduction or withdrawal of their contributions, like Woking and Rushmoor Borough Council, which confirmed it was pulling all funding in 2023/24.

Due to the withdrawal of some funding, the two landowner authorities commissioned an external company to review management and recommend a sustainable operating model.

From the five alternatives, the chosen one indicated that the Basingstoke Canal Authority will continue to deliver statutory requirements and leisure navigation.

However, under this option, the authority will no longer deliver activities such as boat hire, camping, running the visitor centre, and events.

The proposal will be debated at the universal select committee (March 11), and the executive member for countryside and regulatory services, Hampshire County Councillor Russell Oppenheimer, (Con, Petersfield Hanger) will take a decision later that day.

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