Agenda item


Purpose of the report:  Scrutiny of Services


To inform Members on the progress made in ensuring the safety and sustainable future of the Basingstoke Canal.





Lisa Creaye-Griffin, Countryside Group Manager


James Taylor, Strategic Manager- Basingstoke Canal


Philip Riley, Basingstoke Canal Society


Key points raised during the discussion:


1.   The Chairman of the Committee informed Members that the Canal is unusual in that it is not fed by a reservoir but by rainfall. He questioned officers over what happens to the surplus rainfall. Officers told the Committee that the Canal was designed without a reservoir as a cost saving measure and that especially during winter the Canal experiences high levels of runoff water which is discharged into the river network lower down the Canal through locks and sluices. The Chairman of the Basingstoke Canal Society added that back-pumping, a system involving the recycling of water aided by pumping mechanisms, is an option being explored for tackling water flow issues on the Canal in the future.


2.   Members commented on how interesting the slides about the Basingstoke Canal were and asked that they be circulated among Members.


3.    Members asked officers about the role Mychett Lake plays in the Canal’s water supply. Officers informed the Committee that because Mychett Lake is connected directly to the Canal, water levels cannot be attenuated independently in the lake and it is therefore not currently useful as a water supply. Officers added that the construction of a secondary bund separating the lake and Canal is a future option for tackling this.


4.   The Vice Chairman questioned officers over whether, in a time of austerity, the Canal should be a priority for funding. Officers along with other Members of the Committee expressed the view that the Canal is an asset for local residents which is highlighted by the large number of people that visit the Canal on a regular basis and whom benefit from increased health and wellbeing as a result of what the Canal has to offer. Members stated that the Canal plays a strategic role in Surrey’s flood risks. Officers echoed this point whilst adding that there is potential for income generation from managing water runoff.


5.   Members asked when the report being carried out by JBA Consulting, as reference in paragraph 26 of the report, is likely to be expected. Officers informed the Committee that it is expected next month and this will be used to assess the Canal’s future options.


6.   One Member reiterated the view that the Canal is an asset by stating that water leisure is one of the fastest growing industries, but expressed the need to develop a business plan and find a partner that could bring expertise and finance. Along with this is the need to define exactly how much land comes with the Canal; it was suggested that commissioning some students to map the Canal’s land ownership might be a useful project. This idea was recognised by officers as an opportunity they would look into. 


7.   A Member made the point that the plan to regenerate the Basingstoke Canal Centre was interesting but underplays itself, as £3 average spend per person is too low.


8.   Members enquired as to what funding agreements exist between Surrey Borough, and District Council’s and the Basingstoke Canal Authority; a particular reference was made towards Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) input. Officers informed the Committee that GBC pay £30,000 annually; this was based on a 2008 agreement which set out how many local authorities should pay based on the length of the Canal within the authority. Officers added that problems arise when local authorities don’t meet this agreed funding.


9.   Members drew attention to paragraph 27 on page 97 of the report and questioned why JBA Consulting’s evaluation of the Basingstoke Canal Authority’s methods of managing risk is not contained within this report. Officers stated that this evaluation is susceptible to change.


10.   There was a discussion around the need for the Committee to receive a regular update on the progress of the Canal. Officers informed the Committee that the JBA report was expected by April; the result of this would help steer future planning. The Chairman of the Committee asked Officers to produce a series of milestones on when the Committee can expect to hear an update on a Basingstoke Canal Authority’s business plan and the JBA report.   




The Environment and Transport Select Committee;


a)    noted the canal update and next steps


Actions/Further information to be provided:

·         For the Scrutiny Officer to discuss with the Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning the possibility of setting up a task group to look at the future management of the canal.

·         For the Scrutiny Officer to send the committee the PowerPoint presentation shown at the meeting.

Committee Next steps:



Supporting documents: