Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Right survey - wrong place

We've just been for a walk along the Severn to Bewdley (pretty Georgian town but crushed by traffic volume and noise).
Passing the Stourport funfair we were accosted, politely, by a very pleasant lady doing a survey on behalf of British Waterways about our reactions to the waterways becoming a charity "like the National Trust".
It was pretty clear from the questions this was a survey aimed at non-boaters but nevertheless the questions were pretty decent; rate various waterway elements such as wildlife, heritage etc etc in importance, how valuable were the waterways, how often did we use the towpaths and the nitty-gritty: what would we be prepared to contribute to become a member of it as a charity, what benefits would attract us (a magazine, free entry to special events and such like) and might we consider volunteering.
Sound questions, I think - or as sound as any market research survey can be - but two questions come to mind.
Firstly, why do the survey on a riverside path that's actually nothing to do with BW (it's above the town bridge and beyond the official end of navigation) and a path at that which is more part of a town park than the waterway and as much used by trippers visiting the funfair as anyone.
Would anyone bar a tiny minority seriously offer to pay to use it?
But the second question is wider. Who, other than boaters - who already pay heavily - and anglers - who pay too - would cough up cash to use the canals and towpaths? And what could possibly persuade them? All the cyclists, runners and walkers who enjoy the canalsides - what could a charity membership possibly offer them that they'd think worth £50 a year. And what is the sanction if they don't want to join?
As far as I can see there's only one: let rural towpaths become overgrown except where maintained by local volunteer groups and lock off the urban ones to all but members with their BW Oyster cards. Hardly inclusive but in no other way can I see this waterway charity notion raising money except by taking it from those who already pay. Us.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Wouldn't it be a good idea to just take a little bit of money off everyone, proportionate to their income, say, and put it all into one big pot to pay for things like this. They could call it, oh, I don't know, income tax?