Canal & River Trust response to email from working party

Published: 26 June 2020

Dear Ewen and Mr Reohorn,

Further to my earlier email to Ewen, and also in response to Mr Reohorn’s email to Richard Parry, once again I am very sorry to hear that problems are persisting despite the great deal of effort and time members of my team have spent in trying to address those issues within our gift and work with others such as the Police, Warwickshire County Council, the Residents Association and local residents to try and address these serious and understandably worrying incidents for local people.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that Canal & River Trust have taken the following actions to address the significant problems. My Area Operations Manager, Tim Booker, met with both the Chair of the Residents Association and Chair of the Earlswood Lakes User Forum on 19th May and agreed a number of actions, all of which have now completed and we continue to react to this evolving situation.

  • Antisocial behaviour and drug use – It is important to point out that Canal & River Trust staff have few enforcement powers, we are the landowner and so we have been working closely with the Police to ensure sufficient Police resources are targeted at the Lakes to help address the issues. The Trust held a meeting with Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and both Warwickshire and West Midlands Police. This has led to the issuing of a dispersal order and a daily presence by officers, addressing issues of antisocial behaviour, motoring offences and breaches of social distancing rules. It is currently a priority for their tactical support team to help reduce the issues which have increased exponentially since the first lockdown restrictions were eased. In addition to this, the Trust has enlisted the services of a private security company to patrol the Lakes between 6pm and 12.00 mid-night each evening on a temporary basis, starting tonight.
  • Car Park - The team are fixing the traffic prohibitor known as ‘crocodile teeth’ on the exit to Wood Lane Car Park, so that it is operational and allows the entrance gate to be locked. We are more than supportive of this gate being locked earlier in the evening. Tim Booker, spoke today with our local volunteer who locks the gate to check on his welfare and he is happy with the action being taken. The private security patrol will help to enforce this.
  • Traffic and parking – In addition to enforcement carried out by Police for dangerous parking and traffic offences, Warwickshire County Council continue to carry out enforcement action regarding parking on the double yellow lines. The Trust is pursuing a Traffic Regulation Order with Warwickshire County Council to restrict public use of the causeway by motor vehicles.
  • Signage – A range of signs have been erected at the Lakes over the last three weeks to advise of social distancing rules, prohibit cycling, reservoir safety and antisocial behaviour. Despite our efforts to replace these signs on a regular basis, they have been persistently removed, sometimes within hours of being erected. We will continue to replace signage on a regular basis to help enforce key messages and we are grateful for the help of local volunteers in trying to maintain these.
  • Cycling – Cycling is not currently permitted, so in addition to the no cycling signs, we have installed two new gates. Unfortunately, these have also been vandalised which we have repaired and we will continue to repair as necessary.
  • Fishing – Our Fisheries Manager has attended, sometimes with the Police, on ten separate evenings in the last three weeks to advise those fishing in the evening that night fishing is not permitted, monitor the levels of unauthorised night fishing and move on anyone in breach of these rules. We have recently reduced the number of fishing platforms. The private security patrol will help to enforce this.
  • Litter and flytipping – over the last three weeks we have increased contractor litter picks and collections to three times per week, in addition to that carried out by our operations team and local volunteers. We have removed a significant amount of flytipping, which increased with the closure of local authority recycling centres. Hopefully we will see a reduce in this now that they are reopen.
  • Water levels – The Trust has now been able to restore the water level and reduced the area of lakeside beaches where groups have been congregating recently.

It is very troubling to hear about the issues near the Lakes last night. I understand that this was partly on land not the ownership of the Trust, but believe that these issues will only be fully addressed by working together, making best use of the resources available. The Trust has produced a newsletter (copy attached) which will go to local residents shortly, outlining what we have done so far to address the issues and how to best report further issues, but I would welcome further constructive dialogue with the Parish Council and key organisations to help ensure the Lakes are a pleasant and safe place to visit.

Best wishes