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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 26 February 2007

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CANAL Protest weekend across England

ACCORDING to the Lancashire Canal Trust, the £7 million cuts made by DEFRA last year and enforced again for 2007/8 have already forced BW to make 180 people redundant and now BW are obliged to reduce their program of planned maintenance.

"Nearly 300 cross-party MPs have supported our concerns but DEFRA have chosen to ignore public opinion. The cuts were made to recoup the £200 million losses that DEFRA incurred in administering non-waterways issues. MPs called on Environment Minister David Miliband to approach the Treasury to fund DEFRA's losses out of contingency reserves but he has refused.

The 200 year old canal network has a maintenance backlog of some £119 million and clearly needs to be continuously monitored by a vigilant, preventative maintenance program However; the cuts are forcing BW to postpone scheduled maintenance. Clearly, this will put at risk the condition of the 11,000 functional parts that make up the network, and this can only result in more costly repairs in the future.

Prior to the cuts BW were steadily reducing the backlog and planned to eliminate it by 2012. We believe that the cuts will jeopardise this important target and could also lead to a regression where much of the excellent (and costly) work of recent years will be undone and put parts of the system at risk of serious if not catastrophic failure and possible long term closures.

This is poor management of the penny-wise pound-foolish kind and puts at risk the well-being and safety of millions of people that use, and live alongside, Britain’s waterways.

In order to show the depth of feeling on these issues there are two Boat gatherings taking place in West and Central Lancashire area on Saturday 3 March 2007.

Both are intended to highlight the possible effect these cut may have on the huge investment made by local and national government, support groups and the public in reopening the Ribble Link which now connects the Lancaster canal which runs from Preston to North of Morecombe and the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which starts at Tarleton (between Preston and Southport and connects with the 2,200 miles of canals throughout England.

Since the Millennium Link has been opened the canal has now become an important part of the local communities and increased usage massively. Two major marina developments (already oversubscribed) are in place at Rufford with more than 200 boats berthed and the regeneration and development of the boat yards on the canal at Tarleton and on the River Douglas down below.

The first gathering takes place at Tarleton Wharf off Plox Brow between 12 noon and 2pm on Saturday 3 March 2007 where we expect the largest number of boats ever seen here at one time. People from the various organisations that make up the Save our Waterways campaign (see this link) including the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) who represent all waterways users, the National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) and members of Boat Clubs will be on hand to discuss their views.

The other gathering is at the Tithebarn Wharf in Garstang (between Preston and Lancaster) where between 12.30pm and 2.30pm a large number of boats will gather to symbolically block the canal and again be on hand to explain their case. This gathering has been organised and supported with the help of the Lancaster Canal Trust (who had a major hand in the momentum to create the Ribble Link) and various Boat Clubs as well as the IWA and NABO."
said Richard Carpenter, protest coordinator in Rufford.

Schools in Wirral sign up to popular initiative - "Living For Sport"

YOUNG people from five schools in Liverpool, St Helens and in the Wirral will join over 11,000 young people across the country who have been involved in Living For Sport, an initiative organised by the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with BSkyB to inspire and motivate young people aged 11 to 16 through sport.

Pensby High School for Boys, Pensby High School for Girls, Ridgeway High School, St Mary's Catholic College and Upton Hall School FCJ join some 500 schools who have taken part in this successful initiative.

Launched over three years ago, Living For Sport encourages young people to achieve their full potential using the spirit of adventure created by sport. It aims to engage young people with all areas of school life and to reach personal goals.

Schools which sign up receive a comprehensive package of support, including training for staff, resources for pupils, funding for activities and visits from a world-class athlete. Many of the participating schools are successfully combining Living For Sport with other initiatives in school, such as mentoring programmes.

Recent research on Living For Sport, published September 2006, conducted by the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University, has revealed that seven out of ten young people who take part show significantly improved behaviour and confidence, and over 85 percent of teachers feel that the project benefited their students.

The initiative is supported by the Department for Education and Skills and Dame Kelly Holmes, in her role as National School Sport Champion. Dame Kelly Holmes says:- "It is fantastic to see more schools getting involved in Living For Sport, which is proving to be a very successful initiative. We have monitored the results of the programme from the start and the evidence shows it is delivering a long term, sustainable benefit to those young people involved. It is vital that all youngsters have the opportunity to get involved in some kind of sport or activity they enjoy, and Living For Sport is helping many of them to do just that."

At the first national Living For Sport Awards ceremony in October 2006, Dame Kelly Holmes presented awards to young people and school leaders who had made exceptional progress in the initiative.

Sue Campbell, Chair of the Youth Sport Trust, says:- "We are extremely pleased that so many schools in Wirral have signed up to Living For Sport. We are now in our fourth year of helping young people gain self esteem and realise their potential through sport. We much look forward to seeing the achievements of all those involved."

Ben Stimson, Director of Corporate Responsibility, BSkyB, adding:- "We know that Living For Sport has a real impact on students and their attitude in many areas of school life. We wish these five Wirral schools every success in Living For Sport, and hope their example will encourage even more schools to become involved in the scheme."

For more information please visit www.sky.com/lfs or www.youthsporttrust.org.

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