You may remember that a couple of years ago, and largely as a result of the furore created by the Save Our Services campaign, the national media attention attracted by the lock-keepers wives, and the intervention of MP’s with constituencies on the river, the EA were forced to back down on their plans to sell lock-side cottages.
It turns out that we might all have been somewhat naive in our acceptance of this ‘U’ turn, believing it meant that the presence of a resident lock-keeper would therefore be secure. Now we know that this appears not to be the case.
It would appear that the EA are now considering renting out some of the cottages with a view to raising revenue which could be used to support other requirements but, if this is allowed to proceed, the reality is that they will probably never be returned to active service.
The lock at Chertsey has been without a resident lock keeper for two years now and the lock cottage has been vandalised while empty. We understand Cleve, Sunbury and Grafton may also be under consideration for letting.
It would be interesting to know how the economics of doing this stack up. The properties will, presumably, need renovating before letting which itself will require expenditure before any income will be generated. If the funds can be found for renovating to let, then why not for continued occupancy by resident lock keepers? How long will it be before any meaningful income starts to show in the bottom line and will it be significant in the overall order of things?
If there is one issue above all others that will shape the future face of the river and the EA service to boaters we believe it is this one. Not once have we seen any alternative proposals from the EA that might permit a more positive approach to the retention of the resident lock-keeper model.
Let us know your views about this issue and vote in the POLL