After months of waiting for DEFRA to announce its decision on future grant funding for the Canal & River Trust (CRT), and less than a fortnight after the launch of Fund Britain’s Waterways (FBW), the Secretary of State has now confirmed that the Government plans at least to continue providing grant funding to CRT beyond March 2027 when the current grant comes to an end.

Whilst this is welcomed, FBW members including, British Marine, are deeply concerned that the Secretary of State has only gone as far to offer “over £400m” for the ten-year period from April 2027 which marks a further dramatic cut1. According to CRT it will equate to at least a 40% reduction of funding in real terms compared to recent levels2. The current funding, which has been fixed at £52.6m per annum since 2021, is already failing to keep up with inflation and the physical toll that more frequent severe weather is having on the waterways’ infrastructure.

DEFRA’s offer is simply not enough to avert the decline of CRT’s network, particularly given the charity already faces a financial deficit of £12 -15m. The grant it receives from DEFRA makes up almost a quarter of its income and is critical in helping it lever in other sources of income and fund its essential maintenance programme. As Richard Parry, Chief Executive of CRT, has said3 the proposed funding cuts from 2027/2028 will have a potentially “devastating impact”.

FBW is campaigning to ensure that beyond this Parliament there will be sufficient grant funding to retain the huge environmental, economic and social benefits that Britain’s inland waterways provide. That includes the 2,000 miles of waterways managed by CRT which alone contribute £6.1bn per year in economic and social value4. It is why, as part of FBW’s broader campaign, it will continue to work with CRT and others to encourage the Government to rethink this week’s funding announcement.

Lesley Robinson, CEO, British Marine commented: “Our priority is to safeguard the interests of those British Marine members whose businesses depend upon CRT being able to continue maintaining a safe, navigable waterway.   This is why we need assurance from both DEFRA and from the CRT that there will be sufficient funding beyond March 2027. After all it is the leisure marine industry that brings life to our inland waterways by drawing millions of people every year to enjoy boating and other watersports. It also provides thousands of jobs and through its extensive supply chains and associated tourism is critical to so many local economies up and down the country. DEFRA’s latest announcement is concerning and unless the offer is increased it will put the future of UK’s inland boating industry at risk.”

Les Etheridge, Chair of FBW, said: “The Government must take heed of CRT’s warnings. Otherwise, these proposed cuts will result in the closure of waterways, harming businesses and placing communities at risk as the condition of CRT’s waterways inevitably deteriorates.”

Carl Onens from British Marine Inland Boating added: “As managing director of ABC Leisure Group which operates 18 marinas across England and Wales and employs 350 people, I am concerned the latest statement from DEFRA means that businesses could be left in future to address the inland waterways funding gap.  As boating businesses, we already make significant contributions through our licence fees and rent to help enable the CRT to maintain the vital workings of its canal network. Government should think again because any risk of canal closures would be devastating for businesses and communities as the CRT network provides a highly valued asset to local communities which are enjoyed extensively, free of charge, by the general public.”

For more information about Fund Britain’s Waterways, or to join the group, please visit or email