Midlands canal network taken over by a charity

A boat coming through lock gates at Hatton Locks in Warwickshire Credit: ITV Central

The biggest change in the management of our waterways for decades comes into force today.

A charity is taking over the running of our canals and rivers from British Waterways.

Birmingham boasts a more extensive network of canals than Venice, and across the West and East Midlands there are nearly 500 miles of waterways, a quarter of the total in England and Wales.

From today they will be run by the Canal and River Trust. Those involved say having a charity in charge will open up more options for funding, including donations and sponsorship.

British Waterways was limited to the funding it received from the Government, with budgets stretched in recent years.

Dean Davies, from the new Canal and River Trust, says he's excited by the shake-up.

The focus for the charity will be to get more people involved in the running of their waterways. More volunteers will be encouraged to help out with local projects, effectively "taking ownership" of their stretch of waterway.

It will also continue education programmes to keep alive the history of our canals, an integral part of Midlands history.

The canals were built to transport goods and commodities during the industrial revolution.

Whole regions like the Staffordshire Potteries and the Black Country were developed and became wealthy because of their canals.

They are an integral part of Midlands history. In recent decades, leisure and tourism have taken over from commerce as the main focus of the waterways, with more boats on the water than ever before.