ANT appoints Waterways Ombudsman to handle complaints

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New independent final level in the event of river user complaints

The Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) has joined The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme to give its river users an independent final third level for complaints.

The Scheme will provide independent dispute resolution for customers, from 1 January 2020, on top of the Trust’s current in-house complaints procedure. The move replaces the previous arrangement where an Independent Trustee/Director was the final escalation point for complaints.

Commenting on the news, Kevin Fitzgerald, Chair of the Waterways Ombudsman Committee, which oversees the independence and accessibility of the Ombudsman, said: “ANT is demonstrating its commitment to its customers with the appointment of the Waterways Ombudsman. Investing in complaints handling is a clear sign that they want to provide the level of service that their customers expect.”

ANT Chief Executive, Clive Matthews, commented: “We actively encourage feedback and make it as easy as possible for people to have their say. We get very few complaints but The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides a valued, independent system of adjudication if customers are not satisfied with the outcome of our own investigation.”

The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides an independent and impartial means of resolving disputes outside the courts at no cost to the complainant. It can investigate disputes between complainants and ANT that have been progressed through ANT’s internal complaint handling procedure, or those that have reached a deadlock stage. Complainants must contact ANT directly to seek a resolution to their complaint before they can escalate the complaint to the ombudsman.

Sarah Daniel, the Waterways Ombudsman, said: “I am delighted that ANT has joined the scheme. When I visited the office at Mill Wharf I was impressed with the commitment to providing a personal, effective and efficient service to customers.”

More details about the Waterways Ombudsman Scheme can be found at

Sneak preview of trailblazing River Avon projects

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Worcestershire and Warwickshire VIPs enjoyed a sneak preview of Avon Navigation Trust’s exciting plans in the pipeline, including an Evesham Lock Island initiative that will gift a big opportunity to local young people.

The long-term vision is to transform the island and the iconic triangular former lock-keeper’s house into the charity’s (ANT) second wildlife haven and a new riverside youth activity centre for the town.

Key members of local authorities, organisations and MPs were invited to the special presentation on ANT’s river pontoon at Stratford-upon-Avon to hear about the small charity’s big work to date and trailblazers to come.

Directors of the Trust detailed the success of the recent projects, including the first of its wildlife wonderlands at Pershore Lock Island.

ANT Chairman Jack Hegarty also unveiled plans for the launch of Project Neptune, which will also boost youth engagement up and down the Avon corridor.

Guests were treated to a trip on board ANT’s Eric the tugboat to enjoy the town’s river festival and to get up close to Dutch barge Neptune, which has been renovated with the support of Evesham Marina.

The historic vessel will be fitted out overwinter for its big 2020 launch as a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) training centre and mobile youth engagement hub, in partnership with Bonkers Activities, experts in Stand Up Paddleboarding and paddlesport provision on the river.

“In addition, Neptune will be the home of the ANT Squad of young volunteers, spearheading our initiative to future proof the Avon by encouraging young people on board to become our boaters and volunteers of the future,” explains Chief Executive Clive Matthews.

Evesham Lock Island’s condemned building can no longer be used as a dwelling because of access in the event of flooding.

ANT aims to submit plans to replace it with a similar strikingly shaped building for use as a fair-weather youth hub, with training facilities.

“Evesham will get a riverside youth activity centre on an island that will be transformed into a wildlife haven, also enabling young people to get involved in nature conservation.

“Protecting and encouraging wildlife is part of our ongoing drive as custodians of the river,” says Clive, who has added Consultant Ecologist Dr Fiona Sharpe MCIEEM to his expert team.

“As a life-long resident of Evesham, I think the project for the island and the iconic lock house would be a great asset to the area and one which I am really excited about. I am really pleased that the project has been identified during my year as Chairman of Wychavon,” adds Wychavon Chair, Councillor Frances Smith.

Plans will be drawn up to be shared with the public and for application for planning permission. 

The charity continues to be busy applying for grants and creating fundraising initiatives to fuel its work and enhancement plans.

“We also rely heavily on the support of our local authorities, organisations and businesses and this first major VIP event was our way of saying thank you and to showcase our future projects,” added Chairman Jack Hegarty.


Welcome to our Avon’s future: ANT Chairman Jack Hegarty is pictured third from right with some of the VIP guests (from left) Evesham Marina boss and Project Neptune supporter Steve Smith and partner Fran, Stratford Town Trust Chief Executive Sara Aspley, Stratford District Council Chairman Councillor Christopher Kettle, Worcestershire County Council Chairman Peter Tomlinson, Stratford Mayor Councillor Kate Rolfe, her husband Mike Rolfe and ANT External Funding Director Penny Clover.


NT Chairman Jack Hegarty is pictured (first left) with some of the VIP guests (from left): Stratford District Councillor John Feilding, Stratford Town Trust Trustee Lindsay MacDonald, ANT External Funding Director Penny Clover, Wychavon District Council Chair Frances Smith, Warwickshire County Council Chair Councillor Nicola Davies and Worcestershire County Councillor John Smith.

ANT beaming after 17th century find at Evesham River Avon Lock

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SURPRISE DISCOVERY of original structure

Avon Navigation Trust engineers uncovered a nasty surprise but also a rich slice of history when they plunged into major work at Evesham, their third complete lock refurbishment in as many years.

The scheduled dewater, repair and upgrade project hit a serious snag when the ANT team’s usual in-depth survey revealed that crumbling 380-year-old stonework behind the lock meant the wall was in danger of collapse.

However deeper investigation also unveiled the actual historic lock structure, built by Fladbury engineer William Sandys back in the 17th century.

“It was a fascinating discovery and, we believe, a first for the Avon,” says the Trust’s Chief Executive Clive Matthews, who led the ANT team.

“We know that some of the locks, and most of the mills, were built on top of a raft of elm beams, probably taken from sailing ships.

“But Evesham’s is constructed from U sections of beams every ten feet and we only discovered there were uprights when we were trying to work out why the walls had lines of damp.”

The ANT team has a rolling maintenance programme and has perfected its methods for major work on the 17 locks on the 22 mile navigation.

Once engineers had drained the 535 gallons of water, they were able to work unhindered to repair the wall and two leaking cills.

Other improvements included adding new handrails and future-proofing the lock with modern engineering solutions, leaving it all well and good for the next 30 or 40 years.

The team took the opportunity to add a conduit under the dry lock to deliver power and water to the Evesham lock island moorings for the first time.

Clive is also trialling an ANT innovation at Evesham to foil an inherited problem on some of the historic locks.

The Top Paddle Deflector will divert the plume of water that shoots out when the paddles are raised.

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What lay beneath: historic elm beams used to build the lock when William Sandys was authorised to make the Avon navigable from Tewkesbury to Stratford-upon-Avon, with King Charles I’s Letters Patent in 1635.