The Canal and River Trust, the charity managing waterways in England and Wales, has been launched today and announced Prince Charles as its patron.
The charity will take over the assets, staff and responsibility for management of the canals from British Waterways, a non-departmental public body.
It has also unveiled its first appeal, asking for money to support 50 projects to improve wildlife habitats and restore disused towpaths. It also announced a ‘friends’ programme, which will give regular donors discounts to museums and attractions up and down the waterways.
It has already signed up three corporate partners: Google, which has included waterways and towpaths on Google Maps, the People’s Postcode Lottery and the Co-operative Bank.
The charity is the largest transfer of a public body into the charitable sector. It will be the 13th-largest organisation in the voluntary sector, with an income of more than £200m a year. It has agreed £800m of funding over the next three years with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Prince Charles was already a patron of the Waterways Trust, an independent charity with a turnover of about £4m, which announced last year that it would merge with the CRT when it came into existence and has now done so.
In a statement on the CRT website, the prince says the waterways are a vital part of the national heritage."I’m so pleased that this new organisation has been established to care for this most precious of assets," he says.The prince says he is particularly keen to pay tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who worked to maintain the waterways.