British Waterways set to hire for investment brief

British Waterways, the public corporation in charge of the country’s 2,000-mile network of canals and rivers, is in talks with City agencies as a controversial £5m investment programme gets under way.

National communication executive Jonathan Ludford, who is co-ordinating the pitch, said British Waterways had drawn up a shortlist that was 'not far away' from three agencies. He added that the brief had an 'investment element' but declined to elaborate.

An agency could be chosen for the account by the middle of October, Ludford revealed.

Earlier this year British Waterways confirmed 2005/06 budgetary plans as part of a long-term programme to double the number of visitors to waterway regions over the next eight years.

The body has also unveiled a series of branding projects, including the rebranding of its two flagship visitor centres, the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire and Standedge Tunnel in the Pennines.

British Waterways also plans to open 100 waterside pubs in a joint partnership with Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises.

It has 20 development sites earmarked for Waterside Pub Partnership, augmenting its wider £420m property estate.

The first pub, The Foxton Locks Inn, which sits on the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire, opened in June. The outlet was acquired and developed at a cost of about £600,000.

British Waterways is still recovering from a stinging attack by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in April. Defra criticised the corporation in a pre-Easter report on British Waterways' policy, which highlighted conflicts between its public role and its growing commercial interests in property and marina businesses.

The report said British Waterways needed to engage with its stakeholders and 'must have due regard to the principles of fair competition, the limits of its statutory powers and its core competencies'.

British Waterways appointed Four Communications in March to review its stakeholder relations (PRWeek, 25 March).

The appointment was part of the corporation's attempts to boost income from commercial ventures.

Tom Williams recommends

British Waterways

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