Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 14:09 UK

Lock keepers' cottage sale halted

The Environment Agency's plan to sell a third of lock keepers' cottages has been put on hold for at least six months.

Campaigners, MPs and councillors have heavily criticised the plan to sell 10 of 57 properties along the River Thames as a cost-cutting measure.

The agency has put a final decision on hold until a further review, which is expected to take six months.

Kim Benge of Save Our Service vowed to fight on until the plans were dropped.

Mrs Benge, who is a lock keeper's wife, added: "This does not change anything, we will not be happy until we are told every cottage is safe.

'Bitter end'

"I don't think the Environment Agency expected such a feeling against the plan or the negative publicity they have suffered.

"Our next concern is that in six months time these plans will try and be put through unnoticed but our campaign will continue until the bitter end."

Under the plan, a further 12 properties would be rented out privately as they are no longer needed for "operational reasons", the agency said.

Last week, Oxfordshire County Council warned the proposal showed a "cavalier" approach to safety and said it would affect the ability of the county's emergency services to rely on lock keepers at times of flooding.

In a statement the Environment Agency said: "We have agreed to put on hold any changes until we have completed our full review of waterways staff.

"No action will be taken to sell or rent lock houses until these negotiations on the full review is completed.

"We anticipate this will take six months."


SEE ALSO
Safety worries over keepers row
18 Jun 08 |  England
Meeting in keeper's cottages row
23 May 08 |  England
Lock keeper's cottages to be sold
23 Apr 08 |  Oxfordshire
Floods hit about 900 properties
25 Jul 07 |  Oxfordshire
Thames flood sees homes evacuated
25 Jul 07 |  Oxfordshire

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The Independent Letters: Don't fear the state - 42 hrs ago
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