Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

River Thames lock and weir keepers' jobs saved

Adam and Kim Benge
The Benges have lived at Cookham lock for 14 years

Lock and weir keepers on the River Thames will keep their jobs after unions reached a deal with the Environment Agency.

The agency has agreed to shelve plans to sell 10 and privately rent 12 of the 57 properties on the river.

Save Our Service campaigner Kim Benge said: "When the snow defrosts it will increase the volume in this river and someone has got to monitor it."

The new contracts "cover a range of terms and conditions", the agency said.

The cottage where Mrs Benge lives with her husband Adam, 49, who has been Cookham's lock keeper for 15 years, was one of the 22 properties included in the agency's plans.

'Specialist job'

"Things are getting back on track and staff are working with the management," she said.

"[Being a lock keeper] is a specialist job but I believe it is trade that will eventually die out."

The campaigners, who have been backed by MPs and councillors, have worked for two years to get the agency to alter its plans.

Thames region west area manager Simon Hughes said: "We have worked with our staff and the unions to reach agreement on the new terms and conditions.

"We are confident that we can now move forward together to concentrate on managing the river efficiently and effectively, delivering the services we provide when and where customers need them."

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