A bumper £13.2 million will be spent on essential repairs and improvements to hundreds of navigational sites and structures along Environment Agency-managed rivers this winter.

Announcing the record level of spending for the 2007-2008 works programme, Julia Simpson, Head of Recreation, Navigation and Marine, said: “Our teams of engineers and divers are ready to get to work on a host of projects over the forthcoming months.

“Thanks to enhanced funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), we have made great strides in tackling much-needed jobs, such as replacing old lock gates, on our waterways over the past two years. These crucial works help to make the rivers safer and more accessible, so it’s great that we’ve got the support to carry on making progress.

“We know the public – from boaters to canoeists to towpath strollers – want better mooring facilities, more landing stages and improved walkways. We also believe this investment will help encourage more people to get out and about, be fit and active and enjoy the nation’s magnificent inland waterways.”

The River Thames heads the winter programme, with almost £6 million-worth of much-needed works being carried out over the forthcoming months. The largest project will take place at Teddington where £850,000 will be spent on major repairs to the Lock Island, including the stabilisation of banks that are collapsing because of erosion exacerbated by this summer’s exceptional rain and fast flows.

Pinkhill Lock will also undergo a vital £500,000 refurbishment and public power will be installed at Godstow, Clifton, Mapledurham and Marsh Locks. This work will allow boaters to open lock gates automatically, rather than manually, when the lock keeper is off duty.

Meanwhile, the continuation of a five-year programme to replace landing stages along the River Great Ouse, and the on-going restoration of a unique scheduled monument – South Ferriby Lock, are just two of a range of diverse projects that will be taking place in our Anglian Region, which includes Norwich, Peterborough and Lincoln.

Work on installing nine new landing stages on the River Great Ouse by 2012 got underway earlier this year with the replacement of the Castle Mills Downstream Landing Stage and another replacement is planned for this winter.

Almost £200,000 has also been earmarked for further renovations to the lock at South Ferrriby. Working closely with English Heritage, who must approve all alterations to the historic structure built back in 1842, we will be modifying the system for filling and emptying the lock, replacing access steps and carrying out general safety works around the site.

In all, £2.7 million of Defra-funding will be spent on upgrading navigational sites and structures in this region. A further £2.5 million from external partners will also pay for the start of Phase 1 of the Fens Waterways Link – preparation work for the building of a new lock at Boston.

Planning permission has just been granted for the lock, which will be situated at Black Sluice on London Road, and construction work is due to start early next year.

The Link will eventually create a new circular waterway route through the Fens. The Boston Lock, which is being built in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council, the East Midlands Development Agency and Government Office East Midlands and cost a total £8 million, is the first key to this Link, connecting the tidal Boston Haven to the South Forty Foot Drain.

Finally, almost £2 million will be spent on 15 projects on Kent’s River Medway. Among the works to be undertaken between November to March here will be:

· A £400,000 refurbishment of Hampstead Lock. This will include the restoration of old lock walls and the installation of new safety and mooring bollards

· Improvement works at Allington, also totalling around £400,000. This will include stabilising an eroding bank, better facilities for the boats currently moored there and the creation of a new, safer slipway

· The ‘re-skinning’ of Oak Weir Lock gates. This will involve replacing dilapidated gate timbers with new ones to give the gates a further 15 years of life.