All change - or small change - for London boaters at the CRT strategy meeting?

Photo of a mooring bollard
Photo of mored boats

The Canal and River Trust has revealed its plans for London boating at a meeting with an invited focus group of boaters and other canal ‘stakeholders’ groups at the Pirate Castle in Camden earlier this month.

The “draft proposals” include “reviewing” 14 day stays on all visitor moorings, creating a “limited number” of new short stay moorings in central London, alongside increasing facilities and increasing towpath mooring rings and permanent moorings outside of central London.

The proposals were presented by Matthew Symonds, CRT boater engagement manager, and Sorwar Ahmed, CRT boating manager for the London region, to an invite only ‘sounding board’ for the CRT London Mooring Strategy, which was rolled out earlier this year, and is intended to “improve the boating experience in London and make it better than it is.”

Other proposals included creating a “limited” number of “daytime stop and shop” moorings, encouraging boater run community projects to create more facilities and permanent moorings, the possibility of higher priced winter moorings in central London, the creation of ‘eco zone’ towpath moorings in some areas and a “limited” increase in the number of bookable moorings for visitors to London.

Matthew Symonds warned that the details of the draft proposal were also contingent on the result of the next annual boat count survey, due to be completed at the end of March. “Are the boat numbers dropping?” he said. “Are they flat-lining? Or are they still rising?”

The draft proposals were intended to meet a set number of objectives, said Matthew Symonds, which amounted to “a better provision and management of a range of moorings, managing the “high number” of boats, to protect and generate income, to ensure “fair sharing of water space amongst competing demands” and to support the London waterways “as a tourism destination”.

Sorwar Ahmed said that some of the proposals where already underway and these included 125 new mooring rings - including 210m of new moorings in hard towpath at Old Oak - the mapping of gaps in facilities to identify locations for new services, a new elsan and pump out at Alperton for April, a few more water taps, a project to improve and make secure the facilities at Old Ford and Stonebridge, boating factsheets on mooring etiquette and boating in London are now with designers, and two full-time Mooring Rangers are now in post.

He added that the feedback from the sounding board would be added to other feedback from the consultation so far. He added that a set of more detailed revised draft proposals would then be put to a series of ‘area based focus groups’ throughout the summer, made up of invited boaters, canal side residents and other user groups. The results of the consultation and the London Mooring Strategy plan would be published by the end of autumn this year, he said.

Initial reactions to the draft proposals were mixed.

Steve Wicks, from the Lee and Stort Cruising Club, said that the draft proposals had not dealt with the concerns of “the leisure boater” and that “one pre-bookable mooring in the whole of the London area” was not enough to meet the needs of leisure boaters wanting to visit or navigate through London.

“If it hadn’t been for the leisure boaters over the last seventy years, CRT wouldn’t exist because the canals would have closed down. People weren’t living on boats for sixty or seventy years – it’s a fairly new phenomenon,” he added.

“It’s never going to go away, but the leisure boater still has a right, he pays his licence, his mooring fees, he looks after his boat – and he has got nowhere to moor. If something isn’t done for the leisure boater, then the leisure boating industry in the London region will die a death.”

Lee Wilshire, from the London Waterways Project and a member of CRT’s Navigational Advisory Group, largely welcomed the proposals, but was concerned that the London Mooring Strategy was covering ground that previous CRT forums had covered – but was more hopeful about the London Mooring Strategy because at least “it had a timeline for action.”

“I have for a long time felt and said that a very small quantity of 48/72hr moorings would do wonders for boating through London so I would welcome that. Speaking for myself I want to move at the weekend as I have to go to work in the week, however with central London as busy as it is, they present a good opportunity for people cruising through to be able to stop overnight or a bit more.”

“More rings and facilities - everyone moans at CRT but I know just how hard this can be to make progress with facilities, so some of the stuff they've managed to implement through partnership working so far is good and more of the same would be welcome.”

Mark Tizard, chair of the National Association of Boat Owners, said that whilst there was “nothing new” in the proposals, it looked like this time the result would lead to action on “what – no doubt – CRT see as the London problem.” He added that NABO supported the creation of more facilities and services for boaters and that the review of 14 day Visitor Moorings should be processed using CRT’s existing visitor mooring strategy document.

“On this basis we are comfortable that the availability of less than 14 day mooring should be assessed based on demand using the criteria in this policy document,” said Mark Tizard. “However I am not convinced that if you created 7 day and 48 hour moorings these would not just be filled by the existing boaters in the area.”

Marcus Trower, Chair of the London branch of the National Bargee Traveller Association and Deputy Chair of the National BTA, said that future mooring strategy consultation meetings should be made public, and that having invite only meetings was “a bit pony.” However, he welcomed some of the proposals whilst drawing a line in the sand over any reduction in 14 day moorings.

'We are pleased to hear that CRT says they are looking into providing more facilities for boaters,” he said. “We all know that they are much needed. We will continue, with the use of our survey we did, to help CRT find suitable places to put in these promised new facilities,” he added.

“We are also campaigning against any reductions in 14 days mooring places and we believe that rather than reducing 14 days moorings, CRT should dredge more currently unused canal towpath and increase the amount of 14 days moorings with mooring rings.”

“We happy to hear that CRT has said that it will not be making any more long term moorings or any kind permanent moorings on the towpath. However, due to CRT's lack of consulting us before taking facilities and public moorings away in the past, we must keep our eyes CRT to make sure that they don't say one thing and do another.”

The ongoing London Mooring Strategy is in addition to the recent national CRT Licensing Review consultation – which will also affect all London boaters - announced in a CRT press statement released on February 20th, the “first phase” of which appears to be underway already.

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