CRT to introduce mooring strategy for its entire waterway system

The Canal & River Trust (CRT) moorings strategy for London announced on 29th April 2016 will be used as a template for the rest of the waterway system. Despite CRT’s recent announcement, the London strategy has been under way since at least early 2015 and its use as a template or ‘pathfinder’ for the rest of the system was announced at the National Users Forum on 24th February 2016. According to Matthew Symonds of CRT, the development of a national mooring strategy is an opportunity to look at creating ‘premium’ moorings, which inevitably means there will be a mooring fee.

The national mooring strategy is being developed with CRT’s Navigation Advisory Group Licensing and Mooring Sub-Group, which now includes several boat dwellers without home moorings. CRT states that it is looking at six different mooring streams; data is or will be gathered and there will be ‘stakeholder engagement’. The mooring strategy will cover short-stay visitor moorings, short-stay ‘premium’ moorings, residential moorings, general towpath moorings and winter moorings.

This is bad news for boaters without home moorings as previous experience on the Lea and Stort Navigation in 2011 and the Kennet and Avon Canal between 2009 and 2015 demonstrates that ‘mooring strategies’ mean clearing Bargee Travellers out of an area in order to make more room for hire boats and leisure boaters. The NBTA believes that there is enough room for everyone on the waterways and that such mooring strategies are unnecessary and are a vehicle for the social cleansing of the waterways. Creating ‘premium’ short-term moorings for a fee effectively makes parts of the waterways a no go area for Bargee Travellers. The NBTA is opposed to any reduction in 14 day mooring space.

The pathfinder moorings strategy for London was discussed at the Navigation Advisory Group meeting in June 2015. The use of the word ‘pathfinder’ implies that it was always intended to be a template for the rest of CRT’s waterways.

Sadly we have been here before. In August 2009 former Head of Boating Sally Ash was present at a meeting in which a local Councillor said that the mooring strategy being developed for the western Kennet and Avon Canal would be “very much a ‘template’, that if successful, could be used elsewhere on the BW network”. The representative of the local Canal Trust said at the same meeting that he was aware of the need for action to regulate mooring and to reduce the number of ‘liveaboards’ in the area, and that the Trust’s objective in ‘reducing unauthorised long term mooring’ was to open up the canal to greater leisure cruising.

Shortly before, Ms Ash had stated in an email that “A properly researched and consulted long-term mooring strategy for the waterway that reflects the aspirations of all stakeholders – local communities and businesses, boaters, anglers and waterborne tourists – would provide a much stronger framework for enforcement activity. Such a strategy would set out where different types of mooring would be permitted, and for what duration. Its implementation would result in greater benefit to local communities along the waterway – boating holiday makers would be more likely to be able to find short-term moorings and increase patronage of local businesses for example”.

This led to the 2009-2010 British Waterways (BW) consultation on developing local mooring strategies, which ran alongside the consultation on moorings policy which had been in the pipeline since the drafting in February 2009 of Updating BW’S Online Mooring Policy (England & Wales) 2009 Briefing for User Groups April 2009: Pre-consultation draft by Sally Ash for discussion by the Waterway User and Special Interest Group (WUSIG) in April 2009. The consultation resulted in the publication of Policies for Moorings Along the Banks of BW Waterways in August 2009 and the subsequent consultation and implementation in 2014 of a mooring strategy on the western Kennet and Avon Canal and the attempt in 2011 to impose a mooring strategy on the Lea and Stort Navigation.

In a meeting with boating user groups in June 2010, Ms Ash stated that “the 1995 act does not contain a nice clear-cut ‘suite of rules’…. this is why we need to supplement it with local strategies and a re-think of mooring rules”.

It is a matter of great regret that the same divisive, biased and unfair proposals are being recycled yet again in a continuation of CRT’s ongoing attack on the right to use and live on its waterways without a home mooring and are effectively a proposal to exclude boaters without home moorings from large stretches of the waterways to make more room for the leisure and holiday trade.

This is an extract from the minutes of the Navigation Advisory Group meeting on 29th June 2015. Present were members Mike Annan, Paul le Blique, Tim Parker, Beryl McDowall and Clive Henderson, and CRT staff Ian Rogers, Denise Yelland, Jon Guest, Mike Grimes, Sean Williams, Sorwar Ahmed and Sian Ferry.

London & national strategies:

SA presented on the pathfinder moorings strategy that the London team is working on. TP asked if the Trust will create more moorings in London. SA confirmed that the moorings review (which includes an analysis of existing mooring capacity in London) will be used to look at where new other areas for moorings might emerge. We can’t create more space, and think there are probably as many mooring rings on the Regents now as is appropriate, but we are encouraging people to moor further out where they haven’t considered mooring before. JG added that there are new moorings at the Olympic Park and at Stonebridge, and that there are applications coming through boating business for new sites to be developed. Numbers on the Regents seem to have plateaued, whereas numbers on the River Lee have increased a lot so signs show that people are settling out of the central London area. Some cruising clubs are also going further afield because London can be so busy. TP asked if the problem has peaked and JG replied that while numbers are still increasing, they are starting to spread more, and the new enforcement process is encouraging this. JG added that water shortages could be an issue if boats start moving more. PLB asked if the Trust are still inviting groups to apply for community mooring sites. SA replied that we did this as part of the Towpath Mooring Management project, but that the application process heavily relies on the involvement of the local authority to carry out relevant planning work. This has been challenging so we’re using several pilot cases to investigate this and see how progress goes.

PLB said boat clubs have responded positively that they can generally be accommodated in London, JG agreed that we’re working closely together and there is a better understanding now. PLB asked whether, because there is lots of towpath improvement ongoing, that means some moorable lengths are being affected. JG replied that in London we’ve installed more rings, but it isn’t additional capacity, just the replacement of mooring with pins for rings. TP stated that nationally, we should be looking to create more places to moor, not just improving what we’ve got. CH noted that the Trust should also fully embed the share the towpath campaign alongside boating/mooring (safe mooring practice etc). London has a lot of important waterway events going on, but more would be even better. JG replied that we can’t run and manage all events, but we want to encourage relationships and joint working to help with this. IR commented that the last formal mooring strategy document was 2007 [It was not: as stated above, it was published in 2010]. We need to update this and must first look at data we’ve got. Hope that at next meeting we will know what data we have and will ask for feedback. Then take to next stages and must ensure consistency.

More information about CRT’s proposed mooring strategy for London was provided in a meeting on 26th May 2016 between CRT and NBTA London.