The march on Canal & River Trust offices to save moorings

Published: Wednesday, 06 April 2022

HUNDREDS of boaters marched on Canal & River Trust’s  main London office to protest the Trust’s continued attack on the capital’s liveaboard boating community, NBTA writes.

Starting in Regents Park, on Saturday 26th March 2022, the protest marched to its offices in Little Venice where they were addressed by speakers from the boating community and land based supporters. Boaters also engaged with the public to explain how these discriminatory policy changes are threatening people's livelihoods

BargeesApril22Great succiess

The protest was hailed as a great success by Ian McDowell, Chair of the London branch of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), which has helped organise boaters’ opposition to what it calls CRT’s attacks, the association explaining:

Since London’s boaters forced CRT into a consultation on their plan to remove up to 550 mooring places on the Lee Navigation in 2021, the trust has doubled down on their plans to cull boats from London’s waterways. The NBTA believes this is further evidence of CRT’s plans to prioritise leisure over living on Britain’s waterways. (Photograph NBTA.)

Early in 2021, CRT announced that they would be restricting moorings along 10km of the Lee, claiming that mooring in these ‘Water Safety Zones’ was unsafe. The NBTA, together with the London boating community, fought back by organising two flotillas involving over 70 boats and 1000plus people. CRT was forced to engage boaters in consultation, the result of which showed boaters are concerned about safety, but the ‘Water Safety Zones’ would not make the river safer. The ‘River Lea Forum’ was established with representatives from all interested user groups to discuss what would make the waterways safer.

'No mooring' signs

However, in October 2021 ‘no mooring’ signs started appearing on the river before the first forum even took place. Boaters moored in these areas were told they would have enforcement action taken against them under the new ‘Improper Mooring Process’. CRT claims that these sites come under its existing rules on where boats are permitted to moor, but these are the exact same stretches that they’d planned to designate as no mooring as part of their ‘Water Safety Zones’, making these new rules for areas where boaters have lawfully moored without any penalty for many years.

On 10th January 2022, enforcement began on the 'no mooring' sites and since then, CRT has continued to try and intimidate boaters by giving notices threatening to terminate licences and thereby forcing boaters out of their homes. CRT has also employed a third party car parking ‘enforcement’ agency at huge cost to hand out these notices.

Amelia and Tyrone have lived on a boat travelling the London waterways for seven years and relates:. They have a two-year-old son and are expecting their second child, but worry that they may have to leave the water, and perhaps London, altogether, and relates:

'Is our home'

“This area is our home. My son attends a nursery here and we’re registered with doctors, dentists, and my midwife appointments are in Homerton Hospital. The stress of receiving abrupt emails, notices and knocks at the door, about where we are moored, in areas we have allowed to be for years, is causing us a great deal of stress at a time when, as a young and growing family, we already have a lot going on."

In another attempt to take away mooring spaces in the capital, the association states, CRT put out a new consultation with proposals for paid-for bookable short term moorings of less than 14 days, just before Christmas 2021. This, despite their own figures showing that the two ‘test sites’ for these new chargeable moorings have had less than 25% occupancy—most of the year they were wasted moorings.

Direct action

National Bargee Travellers Association London branch (NBTA) is supporting boaters in their direct action to disobey the ‘no mooring’ signs through providing a template complaint letter if they do receive a notice and posters to display in windows declaring the boat is moored in protest. Hundreds of boaters have defied CaRT’s unfair and unjustified restrictions so far, with Ian McDowell, NBTA Chairman stating:

"By ignoring its responsibility to preserve the waterways for all communities, CRT is crossing a dangerous line that could see London Waterways and other waterways become usable only by those who can afford any extra costs CRT chooses to introduce in addition to the licence fee.

“Their actions only serve to show that while CRT markets themselves as a charity that promotes wellbeing, they repeatedly try to introduce policies which attack boaters’ wellbeing and way of life.”

Continuous cruisers

[We feel we have a duty to point out that the NBTA is promoting its members to act illegally as its statement that 'London Waterways and other waterways become usable only by those who can afford any extra costs CRT chooses to introduce in addition to the licence fee' clearly shows.  It's members paying just for a licence and thus being continuous cruisers who in having such a licence agree to cruise every 14 days and take genuine navigation of the waterways, and certainly not moving there and back continuously between two definite moorings as they do. They should either do as they agree when taking such a licence or pay for moorings as do the majority of genuine boaters—Editor.]