Houseboat owners could be forced to jump ship

Houseboats at Lee Valley Marina in Hackney

British Waterways claims London's rivers and canals are overcrowded. Photo Daniel2005.

Houseboat owners in Hackney and Tower Hamlets say they could struggle to get to work and keep their children in school under plans to make boaters move their mooring at least once a week.

British Waterways is proposing to change legislation in a bid to cut the number of boats on the rivers Lee & Stort, Hertford Union and Regent’s Canals.

The regulator found the number of boats in these areas had risen by 40% in the past four years.

A large proportion of these boat owners hold ‘continuous cruiser’ licenses, which allow them to moor freely so long as they move on within 14 days.

However, in the past, British Waterways has rarely enforced its guidelines and the company claims many boat owners are moving only limited distances, if at all.

To counter this, the firm wants to create designated mooring ‘neighbourhoods’ that boat owners can move between and moor in for seven days at a time.

A houseboat owner, who gave his name only as Billy,  said the change could force people to give up their homes.

“The neighbourhoods are spaced out so you will have to travel the entire length of the waterway, which is about 35 miles, to comply with the regulations,” said Billy, who lives with his partner and child on the River Lea at Springfield Park in Hackney.

“If you have to fuel up or collect water or do all the things that you normally do, you won’t be able to come back into the neighbourhood within 14 days, which is completely unreasonable,” he said.

“It seems like just an idea to clear the scruffy boat hippies off the nice, clean Olympic site. That’s what it looks like to me.”

Houseboats on Lea River In Hackney at Springfield Park

Boaters argue their presence makes people feel safer

But, although the houseboat owners hold a ‘scruffy’ stereotype, the community on the River Lea include doctors, nurses and teachers.

If boaters are required to move to long distances every seven days they say they could find it difficult to reach their jobs and to secure their children a place in a local school.

The alternative is to buy a permanent license, known as a ‘home mooring’. But, in crowded waterways such as London’s, these can be few and far between and, as a result, often unaffordable.

If boats are not moved when required, British Waterways plans to fine owners for each 24 hours they stay in the same spot.

Billy told East London Lines: “There’s a community of people here that are just living a normal life and are about to be evicted, which is absolutely outrageous.

“The London Boaters Organisation is having regular meetings and we are building up our position so we can fight this on every level.”

For more information visit or you can give your response to the proposals at the British Waterways website.

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