Boat dwellers protest overhaul of moorings on Regent’s Canal

Regent’s Canal – a popular place for boat dwellers. Pic: Mark Hogan (Wikimedia Commons)

Boat dwellers in Tower Hamlets are protesting plans to overhaul the moorings system along a historic stretch of Regent’s Canal.

The Canal and River Trust say their scheme will provide long-term moorings to people who have a “strong connection” with the local area.

But boaters are unhappy because they see it as a step towards privatisation. Historically, the moorings at Corbridge Crescent are described as operational moorings – which means they are not for public use.

Boaters, however, have historically used the site to tie up their boats and these changes would prevent any boat from pulling up – as they can at other public moorings.

Marcus Trower, a representative of National Bargees Travellers Association, told Eastlondonlines: “We are campaigning to keep these moorings public and we will be opposing any planning permissions to make them private moorings.

“We want to stop from the taking away of other public moorings and we give advice to boat dwellers.”

But Fran Reed from the Canal and River Trust said:  “A boater approached us in 2013 with the proposal to turn the site into a social enterprise to provide much-needed long term moorings in the area and after a lot of work we’re leasing the moorings to the project.  London Waterway Projects will be restoring and repairing the site and aims to offer the moorings to people who have a strong connection with the local area.”

When completed the new site will have four leisure berths open for applications for fixed term rate moorings.  “There’s a death of long term moorings in London compared to demand and we are encouraging small-scale community-lead schemes in appropriate locations to give boaters more options – not everyone wants to have to keep moving every 14 days (which you have to if you don’t have a mooring),” Reed said.

Many in London’s boating community, however, are unhappy, especially those of whom have already been pushed out of their flats and onto the water due to sky rocketing rent prices in Tower Hamlets- where Business Insider claims property prices are rising the fastest out of any other London borough.

The privitisation of the mooring will not allow any boat to pull up as other public moorings allow, however, the Canal and River Trust does promise for these schemes to remain in place elsewhere.

In response to the plans for re-development, the boating community throughout East London has been participating in protests at the public moorings. Corbridge Crescent is a historic mooring for many boaters who share with it a personal history.

Thea Smith, a local boater, said: “The gas works has been a much loved space on the Regents Canal. When I began to live on my boat the gas works was the first place I met people, learned to tie my ropes, and discovered the beautiful community that the canals have to offer.”

The National Bargee Travellers Association is a volunteer organisation that campaigns for boat dwellers on Britain’s waterways.

The Canal and River Trust charges a license fee from boaters on the canal each year- even these prices have risen in recent months. Some boaters are now finding themselves paying up to as much as £1000 in monthly rent. They pay general mooring fees along with a license from the Environment Agency.

Young people and students in London are especially beginning to turn to life on boats, however, even this may not be an option if privatisation efforts go forth.

There will be a march, “Boats are Homes”, from Victoria Embankment Gardens to Downing Street on Saturday April 8.


Leave a Reply