Boat dwellers mount campaign against mooring limits on River Lea

River Lea Navigation. Pic: Stephen Dawson

Boat dwellers in Hackney are campaigning against a 10km zone along the River Lea which would restrict or limit access to mooring, meaning boaters could face travelling kilometres to find a place to moor. The change in rules which is being implemented next month could affect up to 400 boats across East London.

Members of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) have gathered over 2,000 signatures for their petition against the water safety zone being implemented by the Canal & River Trust (CRT).

The water safety zone is described by CRT as “a designated part of the waterway where additional signage and safety restrictions are in place because of high or competing waterway uses”.

The safety zones, which were set to trial this month, are now being implemented in June due to the impact of lockdown periods due to COVID-19.

NBTA are hosting a flotilla on June 13 at Walthamstow Marshes to continue their campaign.

Kerry Gilfillan, a spokesperson for NBTA, said: “We are going to try to assemble a large number of boats that will travel down the canal together with a tow path component, where at three spots on the canal we have people gathered around tables raising awareness by handing out leaflets”.

On May 8, the NBTA held a protest picnic in Hackney to raise awareness of the cause. The protest which was attended by many boaters was successful in gaining 400-500 signatures for the petition and spreading awareness to their cause.

Gilfillan said: “There are certain more vulnerable groups within the boating community that will be particularly disadvantaged.

“For those living in wide beam boats, many of which are families, it could cause them to simply have to give up the boat life if they cannot find a place to moor.

“CRT did not discuss this in the least with boaters”.

The new rules set in place by CRT will also mean that for many parts of the safety zones, double mooring will not be allowed. London boaters are unhappy with this, as if the canal is filled with narrow boats, wide beam boats will struggle to find a clear space to moor as they can no longer moor together.

According to CRT’s website, the water safety zones are about making everyone aware of other users of the waterway and to make clear the dos and don’ts to keep the navigation safe. CRT were unavailable for comment when this article was posted.

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