Mooring Policy on Navigable Waterways

1.  Introduction

1.1 This is a policy statement by IWA which sets out the position with regards to visitor (non-permanent) and permanent mooring provision along the inland waterways and the facilities and services that may be provided at such locations.  This policy supports IWA's charitable objectives to ensure navigation authorities provide sufficient safe and secure moorings along their canals and rivers.  

1.2 This policy was developed in the context of an increasing number of craft appearing on the waterways system with resultant congestion. Visual impact and shortage of permanent and visitor moorings is becoming apparent on some parts of the waterway system. It is important for there to be an effective mix of both on-line and off-line mooring provision with a pricing structure reflecting the provision of facilities. In general, permanent moorings must be ‘affordable’ dependant on the boater’s needs with facilities ranging from basic to comprehensive.

For the purpose of this document, the following terms are used :

  • Utility moorings. A mooring provided to ensure safe navigation, e.g. lock/bridge landings & flood relief lay-bys
  • Visitor moorings. A site allowing mooring for a specified time, e.g. 1hr, 48 hr, 24 hr, etc.
  • Permanent moorings. A site allowing boats to be kept at a specified place for longer periods e.g. Home Moorings, Winter Moorings etc.  These can be either: 
    • Off-line mooring'. Any mooring off the through navigational line of the waterway. e.g. marinas, mooring basins, lay-bys, etc.
    • On-line mooring. Any mooring on the through navigational line of the waterway either on the towpath or non towpath sides.

1.3 On canals and rivers, Utility moorings in the vicinity of locks, moveable bridges and services must only be  used for stopping to operate or use these facilities, such access landings are to be exclusively reserved for this purpose  and not used for longer mooring periods (refer to IWA’s policy on “Operability of locks and moveable bridges”). However IWA recognises that lock cuts on rivers are suitable places for overnight mooring, here it is accepted that overnight mooring can be allowed outside lock operating times, in this case suitable signage must be provided. Similarly in the case of river navigations adequate utility provision must be made for safe haven moorings to be used in the event of flood conditions.

1.4 IWA supports the practice of providing and charging for temporary winter moorings for craft defined as continuous cruisers with the caveat that such moorings will be monitored to assure that the facility is not misused and demand for visitor moorings at the designated site is not compromised.

2.  Off-Line Moorings

2.1 IWA recommends and supports the provision of off-line permanent moorings  using basins, marinas or lay-bys with facilities ranging from basic to comprehensive to meet a variety of boaters’ needs. The aim should normally be to reduce on-line moorings by the creation of new moorings off-line. Generally, new permanent on-line moorings should be resisted.

2.2 IWA branches are encouraged to consider carefully whether or not to support any new proposal or planning application for new off-line permanent moorings. There should be a presumption in favour of new off-line moorings in appropriate locations. However, in popular areas and near bottlenecks, the likely impact on local waterway use should be considered to avoid an area becoming congested, or more congested.

2.3 The impact on the local road infrastructure of any new mooring provision may also be considered, including the numbers of cars accessing the site possibly along country lanes and over existing canal bridges. It should be noted that only the very largest sites are likely to produce significant vehicle movements. However where appropriate local highway authorities can be consulted to ensure rights of way and avoid traffic congestion.

2.4 In any area or stretch of waterway there should be a range of off-line mooring basins available, from small sites with minimal facilities, to medium and larger sites where more enhanced facilities are provided.

2.5 IWA considers that there is great demand for smaller, more modest, off-line mooring basins with basic facilities. These could be run on a partnership basis (e.g. by a boat club or small group of private boaters) allowing for more social inclusion than the bigger more commercial operations. Navigation authorities should be lobbied to consider updating their charging policies to allow for more socio economic diversity. Examples of such developments would be a small off-line basin in a farmer's field or the widening of the waterway on the non towpath with an in-set to allow herringbone style mooring for a small number of boats arranged in such a way that it does not obstruct the navigable width of the waterway.

2.6 IWA supports the retention and use of existing arms, wharfs and basins as off-line permanent moorings where these are not currently used at winding points. The inclusion of permanent moorings as part of a restoration plan can significantly add to the regeneration benefits of the waterway.

2.7 The construction of off-line moorings should conform to IWA policy on Standards for Construction, Restoration and Maintenance of Inland Waterways. Where off-line moorings are created requiring access via the towpath side of a waterway, the bridge carrying the towpath over the entrance canal should conform to IWA's policy on Towpaths.

2.8 Provision for a hire boat base and/or shared ownership base at a new or existing site should be considered as a separate issue. Careful consideration by the local IWA branch is encouraged with particular assessment of likely impact of significantly increased boat movements compared to a mooring site accommodating only privately owned craft.

2.9 Where possible restoration projects should promote the provision of off-line moorings to avoid the establishment of (official or unofficial) on-line moorings that may impede navigation or have a detrimental effect on the project's relationship with the public.

3.  On-line Moorings

3.1 IWA is concerned about congestion that takes place particularly in areas of high boat movement. IWA accepts the fact that there are many on-line permanent moorings on the waterways that have been established over a number of years. As ever-increasing numbers of boats come onto the system, we welcome the focus to provide off-line mooring facilities and so reduce the number of on-line permanent moorings, particularly in areas of high boat density. Such moorings are often a source of conflict where boats pass at inappropriate speed or boats are not moored in accordance with best practice.

3.2 Where on-line permanent moorings cannot be avoided they should, wherever possible, be located on the non-towpath side of the waterway, which traditionally would be privately owned.

3.3 Whilst moored boats are considered part of the waterway scene, IWA is opposed to exceptionally lengthy on-line permanent moorings as they contribute to congestion with navigating past such moorings seen as tedious and a source of conflict. e.g. holding a steady course at a low speed is often difficult, particularly in high winds. There can also be adverse effects on some engines running at continuously low revolutions. Navigation Authorities should address this problem with the landowner. A series of shorter lengths appropriately placed is considered better than one extensive continuous length.

3.4 Where on-line permanent moorings cannot be avoided the location of the moorings should take into consideration possible hazards that may occur, e.g. being too close to a bend or junction, impeding the navigation of other craft, on the outside of bends and double moored when the waterway is of a restricted width. In addition the designed width of the waterway must be considered with two abreast moorings avoided on all waterways. There should always be room for two moving boats of appropriate width for the waterway to pass comfortably.

3.5 For those on-line permanent moorings located near popular “Honey Pot” sites the visitor moorings must take preference near to the point of access. Navigation Authorities should re-designate existing situations in such circumstances.

3.6 Wherever possible restoration projects should avoid the provision of on-line moorings and if they are necessary to make the restoration scheme viable they should be limited to the non towpath side lay-by type. In these instances the project will need to consider the need to provide basic services (water, sewage disposal etc.), land ownership, car parking provision and the effect thereof on the local population.

4.  Visitor Moorings

4.1  Although 'off-line moorings' sometimes cater for visiting boats, this section is primarily concerned with boats mooring to the bank of the waterway for a limited period of time normally designated by the landowner. On many rivers and some canals the landowner can ask for a charge to moor against their land. The amount is typically shown by way of a sign and the charge is collected daily. In general, Navigation Authorities have a statutory right to allow mooring for an agreed limited period without charge on land that they manage.

 4.2 Navigation Authorities may stipulate a maximum time period for short-stay visitor moorings, for example 1, 24, 48 or 72 hours, etc. Other than at moorings with designated time limits, mooring can take place anywhere on a Canal & River Trust (CRT) managed waterway for up to 14 days at one time, in some busy locations this 14-day rule applies to an annual period, i.e. 14 days in one calendar year, in this instance a sign must be in place.

4.3 IWA welcomes off line security serviced short term visitor moorings in locations where person or property may be considered at risk. At such sites access for emergency services must be maintained and keys or lock combinations provided to boaters for the duration of their stay. IWA will not support and will resist any charges being made to boaters for security serviced moorings at any location.

4.4 IWA welcomes off-line visitor moorings provided by the Navigation Authority in so called Honey Pot locations and have no objection to a small charge being made for popular serviced sites. IWA will not support and will resist such charges being made by the navigation authorities to boaters for non-serviced moorings at any location.

4.5 IWA supports a general mix of visitor moorings, the number being determined by the popularity of the location. Provision should be made at appropriate waterside businesses for short stay visits with limited time only sufficient for the boat to pick up supplies and then move off.

4.6 IWA supports short term visitor mooring where signage (indicating restrictions), hard edge and mooring rings have been installed together with good vegetation control. However, IWA does not feel it is necessary for CRT to provide facilities and erect signs indicating 14 day mooring bearing in mind that boats can usually moor at non designated towpath sites anywhere on the system for that period of time.

4.7 IWA supports the practice of mooring providers reserving visitor mooring space for organised waterways festivals and events so long as 14 days notice is given and suitable signage erected prior to the event. In addition it is acceptable for appropriate mooring space to be designated for registered trip boat operators during specific operating hours with appropriate signage provided. Outside the operating hours these registered vessels must take up their designated long term moorings and not occupy visitor mooring space.

5.  Facilities

5.1 All mooring providers should ensure a safe environment for access to vessels. Sites designated as Utility, Visitor or Permanent moorings should have a hard edge and an adequate depth of water maintained. There must be appropriate rings, bollards, cleats, slip rails or the like, of adequate size for the vessels using the navigation. These should be spaced so as to enable varying lengths of craft to adopt best mooring practice in such a way as to prevent linear movement (a spacing of 3 metres is recommended). Timber, plastic or other fendering should be installed so as to prevent any overhang which could cause damage to low freeboard craft. This is particularly important on lock and moveable bridge landings.

5.2  All access points on to the site, and any facilities provided on the site, must meet current Health & Safety legislation and the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 2004. IWA draws attention to the duty of care placed on all parties involved in provision of moorings, including landowners.

5.3 All permanent or visitor moorings situated on waterways subject to tides or regular floods should be provided with an entrance lock to maintain a fixed water level above flood or high tide levels or with moorings allowing for rise and fall of the water level. This may be achieved by floating pontoons or sliding slip rails, which should be arranged to be accessible for the full range of sizes of vessel using the waterway.

5.4 It is desirable that all existing and new permanent mooring sites be provided with minimum facilities as specified below. Moorers would expect to pay charges reflecting an accepted fair market value based on the facilities provided and their location in relation to the moorings. Moorings should be offered at reduced rates in the underused parts of the system, with the aim of spreading boat movements, reducing congestion and increasing socio economic diversity.

  • Small Sites. (up to 10 boats). These should provide rubbish disposal, somewhere safe to park a car and a fresh water tap, (with a reasonable flow of potable drinking water). Toilet waste disposal facilities and mains electricity should be provided where practicable. At very small sites it is noted that it may not be practicable for these facilities to be provided and still keep the cost of the moorings low. The very smallest, basic mooring sites, therefore, may not have any facilities provided beyond off-highway car parking, with the provision of any of the above facilities being subject to the practicalities of the site and the willingness of the land owner to provide them.
  • Medium Sites. (10-100 boats). These should provide rubbish disposal skips, safe parking and multiple fresh water taps (with a reasonable flow of potable drinking water). Toilet waste disposal facilities and mains electricity should be provided and where practicable pump out and showers.
  • Large sites. (100+ boats). These should provide rubbish disposal skips, safe car parking and multiple fresh water taps (all with with a reasonable flow of potable drinking water). Toilet waste disposal facilities and mains electricity, pump out and showers. Water and electricity supplies to each mooring position should be considered. If possible the site should be provided with some means of taking a boat out of the water for repairs (e.g. a dry dock, slipping facilities or a crane), with a covered area for undertaking weather sensitive work such as painting. Disposal facilities for oily waste should also be provided, with fuel sales chandlery and perhaps painting and maintenance services (including DIY facilities).

5.5 In the case of Medium & Large permanent mooring sites, a slipway suitable for launching trailable boats is desirable. [Note: The word “slipway” can refer either to small slipways, suitable for launching a trailable boat (e.g. with a 1 in 4 slope), or to larger slipways with a mechanism for pulling a larger boat out of the water for maintenance (which typically are wider and longer and have something like a 1 in 8 slope). In the context of this document “slipway” refers to that for launching/pulling out trailable boats, whilst “slipping facilities” refers to that used for carrying out maintenance on boats.]  

5.6 Consideration should be given to the use of sustainable energy sources to provide power for mooring facilities. For example, wind or solar power could be utilised for service blocks, particularly if mains services are not available. Sustainable rubbish disposal should also be considered, even at small sites, with recycling facilities where possible.

5.7 All permanent mooring sites should have sufficient designated car parking and/or should be located close to the public transport network. Suitable pedestrian access and facilities should be provided for people travelling on foot, bicycle or public transport.

6.  Residential Moorings

6.1 All permanent mooring sites (both on-line and off-line) should include provision for an appropriate number of residential boats. This helps to ensure security at the mooring site and of the boats and other assets kept there. IWA also recognises that there is a shortage of residential moorings which this would help alleviate. It is important to formalise the number of residential moorings (less than 5% of the total number of moorings is generally accepted as an appropriate figure) and to obtain appropriate planning approval prior to development. See IWA Policy on Residential Boating .  IWA recommends contact with the Residential Boat Owners Association (RBOA) for any authorities or individuals considering provision or take up of residential moorings.

6.2 Mains electricity is desirable for residential moorings in order to reduce the anti-social and environmentally unfriendly practice of running engines and generators. The location and security of residential berths should also be considered (e.g. access to pontoons, general layout and alarm technology).

7.  Guidance for Branches

7.1 IWA branches are encouraged to monitor local authorities’ long term planning documentation (e.g. Regional Spacial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks) to encourage adoption of IWA policy for any potential future mooring facilities when such documents are out for consultation.

7.2 When responding to specific planning applications for new off-line moorings, IWA branches are encouraged to suggest the inclusion of the relevant range of facilities as outlined in this policy, if they are not already included in the proposal.

7.3 When considering planning applications for new off-line moorings, IWA branches may wish to consider the following issues:

  • existing boat movements in the area
  • existing mooring density in the area
  • impact on the natural environment
  • impact on local infrastructure
  • opportunities to reduce congestion by operational improvements

7.4 IWA Branches are encouraged to monitor all moorings sites in their area and keep abreast of proposals for new mooring developments to ensure that they are fit for purpose and are located in such places that they meet IWA policy guidelines.


Boat movements: the number of boats navigating through a given location.

Congestion: too many boats on a stretch of waterway causing disruption to navigation.

Honey pot: location on the waterway that proves very popular with boaters wanting to moor.

Inappropriate speed: The speed of a boat such that it may cause annoyance and possible
damage to others.

Mooring density: The number of permanent moored boats at a location.

Navigation Authority: managing body responsible for a designated waterway.

Residential mooring: A boat moored that provides a permanent home for the owner.

Serviced Sites: Mooring sites with specific facilities ranging from security locks to electricity,
drinking water and waste disposal etc.

10 October 2015