Draft response by IWA on BW Lee & Stort mooring consultation

Issue date: 28 April 2011

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is a registered charity, founded in 1946, which advocates the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways for public benefit.

IWA members’ interests include boating, towing path walking, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and many other activities associated with the inland waterways.

We represent over 2,800 members in the London Area.

As a charity we have campaigned for the improvement and protection of the amenity of the waterway corridor, this has included representations to BW over the years on the increasing number of ‘overstaying boats’, and the impact that they have on the ability to use the waterways buy other bona fide users.

In the last decade the problem seems to have increased yearly in terms of boats without home moorings steadily increasing pressure on visitor moorings and honey-pot sites. More and more permanently moored boats have blighted many parts of the system, as they set up camp and take over the towing path as a storage and dumping ground for running their domestic affairs. More recently boat trends have seen an increase in wide-beams adding further to the problem of congestion.

Naturally pressure is greatest nearer the centre of cities. Black spots which we are aware of include the Grand Union, (Uxbridge, Tring summit) , Kennet and Avon (Bath to Bradford-on-Avon) , London –(particularly  Islington visitor moorings , Hertford Union Canal -above and below the locks. Old Ford Lock - beside Victoria Park. Kensal Green - towpath beyond Sainsbury's after the old Gas Works Basin. Regents Towpath -opposite Battlebridge Basin and at Goodsway, Springfield/Spring Hill/Clapton ), as well as the Lee and Stort- (especially Stansted Abbotts).

Unoccupied boats left for months cause greatest annoyance to boaters of all types including those attempting to continuously cruise” in a limited area.

BWʼs Mooring Proposals for the Lee & Stort

IWA broadly supports the proposals for the Lee and Stort.

There is very little in the proposed plan which would inconvenience bona fide continuous cruisers and most other leisure boaters. They are very unlikely to over-stay on the towpath, having little reason to do so. However designating the whole of the Stort, or any other long section of the navigation, as a 7-day zone is seen as an unjustified imposition on leisure boaters attempting to undertake reasonable navigation  by ‘weekending’ between sites.

Q1 What are your views on current levels of boating and mooring in the plan area?

On the upper Lee & Stort, particularly on the Lee there are many long stretches without moored boats. However in many/some of these stretches a long plank may be required to reach the bank. Congested mooring is concentrated on the visitor moorings, near pubs or shops or where mooring is close to a place where a car may be parked. (Another cause of friction is the boaterʼs car parked persistently where it inconveniences local residents and their own visitors.) On the lower Lee, mooring pressure is high in some places but in practice leisure boaters race down the lower Lee aiming for a safe London moorings such as Limehouse or Little Venice.

Q2 What effect (e.g. good, bad, none) does the current level of boating and mooring have on your enjoyment of the waterways and park?

The current level of boating only really causes concern to leisure boaters at the popular mooring spots and visitor moorings. The additional paraphernalia associated with some long term ʻcontinuous moorers’, cannot improve the visual enjoyment of any visitor to the Lee Valley Park whether they are boaters, walkers, fishermen, bird watchers or cyclists, though in this context we are more concerned about encroachment onto the towing path, rather than wishing to be pejorative on the aesthetics of anyone's boat - which is not a matter for IWA .

Q3 In general, what are your views on the proposals for managing moorings?

IWA  generally support the proposals especially for  ʻneighbourhoodsʼ and over-staying fines and wish to see these properly and rigorously enforced especially at the outset to kill the problem and act as a discouragement for future abuse.

However, the 7-day zones should remain as 14 days to allow for bona-fide ‘weekenders’ navigating the system.

Q4 How will you be affected by the proposals?

In our opinion most boaters with moorings will suffer little or nothing and stand to gain if control of visitor moorings is tightened up. But IWA can envisage a situation such as a leisure moorer from the Lee deciding to cruise up the Stort for 5 days and another member of his/her family has planned to cruise back home over the next 5 days. Theoretically that would attract a fine for overstaying 3 days because the whole length of the Stort is proposed as a single, continuous 7-day neighbourhood.

Similarly a visitor to the Lee legitimately making their way along the course of the navigation by ‘weekending’ their boat  but failing to return within the week would be penalised , whereas typically 14 days would apply on other waterways, and provide some safety margin for them.

Q5 Do you have any practical suggestions to make implementation easier / improve it?

IWA is concerned to learn that BW considers that it is OK to have a Continuous Cruisers Licence with a Rivers Only Licence. The latter being cheaper than a Canals & Rivers Licence as this might encourage even more live-aboards to head for the Lee from the dearer, and already congested G.U.

Marking visitor moorings in sections : 4 hr, 48 hr, 14 days needs to be made to make identification on mooring designations clearer, and avoid misinterpretation (deliberate or otherwise).

Q6 Any other comments?

Extra facilities should not be provided just because boats do not wish to move. Consideration ought to be given to providing watering and waste and sanitary facilities away from car parking – to allow use by those navigating but to be inconvenient to those trying to ‘squat’ and commute.

Pressure on car parking near the navigation is clearly an important consideration in helping manage the mooring issue, rather than just forcing boats to move up and down and back again. Consideration ought to be given to working with local authorities to increase parking restrictions and tow away/ clamping for long staying cars in high use areas, as again this is unlikely to affect bona-fide navigators but would inconvenience commuter moorers and encourage a change in habits.

More action needs to be done to prevent moorers taking over the towpath and declaring ʻownershipʼ of a particular section of waterspace. It’s BWs tow path, so action needs to be taken regarding dumping or littering or provision of ancillary structures and storage. (This may be possible under local authority statutes concerning dumping or fly tipping etc, planning or visual amenity). 

Fines are obviously a disincentive to overstay. If the fine, in the same neighbourhood, is less off the visitor mooring than on it, that should encourage mooring off the visitor mooring ie a graduated fine. The continuous cruisers group has pointed out that there is a need for a greater number of accessible moorings away from the recognised visitor moorings. There is plenty of empty bank available and all that is needed is local dredging close to the towpath. (That is how the popular, rural, Great Amwell picnic site was created.)

The new marina at Roydon only has about 15 boats moored at present but it has a capacity of 300 boats. – Is there an opportunity to work with the marina and the local authorities to solve part of the issue by making more residential spaces available?