Visitor Moorings

As a result of the increasing number of boats using the waterways system there is concern across navigation authorities, waterway user representative bodies and boaters themselves about the problem of boats overstaying on visitor moorings across the waterways network and the lack of sufficient visitor moorings in some areas. 

IWA has provided comment and guidance on several consultations regarding mooring sites, particularly in the South East.  A paper written by IWA London Region encourages Canal & River Trust and local authorities to work together to resolve the issues caused by congestion of visitor moorings in the London area. 

Provision of visitor moorings
In general, IWA supports time limits being applied to length of stay at moorings where signage indicating restrictions, hard edge and mooring rings have been installed together with good vegetation control.  IWA supports the provision of a mix of visitor moorings with different time periods, for example 24, 48 or 72 hours, as well as 7 or 14 days. IWA notes that the maximum length of stay in any one place (where not designated as a shorter period) on waterways managed by Canal & River Trust, is 14 days and considers that signage to state this is not required in the vast majority of these locations. 

On many rivers and some canals the riparian landowner can make a charge to moor against his land. In general, navigation authorities have the legal right to allow boats to moor on land that they manage as ‘permitted use’ under planning regulations. IWA welcomes the creation and provision of off-line visitor moorings by navigation authorities at busy locations and has no objection to a small charge being made. However, IWA will not support, and will resist, such charges being made by navigation authorities to boaters for on-line towpath mooring in similar locations.

There are places where mooring has been prohibited due to complaints by local residents (e.g. Oxford and Nantwich) and IWA is concerned that this may start to happen elsewhere.  This needs to be resisted. 

Visitor moorings subject to regular floods or tides should be provided with an entrance lock to maintain a fixed water level or protection from floods or with mooring facilities allowing for the rise and fall of the water level. This may be achieved by floating pontoons or sliding moorings, which should be suitable for the full range of sizes of vessel using the waterway.

Overstaying on visitor moorings
People have been living on boats on the inland waterways for many years. Some of these residential boaters do not have a home mooring but are designated as continuous cruisers, with many of them roaming widely across the network in a progressive journey. For many years there were no significant issues associated with this but in recent years there has been an increase in the numbers of people living on boats without a home mooring, and sometimes staying within a small geographic area. When coupled with the general increase in boating and a historic lack of enforcement of mooring rules this has caused difficulties at designated visitor moorings in some areas.

IWA’s general views on the issues are as follows:

  • IWA is supportive of those wishing to live on their boats and encourages the provision of residential moorings.
  • IWA supports the rights of residential boaters to cruise the system without being required to have a home mooring.
  • However IWA recognises the difficulties created when large numbers of boaters wish, for whatever reason, to stay within a small area, and in such cases it is necessary to limit the length of stays within such areas.
  • The solution requires a clear definition of the rules and strong enforcement action. IWA believes that difficulties in some areas have been exacerbated by a lack of enforcement by navigation authorities and that those who have enjoyed this way of life without interference need to be treated reasonably in any tightening and enforcement of the rules.


IWA believes that central London is at saturation levels on its visitor moorings to the extent that genuine visiting boats are put off making the journey through London for fear of not being able to find an overnight mooring. To an extent the well policed part of the Paddington Arm with its 24hr and 7 day moorings alleviates this concern, perhaps indicating what the solution could be elsewhere.

Enforcement of the rules
Mooring rules are usually covered in the licence conditions and associated guidance notes set out by each navigation authority.  Enforcement of these rules has to be carried out by the navigation authority and/or relevant landowner. IWA welcomes Canal & River Trust’s recent announcement of an additional £500,000 per annum provision for 2013 to 2015 to provide clarity and to increase enforcement.

A recent document sets out IWA’s analysis of how the problem of boats overstaying on Canal & River Trust moorings in the London area could be solved. The document proposes a new regime of mooring in London based on a mixture of greater enforcement and self-regulation where this can be achieved and looks at some of the issues involved in implementing the vision. A mix of 4, 24, 72 hours, 7 day or 14 day moorings is proposed along with a non-return period stipulated for all locations. In these instances signage should be in place clearly defining the period a boat can moor, the non-return period and any charges that may be incurred for overstaying the specified period.

The paper also recommends the provision of more affordable residential moorings and a self-financing permit scheme to identify those people who have permission to keep a boat without a home mooring in the London area, or those who need to spend considerable time moored in the area. 

IWA is concerned that enforcement needs to be carried out in areas where there is not yet a critical problem, but where the potential for such problems exist.

Provision of new moorings
IWA recognises that, particularly in London and the South East, the provision of more affordable residential moorings would alleviate the pressure on visitor moorings.  IWA supports the provision of off-line moorings in basins and marinas, of all sizes, with facilities ranging from basic to comprehensive, to meet the variety of boaters’ needs. IWA will press navigation authorities, local authorities and other relevant bodies to develop a strategy for the provision of residential moorings and off-line moorings. 

IWA will press for additional visitor moorings to be installed, particularly at busy sites and on rivers and tidal waters where being able to tie up a boat can be a necessity for health and safety reasons.

More detailed guidance can be found in IWA’s Mooring Policy on Navigable Waterways.

Also available for consultation are IWA London Region's proposals on overstaying on visitor moorings in London, and IWA’s response to a recent consultation by the London Assembly.





Download the PDF

IWA Briefing Note - Visitor Moorings
(219KB, A4, 3 pages)

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