NABO News Editorial June 2014

Peter Fellows has some thoughts on moorings, selfishness and regulations

The London Assembly report on moorings in London, included in the news section, shows a substantial increase the numbers of residential boaters with an extra 1,000 boats now mooring on London’s canals. This is attributed to rapidly rising housing costs in the city. In other areas, such as the western end of the K&A, the Ashby, Grand Union and Oxford canals, people who have waterway-based lifestyles congregate in smaller groups. CRT believes that nationally there are something like 700-1000 boats without a home mooring that have not moved more than 5 km in a 12-month period. However, this is a small percentage of the 35,000 boats registered with the Trust – although it has to be said that vast majority of these remain tucked up in marinas and online long-term moorings for most of the year. CRT has introduced a trial on the K&A which identifies neighbourhoods through which boats must move, as well as the no-return rules and overstaying charges at visitor moorings. But the results of a survey of NABO members by Mark Tizard, reported in this issue, show that 78% of respondents felt there was no problem of people overstaying on visitor moorings outside the well-recognised congestion hotspots on the K&A and parts of London. Non-movement and overstaying raise the question of enforcement and an extract from a CRT briefing paper in this issue describes the enforcement processes used for licence evasion, unidentifiable boats and overstaying. Geoffrey Rogerson concludes that even if boaters want more visible policing of non-movement and overstaying they are not going to get it. The calls for greater enforcement by boaters are understandable but it is expensive and I would prefer to see CRT funds used maintain the navigation infrastructure.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of one member in Mark’s survey: “I don't want CRT to get too heavy-handed on this as the lack of regulations is one of the attractions of the waterways. It is more about changing the hearts and minds of boaters so that overstaying … is widely perceived as the selfishness that it is.” It seems to me that CRT risks killing the proverbial ‘goose that laid the golden egg’ and many boaters who seek the freedom to cruise minimally regulated waterways may find alternative ways to spend their leisure time. As boaters we should be taking responsibility to point this out in a quiet non-confrontational way if we find any overstaying miscreants. This would help change the general perception of overstaying in much the same way as public attitudes to smoking and wearing seat belts were changed.

The London Assembly report calls for local solutions to mooring issues and I am pleased that CRT is endorsing this approach. Robert Neff has written an interesting article on marina-based residential moorings and the difficulties marina operators and liveaboard boaters can face with local authorities over planning permission and council tax. It is a bit of an eye-opener to see how complicated all this can be.

We don’t wave the NABO flag as often as we should, but we can now that CRT has taken up Mark Tizard’s suggestion to appoint a Boater Welfare Liaison Officer as described in his article on support for vulnerable boaters. Finally as a departure from our usual boating features, David Fletcher reports on a journey from London to Manchester, this time viewing the waterways at 80 mph. Enjoy the summer until the next issue in September and please send me your photos for possible use on the cover of NABO News – you could get a free year’s membership.