London moorings strategy – a London boater’s perspective

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Simon Robbins concludes that limited progress has been made.

NABO’s response to the London congestion consultation was that CRT is seeking to introduce new changes without first implementing, and assessing the impact of, the changes promised in the 2018 strategy. Here, Simon, a former NABO Council member and London liveaboard boater, reports in detail on what has actually been achieved.

In 2012, arising out of the huge displacement of boats from East London for the Olympics, and the less than sensitive approach by BW/CRT to dealing with that, came the ‘Better Relationships Group’. The name reflected the fact that even BW recognised it had upset a lot of boaters along the way and now wanted to be seen to be trying to build bridges, coincidentally coinciding with the launch of Canal and River Trust. That group lumbered on painfully, with relationships barely improving for many months, reported in 2014 and then nothing much happened.

In 2013 the Greater London Authority became involved through Jenny (now Baroness) Jones, and the GLA produced the ‘Moor or Less’ report. This was a genuinely independent report which highlighted the need for improvements in facilities for boaters on the London Waterways.

CRT then went round the circle again, eventually launching the London Moorings Strategy, starting in 2016. The final report was finally published in summer 2018. So, to the present: in late autumn 2020, CRT announced a new consultation on London Boating based around the Moorings Strategy. Awkward git that I am, I wrote to CRT asking how much of the existing 2018 Strategy had been implemented. In mid-February, a few days shy of four months after asking, and after the consultation meetings, CRT finally disclosed its assessment of how much of the 2018 Moorings Strategy it has implemented so far.  Here we go!

CRT’s analysis of their progress with the mooring strategy                   

The data provided seems rather to confirm what NABO, London Boaters, NBTA and others have been saying for the last while. There has in fact been very little progress on CRT’s part in implementing the 2018 London Moorings Strategy. CRT’s analysis breaks the Strategy down into 199 potential actions. Some are relatively minor: some if implemented will be substantive improvements to services for boaters, which was, after all, the point of the whole thing from the boaters’ point of view. As of February 2021, CRT reckons to have completed 64 tasks, i.e. just under a third of the items on the list. Not bad you might say… until you look a bit closer. Examples:

Other ‘completed’ items are let us say ‘arguable’ when it comes to whether they are substantive improvements. For example, their assessment announces that there is a new Elsan point at Norwood. Old hands like me would point out that this is not an additional service, but just renewing the existing one, so counts as maintenance and upkeep. Another three completed items are re-opening the sanitary station at Hazelmere Marina, again not new facilities but repairs and updating existing ones. One project counts as three completions too! I could go on dissecting the completed items list, but you get the picture. At best CRT’s count of completed work is generous; at worst it is outright misleading.

To boaters with local knowledge, if you are generous, there are perhaps twenty completed items in CRT’s assessment of the London Strategy that actually represent new services for boaters. Those of most direct input to boaters are:

Location

Proposal

Sainsbury's Alperton Visitor Mooring

Additional mooring rings

Limehouse Basin

Improve rubbish facilities (new compound and recycling)

Hertford Union (Bow Wharf)

New long-term mooring (4 berths - Waterside Moorings)

Limehouse Cut (between Ropemakers Field Footbridge 8 and A12 Bridge 1)

New Mooring Rings

Yiewsley (west of Trout Road Bridge 191)

New Mooring Rings

Alperton (between Hazel Grove Bridge 1aa and Carlyon Footbridge 11b)

New Mooring Rings

West Drayton ((North Hyde Bridge 202 - Western Road bridge 201)

New mooring rings (subject to dredging survey)

Steele Road (east of Gas Pipe Bridge 10A)

New rubbish disposal

Feildes Weir customer service facilities (select between 8.24/8.25)

New rubbish facilities and signage

Slough Basin

New water point

Atlip Road Alperton service mooring

New water point

Old Ford Lock 19 (Dace Road)

Re-locate Elsan to provide direct external access

Hazlemere Marina (Waltham Cross)

Re-open Elsan

Hazlemere Marina (Waltham Cross)

Re-open pump out

Hazlemere Marina (Waltham Cross)

Re-open water point

So where are the other improvements, things of most practical use to boaters, that we have been crying out for, for over a decade?

Mooring rings

The simplest and most consistent suggestion from boaters over the last decade has been to put in more visitor moorings outside the central London zones, most simply by installing new mooring rings. Do that and boaters will more easily disperse and relieve pressure on central London facilities. Yes, in some places spot dredging would help, a simple remedy.

On CRT’s figures, of the 24 sites identified in the Strategy as suitable to put in additional mooring rings, only four have been completed since the Strategy launched over 2 ½ years ago in 2018. Not great progress on one of the easier targets.

New moorings

There are 20 instances identified where other formal moorings might be feasible. The strategy indicated a mix of sites, nearly all offside, including the three main types: Residential, Leisure and Visitor moorings. The list mixes meterage and berths, but if completed conservatively it provides for well in excess of 120 new moorings. Only two sites have been completed so far producing eight new berths. Of the other 18 sites, CRT’s notes indicate no feasibility work has started on any of them. To old cynics like me this is just confirmation that CRT’s claims to wish to provide more long-term moorings in their most crowded region are no more than lip-service.

Boater facilities: Elsan/pumpout, water and refuse

Finally let’s turn to the desperately needed additional service facilities for all boaters, water Elsan/pumpout and refuse points. Every exercise in the last decade has included requests for improvements here. Now let’s be clear, these are certainly the most challenging and expensive projects for CRT to achieve, requiring in most cases both capital works and an ongoing commitment to maintenance and upkeep. But providing these improvements was the thing that boaters and other canal users have consistently indicated as being required. CRT has grudgingly admitted that these are most likely to help free up existing facilities and ‘hot-spots’ on London canals. CRT complains about the growth of boater numbers in and around London, but has done little to accommodate them or increase facilities for what are in fact paying customers. CRT’s sheet lists 39 projects as ‘Customer Service Facilities’.  Eleven are marked as completed (if you forego some of the double-counting that I have suggested above. (e.g. the three out of one at Hazelmere Marina.) In 2019/20, £67k was spent on waste facilities. In 2020/21, £58k was spent, comprising customer service water/waste facilities (£33,500), new mooring rings (£18,350), project management (£4,000), environmental works (£1,750) and signage (£400).

Of most interest to boaters are the incomplete items:

Of those projects that survive, all are still only at the pre-feasibility stage, in theory to be assessed during 2021/22. If they pass that, none has commitments for implementation before 2022/23 and four (three Elsan’s and a pumpout) have no estimated commitments to feasibility or implementation studies at all.

Conclusions.

On CRT’s own numbers limited progress has been made on implementing the London Moorings Strategy, even less in terms of genuine new services and improvements for boaters in the real world. Yes, it’s a work in progress, but based on performance and commitment to date it seems, even allowing for a year off for Covid, CRT does not so far seem too enthusiastic about implementing the things it promised London’s boaters in the Strategy nearly two and a half years ago, and progress is pretty thin.

(The London Mooring Strategy page on CRT’s website gives work that will be progressed in 2021, a press release is at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/original/43139-canal-charity-improving-londons-waterways-for-boaters.pdf, and a summary of on-going works is at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/refresh/media/thumbnail/43138-london-mooring-strategy-ongoing-works-january-2021.pdf

The GLA ‘Moor or Less’ report is at www.london.gov.uk/about-us/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/moor-or-less-moorings-london%E2%80%99s-waterways

 

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