Strategy, what strategy?

Mark Tizard shares some thoughts on mooring in London.

For several years, CRT sought views via the Boater Relationship Group and subsequently, when this collapsed, it facilitated meetings that resulted in the publication of its London Strategy document in June 2018. This outlined the actions that CRT would take to address congestion in London. A key outcome was improved information and communication for boaters in the area. The principle conclusions were:

  • More general towpath mooring and limited offside moorings outside the Regent’s Canal area;
  • Increasing the number of short-stay visitor moorings;
  • Increasing the monitoring and management of towpath and visitor moorings and
  • Major improvements to facilities – specifically six new water points, nine new rubbish disposal areas, four new pumpouts and five or six new Elsan facilities.

Since this was launched with great fanfare in 2018 you will not be surprised to learn that very few of these changes have been implemented. So in late 2020 CRT, perhaps under pressure from some boating groups whose members are principally outside London, decided to try again. It launched yet another consultation to address what it saw as the increasingly unmanageable number of boats. NABO’s response was pretty simple: why not implement the 2018 proposals in full and assess their success before launching yet another consultation. Results were promised early in 2021 with changes implemented by the summer. In April 2021, CRT launched its new safety scheme which, when implemented, would restrict or ban mooring on substantial areas of the River Lee. This caused a furore among London boaters, resulting in a substantial local press campaign, two protest flotillas etc. CRT put its proposals on hold and launched a process of stakeholder engagement and hired independent facilitators to independently manage the process. A key outcome was the obvious breakdown in communication between CRT and its principle customers, boaters. This will result in the creation of a facilitated Lee Navigation Forum, not unlike the Boaters Relationship Group that was disbanded.

Meanwhile, as discussions continue, CRT says that it will seek to enforce existing mooring regulations more vigorously in the area by outsourcing monitoring and reporting to a car parking company, District Enforcement. This might have much wider future ramifications for boaters should CRT decide to expand the outsourcing of enforcement to a third party. Elsewhere District Enforcement earns its fees from the penalty payments it recovers.

What of the wider London Strategy, initially due to be introduced this Spring then deferred to this Autumn? There are obviously challenges ahead given that I believe that the water safety zone proposal was thought to be one of the easier proposals in the pipeline. In my mind we need a carrot and stick approach. CRT should demonstrate its commitment to improving facilities as promised in 2018 by giving a greater financial priority to them, dredge to the edge where currently mooring is difficult and enforce against those that moor inappropriately. Nearly time for a new consultation I hear you cry; – after all, it’s nearly two years since the last one.