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Anti-social behaviour by a minority of boat owners is causing misery on the Cally section of Regent’s canal

April 8, 2014
Double and triple parked boats along the entire length of the canal ... often moored for months at a time

Double and triple parked boats along the entire length of the canal … often moored for months at a time

An unusual and serious form of anti-social behaviour is blighting the neighbourhood adjoining the Regent’s Canal between the canal bridges at Caledonian Road and Maiden Lane (York Way). It is caused by the behaviour of a small number of people who have begun to moor boats semi-permanently on the canal, contrary to the rules of the Canal and River Trust and in breach of environmental protection laws.

Some of the current group of people who are semi-permanently moored on this sensitive section of canal, run engines, generators, burn smoky fuel, play music, dump rubbish on the towpath and put effluent into the water. In late March, a mature plane tree on the towpath came down and some boaters have been cutting it up to burn the wood in their stoves.

Smoke from wood-burning stoves is polluting the many homes alongside the canal – including the Council and Housing Association estates at Tiber Gardens, Treaty Street and York Way Court – and the playground and classrooms at Copenhagen Primary School.

In response, Islington Council is working-up a series of enforcement measures against people causing noise nuisance and, most significantly, creating pollution by static diesel engines, generators or burning smoke-producing wood. Formal warnings have been given to some boaters requiring them to cut down noise especially from generators and static engibnes after 8pm.

The Council is also very firmly demanding that the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) must enforce mooring rules which are a condition of each boat’s license.

Paul Convery says “The people living on the boats have little regard for the places they have moored alongside. There is a group of anti-social boat-dwellers who believe they can pursue alternative lifestyles without any regard for the impact their presence has on residents by creating noise and smoke nuisance.

Rupert Perry adds “The canal is a pretty big space so there is no need for boat owners to moor adjacent to peoples’ homes if that causes a problem. Most moorings are for a temporary period and permanent moorings require planning permission. The planning process enables issues such as proximity to houses, noise, pollution and impact on short term moorings etc to be considered.”

Cally Councillors do not say that all boaters should be removed from the canal. The main purpose for the Canal and River Trust in maintaining the country’s canals is to provide navigable waters for cruising boats.

But we do want stretches of the canal kept clear of moorings so that other canal users can carry on doing the enjoyable things historically we have done for years: fishing, feeding the ducks or just enjoying proximity to the water. It is one of the Trust’s principal objects that it maintains the canals for (a) towpath walking and (b) “recreation or other leisure-time pursuits of the public in the interest of their health and social welfare”. Endless lines of moored boats mean that is denied to thousands of towpath users.

On stretches where mooring is reasonable, we want the rules to be respected and the towpath used short-term by people who are cruising the canal for recreation. And we want these short-stay boats to comply with the 1993 Clean Air Act and the 1995 Environment Act by not making noise or fumes from burning, static engines or portable generators. In return we believe, that CRT should provide proper facilities for those visiting boats, such as fresh water, mains electricity and regular refuse collection along the towpath.

For reference, there are two main types of moorings on Britain’s canals:

  • Short term: either “casual moorings” where boats may tie-up for 14 days (unless otherwise indicated); and “visitor moorings” which are places designated for shorter periods only, e.g. Islington Visitor Moorings at Noel Road where the maximum permitted stay is 7 days with a £25 per day charge thereafter.
  • Long term: these are often called “home moorings” and specified in a boat’s license where a boat is kept when not used for cruising. These will be authorised residential moorings, leisure moorings or other commercial moorings (all of which must have planning permission).
8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny Reid permalink
    April 11, 2014 12:03 am

    Did anyone consider the boats when they built the flats? Perhaps an example of profit over practicality.

    More importantly, as someone who likes to run on the canal side, I feel much safer with people on boats around keeping an eye on drunks and youth-mispenders. And I thought this tree came down in the wind a while back? Waste not want not- better burnt than binned.

  2. April 11, 2014 1:04 pm

    All homes on this stretch of canal have been there for a very long time. The estates at Tiber Gardens and Treaty street date from the early 1950s. The primary school is a 19th century LSB building. Nearly all the affected housing is Council and housing association owned. Jenny is right that boats moored contribute to a feeling of security. But having too many boats spoils that. And it is a minority of anti-social boaters who are the problem. We’ve said that clearly. As for the tree, it came down on the evening of 24th March. Witnesses have said it was undermined after its roots were hacked. Much of the timber has been taken by some of the boat owners. It would not have been “binned” either. It would have been cut and used responsibly. That would involve many months of seasoning (drying-out) because green timber produces a great deal of smoke.

    • Jenny Reid permalink
      April 12, 2014 10:37 am

      The flats in the pics are not ’50s… And werent there boats around in50s, making noise, probably more noise as working boats. Is this like people who move to the country and complain about roosters?

      if you want fewer boats around, is there going to be somewhere else for them to go? Otherwise this would be creating a problem for other people by just moving the boats along.

      You seem to want holiday boats only, but they won’t be around keeping the canals secure all the time. Clearly I genuinely like the boats being there, value the security they provide, and have a live and let live mantra. I see this as further gentrification of London. It needs to keep its diversity and freedoms for all walks of life.

      • April 12, 2014 2:02 pm

        Jenny, the buildings in the picture behind the boat are not homes, they are offices on the south side of the canal. No mooring there and no problems. It is the north side of the canal where the anti-social behaviour, noise and smoke is a problem. That’s where the 1950s Council estate is. Our goal is not to “gentrify” the canal, far from it. Our concern is nuisance caused to residents in the many Council and housing association homes that are getting severe nuisance.

  3. April 11, 2014 1:54 pm

    Enforcement has always been an issue with CRT/BW, a lackluster approach has meant that boats in London are pretty much free to do what they like in terms of mooring. I have been a boater for 6 years and have spent a lot of time in London over that period, it’s stating the obvious that boats have increased dramatically here and nothing has been done to monitor this change, CRT are happy to take the yearly license fee but new boaters aren’t educated on the importance of certain issues, many boats in London are occupied by youngsters who would occasionally reek havoc wherever they dwell, that is the nature of youth. The problem doesn’t lie with the boaters, that may be a symptom, the problem is and always has been a lack of education, monitoring and enforcement by CRT/BW.

  4. April 14, 2014 12:46 pm

    Can somebody please explain which mooring rules have been broken? I thought that this stretch had been designated as a winter moorings zone. If so, then in theory most of the boats were compliant with the rules – and would have paid for the privilege – until 31st March.

    Arguably, this is an unsuitable stretch for winter moorings, especially for boats without a silent electricity supply, but before we go into that debate can we first establish which rules were not enforced.

    • david permalink
      April 21, 2014 10:23 pm

      I don’t know anything about Canal rules but it seems boats by Thornhill Bridge are often moored for a few days where they’re not even supposed to be – with ropes attached to structures like the railings at the bottom of the path out of Thornhill Bridge Community Gardens or even the fencing there.

    • May 7, 2014 3:41 pm

      Ian, the stretch of the Canal we are talking about is not a winter mooring Zone. (Indeed Paddington to Mile End is excluded) So the rules were being broken. Hopefully for the sake of compliant boaters, other canal users and neighbours the Canals and Rivers Trust will enforce its rules from now on

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