From the Tiller

by Alan Wildman

At present, in terms of general waterway matters, we are in a kind of limbo. Canal & River Trust’s consultations on Boat Licensing and the Draft London Mooring Strategy are both now closed and we await the proposed outcomes. CRT hasrecently made major changes to its Executive team and an internal consultation to review its organisational structure and senior management staffing levels is under way. CRT Waterway Regions and Waterway Partnerships are under review and, of course, Government/EA/CRT negotiations are still ongoing regarding the proposal to bring Environment Agency Navigations under CRT governance.

The Mayor of London is due to publish a London Environment Strategy during 2018. At various meetings throughout the last few years I have witnessed increased complaint from land dwellers of alleged air pollution created by boaters. Engine fumes, generator noise and exhausts; and smoke from boat heating stoves are all blamed. Common sense says that boaters’ impact upon air quality is minimal, but official noises have been made about ways to curb these “pollutants” and CRT seems keen to appease waterside residents. We must watch with caution and act if, as and when necessary to prevent unreasonable restraints upon our way of life.

When it came to RBOA’s attention that a development of luxury retirement homes was being built adjacent to the canal in Macclesfield, we wrote to the developer suggesting that the water frontage would be ideal for a number of residential moorings, in perfect keeping with the land based development, creating added interest to the residents there, providing much needed mooring capacity and an added revenue stream for the land owners. The response received was that when CRT sold the land to the developer it retained ownership of the canal wall – and to reinforce that point, the developer has had to provide a metal railing to prevent access from the canal onto the developed land. A missed opportunity on CRT’s part? – RBOA will seek an explanation when we next meet with CRT in February.

The post of Chair for the Inland Waterways Association is not an easy one to hold. As with most public organisations, regardless of how hard or well-intentioned one works, criticism often comes from all angles. The most recent appointee, Ivor Caplan, will undoubtedly weather the storms well, though. Many will be aware that Ivor is a past Chair and Planning Officer for RBOA. He is a long term supporter of residential boating and although now land based, he and his wife, Joan, still spend months each year cruising the inland waterways – I know that in 2017 alone their cruising activities stretched to something like 500 miles. The IWA surely continues in safe and knowledgeable hands.

I am extremely pleased to welcome Sara Becker to the RBOA team of Area Reps. Sara is based on the Lancaster Canal, a waterway of which she clearly has considerable knowledge and affection; and in my own conversations with her an enthusiasm for her life afloat was very much in evidence – her details can be found on the contacts page.

Following our earlier response to the Broads Authority’s request that RBOA make comment on a number of potential residential moorings for its Local Plan, we were recently invited to make comment on a further proposal for live-aboard berths at Horning. As is RBOA’s normal practice in these matters, we gave due thought to the physical practicalities of the proposal, site access/egress routes by water and on land, utility provisions, visual implications and local impact. Ultimately, we were able to give the proposals our full support. RBOA has now been asked to comment on potential residential moorings at another location. The BA has had its share of critics in the past, but these recent proposals really are encouraging for the future of those who wish to live afloat in that unique waterway area.

It has been suggested that RBOA does not support boaters without home moorings. That is truly not the case. We have also been criticised for suggesting that Authorities should find new, acceptable ways of managing the increasing congestion resulting from those who want to “continuously cruise” within fairly tight geographic areas. Pleasing all sides in the debate is clearly not easy. Nevertheless, it is fact that floating homes of all types and sizes, situations and locations, are becoming an ever more important contribution to alternative living here in the UK; and that fact so obviously brings its own challenges that simply must be managed appropriately, always with due regard for all waterway users.

As ever, my sincere and very best wishes go out to every one of you.

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