Discussion Forum
Canal Mooring Permits

From Patsy F
Tuesday, 23 October 2007

I've just heard a rumour that British Waterways is thinking of putting canal mooring spaces up for offer to the highest bidder. Because it could be just that - a rumour - I'd like to initiate a thread so we can sort out hearsay from fact.

I'm not a boat dweller so I've no personal axe to grind. I believe that many local canal boat people fall into 3 broad groups: some live on the water out of choice, a very few have boats as floating holiday cottages. But many are people who live on boats because they're still cheaper than local houses! I also believe that the vast majority of our local boat dwellers are decent people who contribute to our community, live within the law, play by the rules and pay their British Waterways Registration Fees. Also, incidentally, they provide passers-by with a sort of free entertainment - having people continually peering into my windows and asking me the same boring old questions would drive me mad! They are also clean and tidy, and they must be very organised to live in such tiny spaces. What they are not are water-borne trailer-trash!

Along with the bidding rumour, I heard that BW has used lots of photos of local boats as picturesque additions to publicity material, and yet is thinking of instigating this bidding scheme.

BW can be pretty draconian in the way it deals with canal dwellers - just one example was when it drained a section of the canal for maintenance, didn't pre-warn the moored boaters, but just untied and pushed the boats away from the bank - leaving the boats leaning at severe angles on the canal mud, with people stranded, unable to get on or off their boats. I'm told that several people were left with piles of broken glass and crockery too - and all that because BW didn't give pre-warning.

Given the BW's present strange attitude to boat-owners, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there was some truth in the rumour. So will the rich owners of the all-singing, all-dancing £150,000plus boats - the weekenders in the naval-type caps - all gas and anchors! - buy up the local moorings the existing community won't be able to afford? Will the canal echo (at weekends only, of course) with the neighing of the chattering classes and the clinking of pink gin and Buck's Fizz glasses as BW gleefully banks the nice fat cheques? In that eventuality, should I invest in a canal-sized torpedo boat?

What is British Waterways? Is it government-run or is it privatised - I don't know. Please someone, tell me about what it is and how it is run - and please someone, tell me this bidding rumour is only that, a rumour?

Posted by Andrew Hall
Thursday, 1 November 2007

Patsy, I share your concerns.

British Waterways is a typical quango (quasi autonomous non-governmental organisation), funded by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Unfortunately, DEFRA have cocked things up big time with regards to agricultural payments to farmers. This has been compounded by cuts in central government funding to DEFRA. They are now desperately underfunded.

The outcome is that many organisations subsidised by DEFRA are likely to be subject to severe cuts. British Waterways are a case in question. Jobs have already been lost, license fees raised, and the programme of maintenance of waterways severely cut back.

A year ago, there were serious concerns that certain waterways would be closed altogether, simply to save money and enable other waterways to survive. The Rochdale Canal (ie our canal in Hebden Bridge) was one cited as not being viable. At that time, I wrote to our MP, who was unable to confirm that closure of our canal was not a possibility. That is still the case.

Nobody will admit that closures of canals will suddenly happen. What is more likely is 'death by a thousand cuts'. Maintenance schedules will be delayed, the canals will become progressively run down, and will eventually become unusable. In such a case, the concept of bidding for moorings will become somewhat academic.

Unfortunately canals are a minority interest. Their cause hasn't been helped by absolutely barmy schemes like the reopening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal (including millions spend on Standedge Tunnel). All the promised jobs as a result of this restoration simply haven't materialised, leading to more than a little cynicism amongst taxpayers.

In such circumstances, who can blame British Waterways for trying to maximise their income? It's simply about survival. The alternative is silted and unusable cess pits. Unless boat owners dig deep into their pockets, that may well be the fate of the Rochdale Canal.

Yes, it's true that moorings are being put out to tender, at this stage on a trial basis.

Posted by Anna R
Friday, 2 November 2007

It is true indeed, however it's on hold at the moment. Crazy idea but open to manipulation, I guess if everyone only bid £10/month for their moorings we could keep the price down low, I am unsure how well this would work though. Anyhow, here is a link to a petition about it.

From Patsy F
Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Thanks, Andrew, for all the information - I understand a lot more than I did. But oh! the future for canals looks as if it could become very grim. Ridiculous, isn't it, that this happens after the huge amounts of money spent re-connecting the Rochdale canal - and probably lots of others?

Thanks also to Anna - and thanks to both of you for the links.

To everyone as concerned as us, please follow Anna's link to the petition.

So I suppose we wait and watch developments. If things begin to get very bad, I wonder if a local group could be formed to adopt and maintain our local stretch of the canal? Maybe yet another HebdenRoyd imaginative initiative for other canal-blest areas to copy?

I don't think I'd be strong enough to do much physical canal maintenance but I'd happily make lots of sustaining soups and tea to keep the workers warm and fed in between bouts of dredging.