So, who are Lon­don’s boaters?

Canal Boat - - News Special -

The Lon­don Moor­ing Strat­egy aims to tackle the short­age of space for the bur­geon­ing float­ing pop­u­la­tion to tie up but first, the Canal & River Trust needed to es­tab­lish who these boaters are

THE TYP­I­CAL LON­DON boater is a full-time live­aboard, liv­ing alone or as one half of a cou­ple, in full-time em­ploy­ment, has lived afloat for a cou­ple of years, is at­tracted to the wa­ter­way en­vi­ron­ment, com­mu­nity and al­ter­na­tive life­style (but also to a lesser ex­tent by its af­ford­abil­ity) – and feels that the big­gest is­sue is the short­age of moor­ing space in the cap­i­tal. These are among the main find­ings of a ma­jor sur­vey by the Canal & River Trust into ‘Who’s on Lon­don’s boats’.

With more and more boaters choos­ing to make their home on CRT’s Lon­don’s wa­ter­ways, many with no home moor­ing, the Re­gent’s Canal, lower Lee Nav­i­ga­tion and Padding­ton Arm have be­come in­creas­ingly busy. While this isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing – as CRT says, “places which were once quiet with few boats, are now busy and ac­tive places” – the sheer num­bers have put pres­sure on moor­ing space.

To­tal boat num­bers have risen from 2,164 in 2010 to 4,820 in 2016 – with 390 more boats with­out home moor­ings ar­riv­ing in the last year alone. Dou­ble- and triple-moor­ing has be­come com­mon, vis­it­ing boaters have been put off by fears of find­ing nowhere to tie up, and in re­sponse, CRT is de­vel­op­ing a Lon­don Moor­ing Strat­egy to make the best use of avail­able re­sources.

But be­fore get­ting into the de­tailed plan­ning of the Strat­egy, the Trust needed to know who the Lon­don boaters were, and what they saw as the is­sues. The re­sult is this sur­vey.

Of the 1,323 re­sponses re­ceived (rep­re­sent­ing roughly equal num­bers of con­tin­u­ous cruis­ers and craft with home moor­ings), 69% are liv­ing afloat, with 58% us­ing their boat as their pri­mary home.

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly con­sid­er­ing con­cerns ex­pressed about boaters rent­ing live­aboard craft (see the RBOA res­i­den­tial hires warn­ing story, right), fewer than 0.5% of re­spon­dents re­ported that they were rent­ing pri­vately, with out­right own­er­ship the most com­mon at 75%; 11% un­der a mort­gage or loan; and nine per­cent in shared own­er­ship. As one might ex­pect from the rapid rise in num­bers, half of them have been afloat for no more than three years – but most have no plans to move back onto the land.

How­ever, in con­trast to the stereo­typ­i­cal view that Lon­don boaters have cho­sen the life pri­mar­ily be­cause if its af­ford­abil­ity com­pared to bricks and mor­tar, 81% rated the ‘wa­ter­way en­vi­ron­ment’ as a main mo­ti­va­tion, fol­lowed by ‘sus­tain­able low-im­pact liv­ing’ (54%) and ‘the wa­ter­way com­mu­nity’ (53%) – with ‘af­ford­abil­ity’ in fifth place on 49%.

They are, how­ever, very clear on the main im­prove­ment needed: al­though wa­ter and sew­er­age fa­cil­i­ties get a men­tion, as does dredg­ing, it’s more moor­ing space and more moor­ing rings which score high­est, with most boaters putting it in their top two is­sues.

As re­gards how to tackle this short­fall, the sur­vey asked whether boaters would pay for a per­ma­nent moor­ing if more were avail­able. Al­most half ex­pressed at least ‘some in­ter­est’ in tak­ing up a per­ma­nent moor­ing if they were more read­ily avail­able; given that 28% al­ready have such moor­ings, that left just 27% declar­ing ‘ab­so­lutely no in­ter­est’ in a fixed berth.

Of the po­ten­tial moor­ing types, most would favour fully-ser­viced off­side or small basin moor­ing rather than a ma­rina; mak­ing such berths suf­fi­ciently af­ford­able might be a chal­lenge, given that when asked which of a num­ber of price bands would be their max­i­mum, most opted for the bot­tom two

(£128-£199 and £ 200-£ 299 per me­tre per year).

When it came to other fac­tors be­sides price, 81% saw ‘some­where I per­son­ally feel safe’ as very im­por­tant; with nearby ser­vices a close sec­ond (79%), fol­lowed by pub­lic trans­port ( 63%); health ser­vices (16%) and schools (8%) by con­trast were seen as rel­a­tively un­im­por­tant.

The sur­vey hav­ing shown that new per­ma­nent moor­ings could ease the sit­u­a­tion and given in­di­ca­tions of which types of berths might sat­isfy the de­mand, the Trust has be­gun iden­ti­fy­ing pos­si­ble sites. De­tailed pro­pos­als are be­ing de­vel­oped for a num­ber of lo­ca­tions across the Lon­don area: Slough Arm Nes­tle site at Hayes Southall Gas­works site Old Oak / Park Royal Lit­tle Venice / Padding­ton Basin Dock­lands Lime­house Cut Lee Val­ley / Merid­ian Wa­ter. A draft strat­egy is promised in April, with a con­sul­ta­tion run­ning un­til June, and six months for re­view and fur­ther de­vel­op­ment be­fore the fi­nal strat­egy is pub­lished in De­cem­ber 2017.

Ac­cess to pub­lic trans­port is an im­por­tant fac­tor for 63% of Lon­don boaters

Per­ma­nent moor­ings (like those on the right) are in short sup­ply)

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