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LETTERS: We’re drifting towards gridlock on the Regent’s Canal

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Published: 7 November, 2014

• COMPETITION for space on the Regent’s Canal is now fiercer than ever. 

We were reminded of this in a report on renewed conflicts between boaters and their neighbours on dry land carried in the sister paper of the West End Extra

The main cause of complaints from neighbours was noise and smoke pollution but there are even bigger problems ahead with space constraints. 

There are ways of controlling noise and smoke, through peer pressure and use of cleaner fuels, but there are no signs yet that the steady migration of boats into London is slowing down.

The space problem must have reached tipping point if the navigation authority is going to “look at” triple mooring. 

Has the world gone mad? 

Is the canal a corridor or a dead end? 

The canal often suffers from a lack of movement on the water and during the day it is starting to feel like a deserted suburb. 

There are too many stationary boats and too few moving boats. We need more visiting boats, more trading boats (selling affordable snacks and goods) and, above all, more freight traffic.

Moving boats need space to manoeuvre at locks and bridges and they need spaces along the towpath where they can pause, so there is a finite limit to the number of potential mooring slots. We could reach that limit long before the demand falls off and sooner or later the Canal and River Trust will need to think about rationing licences in London. 

We will be discussing canal capacity at the next Friends’ meeting on November 26. 

All stakeholders are welcome including wildlife campaigners as well as boaters and other users.

This is a space war not a class war and any disputes between seemingly privileged home owners and nomadic boaters are a convenient distraction from a wider problem that the authorities are struggling to resolve.

My biggest fear is that if boating communities cannot police themselves then the towpath will one day fall prey to market forces and some of the people who add most value to the canal will be priced off the territory they care for. 

The canal could become as sterile as many other parts of central London.

IAN SHACKLOCK
Chair, Friends of Regent’s Canal
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/

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