Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting

Date and Time:

Wednesday 7th September 2011, 7pm to 9pm


London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT


Ian Shacklock

1. Present

Ian Shacklock
Rob Inglis Arts Exchange.
Beryl Windsor Angel Canal Festival.
Bhupesh Thapa Greenspace, Islington Council.
Del Brenner Regents Network. London Waterways Commission.
John Checkley Skipper, Angel Community Canal Boat Trust.
Fiona Maclean London Narrow Boat Association.
Beverley Dean Angel Association.
Roger Squires Vice President, St Pancras Cruising Club.
Gillian Comins Angel Association. Islington Living Streets.
Dohne Arnold Resident, Noel Road.
Beresford Casey Resident, Primrose Hill.
Jason Lord Resident.
Gordon Meen Resident, Reachview.
Christian Wolmar Islington Cyclists Action Group.
Lisa Tang Thornhill Bridge Community Gardeners.
Lewis Towns Tug Operator.
Anthony Richardson Chair, Regent's Canal Conservation Area Advisory Committee.
Garrie Naden Resident, Wenlock Basin.
Ben Myring Canal user.
Effric Tregaskis Resident.
James Tregaskis Resident.
Steve Bass Resident.
Hilary Norris Resident.
Liz Anderson
Angus Anderson
John Bryant Resident.
Lester May Reachview Management Co Ltd.
Council Member, Camden History Society.
Stephanie Brooks Canal user.
Eric Ranshaw Visiting boater.
Ann Ranshaw Visiting boater.
Bernice Molloy
Jennet Eyre Resident.
Giles Eyre Angel Community Canal Boat Trust.
Leanne Ticehurst Canal user.
P Mann O.A.P.
Tony Hay St Pancras Cruising Club.
Charles Liggett Tourist.
Brian Smith Towpath ranger, British Waterways.
Dick Vincent Towpath ranger, British Waterways.
John Shacklock Inland Waterways Association, Lea and Stort.
Michael Rosenbaum Resident, City Road Basin.
Councillor Martin Klute Councillor, St Peter's Ward.
Jeremy Watson Cyclist.
Tony Price Resident, Hackney.

2. Apologies

Leo Chapman
Caroline Russell
Samir Singh
Councillor Paul Convery
Councillor Gary Doolan
Councillor Barry Buitekant
Councillor Greg Foxsmith
Councillor Patricia Callaghan
Caroline Pidgeon AM
Phil Paulo
Naomi Newstead

3. Introductions

3.1 At the start of the meeting, all the attendees introduced themselves. Over 45 people were present. There was a diverse group in attendance, including local residents, narrowboat users, cyclists, walkers, anglers, architects, tourists, and representatives of local organisations.

3.2 Ben Myring kindly offered to take notes for the minutes

4. Cycle Calming Measures at City Road Basin

4.1 In mid August 2011, British Waterways had installed two speed humps across the towpath. One at the base of Danbury Street ramp and one outside Hanover school at the top end of the City Road Basin. Certain people had been campaigning for chicanes, but nobody had asked for humps, so the British Waterways towpath rangers were invited to this meeting to explain what was happening.

4.2 Based on a show of hands, about a dozen attendees used the towpath for cycling, about a dozen wanted a total ban on cycling and the majority of the meeting were in favour of a speed limit of 6mph.

4.3 Brian Smith (towpath ranger) introduced himself and his newly-recruited colleague, Dick Vincent. Brian works part-time and Dick works full-time. They cover the entire waterways network in London, not just the Regent’s Canal, yet they gravitate towards the heavily used stretch between Angel and ViCtoria Park.

4.3 Brian distributed plans of the towpath in the City Road Basin area, showing proposed calming measures (chicanes). These plans are subject to funding and approval.

4.4 Brian stressed that most of the problems were caused by an inconsiderate minority of cyclists and he expressed a desire for an amicable relationship between pedestrians and cyclists.

4.5 A number of questions and comments were made by the Friends.

4.6 It was noted that speed bumps are ineffective because most cyclists ride around them instead of over them.

4.7 There were concerns about the appearance of the humps. Across London the general trend is towards "naked streets", by removing street clutter. So could less intrusive measures be developed? British Waterways are open to suggestions.

4.8 It was suggested that grass could be used as a natural chicane.

4.9 Brian Smith confirmed that the chicanes would be suitable for mobility scooters.

4.10 Could the chicanes be much lower so as to be less prominent? This might not be possible, because of the danger of tripping or crashing into a low barrier.

4.11 It was suggested that cyclists should dismount when passing under bridges, regardless of other measures.

4.12 It was asked whether there were any statistics on the number of accidents. Brian Smith stated there are none, and this is partly because very few cyclists were prepared to advertise their own mistakes.

4.13 It was noted that the number of cyclists in general, and on the towpaths in particular, continues to grow, and that eventually it could become impossible for pedestrians.

4.14 It was suggested that a 6mph speed limit should be enforced with more draconian measures (e.g. peer pressure). It was countered that there are few people able to do so, with some debate as to the role of the police here.

5. Issues in St Peter's Ward

5.1 St Peter’s Ward contains one of the busiest stretches of the canal, from the East Portal of the Islington Tunnel to the bridge at Rosemary Works. There was a bi-election in this ward in August 2011 and we took the opportunity to quiz all the political candidates about their commitments to the canal and their approaches to tackling anti-social behaviour.

5.2 During the election period, political campaigners were told repeatedly about issues with speeding cyclists and with pollution (noise and smoke) from stationary boats.

5.3 Councillor Martin Klute spoke about the problem of noisy and polluting narrowboat generators and engines disrupting local residents in Noel Road. A "nuisance guide" had been issued to residents, who were urged to keep "noise diaries". Officers will then be primed to tackle the problem. Laws and byelaws are being investigated.

5.4 It was asked whether boat numbers could be limited in affected areas. Councillor Klute argued that the noise rules should be tackled first. Modern, silent generators are available.

5.4 It was asked whether licences could be linked to noise.

5.5 It was noted that engines and generators should be switched off between 8pm and 8am.

5.6 Fears were raised that if these problems are not resolved, then they might simply be dispersed to other residential areas along the canal.

5.7 It was noted that in Little Venice they still have residential wardens and hence these problems do not exist.

5.8 There was some discussion about the fuels that narrowboats are allowed to burn.

5.9 It was noted that many of these issues would be best raised at a British Waterways User Group meeting.

6. Threats to the Canal

6.1 Ian Shacklock explained that there were various perceived threats to the canal, ranging from instances of anti-social behaviour (preventing enjoyment of the canal) to insensitive property development (preventing future viability of the canal as a navigation channel). He also advised the meeting that he was often invited to comment, at very short notice, on planning applications, and invited comments from the meeting in case anybody wanted to be consulted before statements were made in the name of the Friends.

6.2 Rosemary Works was cited as a topical example of a controversial development. Several parties had agreed that it is unsightly and out of proportion, that it boxes in the canal, and it benefits future residents rather than the community.

6.3 It was agreed that Friends with a particular interest in planning matters should draw up a list of criteria to allow the chair to act quickly in the Friends' name.

6.4 It was suggested that councils often facilitate rather than control development. Developers can expect a 25% additional profit for waterside developments. Waterways should be treated as open spaces, and permission to develop on the canal should be tied to development of the canal. Yet some developments are very insensitive to the waterways.

6.5 In the worst cases, development can result in loss of open spaces, access points and boatyards.

6.6 It is rare for public opposition to succeed, and it is rare for councils to involve the public at an early stage. A Judicial Review at High Court is the only means open to the public if councils approve an unpopular development.

6.7 One Friend argued that we must be willing to enter dialogue and compromise. Developments can rarely be stopped, but they can often be improved. It is not a zero-sum game.

7. Mayoral Elections 2012

7.1 In the next few months there will be opportunities to raise the profile of the canal when political parties write their manifestos and take part in hustings. Several London Assembly members and future candidates have been working closely with the Friends this year and we have been advising them about towpath safety, water-borne freight and the Blue Ribbon policies in the London Plan.

7.2 It was agreed that a list of key campaign issues should be drawn up prior to dealing with local councils and the London Assembly candidates.

7.3 There was a brief discussion about whether British Waterways should hand over their canal responsibilities to the Greater London Authority. Opinions were divided over whether this would be good for the canal.

8. Public Consultation on Hackney Biodiversity Plan

8.1 Members of the public are being encouraged to take part in a consultation. This is particularly relevant to the Friends of Regent's Canal, because we have been working in conjunction with the Hackney biodiversity officer since our meeting of 2nd March.

9. Q&A Session

9.1 There was a general Questions and Answers session, with priority given to questions submitted in advance.

9.2 Phil Paulo (London Wildlife Trust, Camley Street) had written in, to describe proposals for enhancing the habitat and removing litter in the King's Cross Central area. He asked whether the Friends would support these proposals whether he should explain them at a future meeting. Everybody agreed that he should be invited to talk at the next meeting.

9.3 A walker asked whether overgrowing vegetation could be cleared to open up paths. In response, the towpath rangers asked for volunteers for surveying and clearing.

9.4 A walker asked whether the canal could be better lit at night. It was noted that the canal is a green corridor and that artificial lights can harm bats. It would also encourage people to use the towpaths at night, which could be dangerous in certain places.

9.5 A resident asked what could be done about seemingly abandoned and unlicensed boats. These should be reported to British Waterways.

9.6 A walker wanted to organise a "Reclaim the canal paths" event, to protest against "rude" cyclists, and asked whether anybody else was interested in this. Some Friends said yes and the towpath rangers thought that British Waterways would also support it.

9.7 The session ended with a comment from a long-term resident, who attempted to dispel the tone of pessimism, by noting the many great improvements to the canal over the years and decades, especially in terms of public access.