Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting


Date and Time :

Wednesday 7th December 2011, 7pm to 9pm

Location :

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

Chair :

Ian Shacklock

1. Present

Beverley Dean Angel Association
Michael Rosenbaum Angel Canal Festival
Rob Inglis Arts Exchange
Ben Myring Canal user
Ian Shacklock Friends of Regent's Canal
Sally Hone E2 Collective
Bethan Johnson Floating Cinema
Laura Harford Floating Cinema
Isabelle Rodker London Boaters
Simon Elliston London Boaters
Cllr Chris Naylor London Borough of Camden
Cllr Martin Klute London Borough of Islington
Tony Islander London Canals Project
Caroline Allen London Green Party
Fiona Maclean London Narrow Boat Association
Phil Paulo London Wildlife Trust (Area Manager, Camden).
Gordon Meen Reachview resident
Del Brenner Regents Network. London Waterways Commission
Cara Downey Resident
Effric Tregaskis Resident
James Tregaskis Resident
Praveen Gopalan Resident
Sophie Stuckey Resident
Sandra Green Resident of Ice Wharf Marina.
London rep of Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club
John Checkley Skipper, Angel Community Canal Boat Trust
James Bill Skipper, Candle Bridge Carrying Company
Roger Squires St Pancras Cruising Club
Ben Fenton Thames 21
Nic Shore Volunteer
Marie Bryant
Neil Callaghan

2. Apologies

Andrew Bosi
Beryl Windsor
Bhupesh Thapa
Caroline Russell
Christian Wolmar
Councillor Alice Perry
Councillor Barry Buitekant
Councillor Linda Ann Kelly
Caitlin Davies
Gillian Comins
Hilary Norris
John Bryant
Lester May
Lisa Tang
Naomi Newstead
Rebecca Williams
Sonja Curtis
Sue Jandy
Tony Price

3. Introductions

3.1 At the start of the meeting, all the attendees introduced themselves. There were about 10 newcomers and most of them had found out about the meeting from the laminated flyers along the towpath.

3.2 Ben Myring kindly offered to take notes for the minutes

4. Announcements and Updates

4.1 British Waterways will soon undergo a transition into the 'Canal and River Trust' and there is a vacancy for the Chair of the London Waterway Partnership. Closing date for applications is 27th January 2012.

4.2 The Angel Canal Festival will still be going ahead, on Sunday 2nd September, despite the restrictions imposed by the Olympics. Furthermore, Islington Council has earmarked the festival as a suitable event for utilising some of its Olympics top-up money from the GLA.

5. The Big Waterways Clean-Up 2012

5.1 Ben Fenton (campaign co-ordinator) gave a presentation on a Thames 21 campaign to clean up the waterways of the Olympic boroughs in preparation for next summer.

5.2 Thames 21 is a leading environmental charity for London's waterways. The Big Waterways Clean-up project will commence in 2012 and various volunteer events will be organised.

5.3 The Big Waterways Clean-up project is being supported by the London Waterways Commission, the Environment Agency, London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG), Greater London Authority (GLA), British Waterways, the Olympic Park Legacy Company, the Port of London Authority, London Councils, City of London Corporation, and the Inland Waterways Association.

5.4 Other projects will be started across London, and will not be limited to tow-paths; two new boats will be used to clear duckweed and litter; kayaks and large nets will also be used. New reed-beds and wild-flower areas will be encouraged. There will be educational projects in schools to encourage the canals to be treated with respect. Concern was expressed that reed-beds are a danger to navigation. Ben explained that new beds would be limited to the River Lea, and that they would be monitored and maintained.

5.5 There was disappointment that there was no guaranteed funding after 2013. Hence it is very important that project participants should focus on the root causes of litter as well as clearing up existing litter.

5.6 There were some general questions about litter clearance. Prior to the meeting, the chair had received an e-mail from Rebecca Williams (Volunteer Team Leader, British Waterways). Rebecca had explained that floating litter was cleared about once a month by British Waterways staff and that towpath litter was cleared on an as-required basis by Fountains, their fixed term contractor. In addition, there is a volunteering programme of monthly Towpath Tidy activities linked to sites on the tube network.

5.7 The meeting felt that the current cleaning programme is insufficient to cope with the daily build-up of litter, and that further information is required from British Waterways about the day-to-day responsibilities of Fountains.

6. Issues in St Peter's Ward

6.1 Councillor Martin Klute provided an update on the issues of noisy generators, wood fires, and litter (due to canal boat residents) and the conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

6.2 Martin reported that moorings continue to be abused. Most visitor moorings in central London should not be occupied for more than 7 or 14 days. Yet some boats have remained for several months in the Noel Road area. He explained that he had been coordinating with British Waterways, as Islington Council has no power to enforce on the canal. British Waterways is now taking action to ensure that any overstaying boats are being moved onwards.

6.3 Martin acknowledged that towpath bins are still overflowing and that, judging by the size and type of litter, some of the bins are being used by boaters for household waste. It was suggested that a new litter regime may be needed to cater separately for boaters and pedestrians.

6.4 On the subject of noise, a boat operator pointed out that, although generators and engines must be switched off after 8pm at moorings, there are no restrictions on boat movements during the night. Residents need to be aware of this distinction.

6.5 It was noted that not all boat owners can afford to upgrade old engines or generators.

6.6 On the subject of cycling, Martin reported that a broad agreement had been reached (between cyclists, walkers and Hanover School parents) under the auspices of British Waterways, who had confirmed that the towpath is not a right-of-way and that pedestrians have priority. New signage has been released to re-inforce this. It was noted that physical calming measures are required too, but that the Islington Cyclists are resisting further chicanes without further development of a parallel route.

6.7 A parallel route will require cross-border coordination between Islington and Hackney councils, and also with Transport for London (TfL), as it will require changes to pedestrian crossings. The chair commented that towpath upgrades (funded by TfL) were a victim of their own success, as they had led to overuse and had aggravated the competition between pedestrians and cyclists. Martin agreed, and explained that he would be attending a meeting at TfL the following week.

7. Wildlife on your Waterways Project (Camley Street Natural Park)

7.1 Phil Paulo (area manager for Camden) gave a presentation on a London Wildlife Trust project in the King's Cross Central area.

7.2 Phil explained that the Trust manages over 50 sites throughout London, and this includes a lot of waterways. At Camley Street Natural Park, which is sandwiched between the development at St Pancras and the development at King's Cross Central, the Trust is especially concerned about the problem of litter and weeds. It is interested in the stretch of canal between Hampstead Road Lock and the Islington Tunnel. He commented that King's Cross Central would have a big impact on the canal and its biodiversity, and the Trust is monitoring this impact.

7.3 The Trust is seeking funding for a two-year project, initially from Heritage Lottery Fund, and will be recruiting volunteers. In the longer term, funding will be sought from other sources, including the business sector. Phil brought along some forms to allow attendees to express their interest and support.

7.4 It was noted that many of the environmental teams at the borough councils are being cut due to funding shortfalls.

8. Argent and the Canal Fund

8.1 The subject was raised about the Canal Fund. Anna Strongman (Argent) had provided a verbal update at the Friends meeting in December 2010, and in April 2011 David Marriott (Argent) had provided a link to a 12-month old document, but we had not heard anything since.

8.2 The Argent documents are still available on their website but visitors must sign a legal agreement before they can download any PDF files. A text-only version was placed on our website in April 2011 (with permission from David Marriott) and it can be found at http://friendsofregentscanal.org/features/kings-cross/canal-master-plan.html.

8.3 The meeting was reminded that there was a Section 106 Legal Agreement for the King's Cross Central Development for a large sum of money to be paid by the developer (Argent) for maintenance and improvements on the King's Cross section of the Regent's Canal (from the Islington Tunnel to the Constitution pub). It was thought that the total amount was about 1.2 million. The full amount is not available yet, and various sums are paid over the duration of the construction period (about 15 years) and triggered by certain stages of the development.

8.4 It was pointed out that the Section 106 money was in effect public funds, and that it should be dealt with in a transparent and accountable manner. However, no one seems to know much about how it is managed and spent. The question was also asked whether some money had already been spent on the current alterations that are being carried out to the Regent's Canal along Goods Way and Granary Square.

8.5 The meeting agreed that we need much more information, including the total amount of the Canal Fund; the details for triggering the release of the money; where the fund is held; who manages the money and its distribution; estimates of costs for projects; expenditure already made; details of any money allocated to projects not consulted on in 2010; regular reports of money being spent and the progress of the Fund.

8.6 It was agreed that such a large amount of money needs to be scrutinised closely and publically.

9. Cross-Party Support for the Canal in the May 2012 Elections

9.1 The chair explained that an e-mail had been sent to representatives of the four main parties involved in the May 2012 elections. The intention was to give mayoral and assembly candidates the opportunity to consider the waterways in their manifestos and plans.

9.2 Further updates on this will be published on the website.

9.3 It was suggested that the candidates should be invited to take a guided trip on the canal.

10. Impact of the Olympic Games

10.1 Roger Squires (St Pancras Cruising Club) explained the disruption that will be caused to boaters as a result of the Olympic Games. Over a 2 month period, various locks will be closed, movements will be severely restricted and moorings will be let out to visitors from elsewhere. Roger was particularly concerned about the closure of Commercial Road lock.

10.2 All existing boaters will be penalised one way or another, and to date no refunds had been offered, to compensate fully licensed boaters for the loss of access. It is estimated that the movement of 450 boaters (including 100 continuous cruisers) will be seriously disrupted during the Games, and the impact of any displacement could be substantial elsewhere.

10.3 Questions were raised over whether security was being used as an excuse (by higher authorities) to make money out of visitors at the expense of regular boaters.

10.4 The chair agreed to consult a few boaters affected by the Commercial Road lock closure and to write a letter of concern to British Waterways and any other interested parties.

11. Celebrations in 2012

11.1 Rob Inglis revealed plans to revive 'Regents Canal the Musical'. It will tell the story of the canal construction, to celebrate 200 years since digging commenced, as well as emphasising features relevant to each venue. For example, the King's Place performance on Friday 31st August will tell how the canal conveyed materials for the 19th century North London building boom (and, more recently, for the construction of King's Place itself). At the London Canal Museum on Friday 7th September, Battle Bridge Basin will be featured. We are in discussion with the Angel Canal Festival regarding 2nd September to dramatise the building of Islington Tunnel; with Camden Lock Market regarding the the canal/rail interchange at Hampstead Road; and with the Cruising Association regarding construction of Limehouse Basin, and the completion of the canal in 1820. There will be briefer performances at various canal sites.

11.2 Rob also suggested that a number of informative plaques could be deployed along the length of the canal. In view of current metal thefts, some of these would be sandblasted or cut into walls or pavements.