Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting

Date and Time:

Wednesday 15th February 2012, 7pm to 9pm


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


Ian Shacklock

1. Present

Garrie Naden Resident, Wenlock Basin
Joe Smee Community Relations, National Grid
Del Brenner Regents Network. London Waterways Commission
Lorraine Fox The Sandwich Barge
Tony Islander London Canals Project
Lewis Towns Crowther and Towns Ltd
Michele Towns Crowther and Towns Ltd
Theresa Marlan Local Resident, Angel
Holly Ellyatt
John Checkley Angel Community Canal Boat Trust. Angel Canal Festival
Stephen Critchley St Luke's Heritage
Jessica Pappalardo Architectural Association
Phil Paulo London Wildlife Trust, Camley Street
Nic Shore Volunteer
Andrew Bosi Islington Society. Cally Rail Group
Rafael Hortala-Vallve Local Resident
Corinne Quin Local Resident
Ben Myring King's Cross Development Forum
Alice Perry Councillor, London Borough of Islington
Naomi Newstead Conservative Candidate, NE London Assembly
Jessica Cantwell
Gordon Meen Resident, Reachview
Ian Shacklock Friends of Regent's Canal
Dohne Arnold Resident, Noel Road

2. Apologies

Christian Wolmar
Beverley Dean
Lester May
Gillian Comins
Bhupesh Thapa
Beryl Windsor
Caroline Russell
Caroline Allen
Leo Chapman
Janet Louise Hodgson
Rob Inglis
Mohamed Hammoudan
Tony Price
Natalie Bennett
Roger Squires

3. Introductions

3.1 At the start of the meeting, all the attendees introduced themselves.

4. Announcements and Updates

4.1. The chair advised that British Waterways was holding a public consultation to allow everybody to have their say on some towpath proposals.

4.2. The chair reminded the meeting that the Angel Canal Festival would be held on Sunday 2nd September 2012, and that it had been singled out to receive some additional, Olympic-related funding.

4.3. Councillor Alice Perry gave an update on issues in St Peter's Ward (see below).

5. Issues in St Peter's Ward

5.1. The Islington Boat Club will remain at its current location at City Road Basin. This concludes several years of uncertainty. Councillor Klute had commented about this on his blog.

5.2. Councillor Perry confirmed that public access around the City Road Basin was crucial. It was mentioned that the South West gate was often locked at weekends and that the public sometimes depended on "willing neighbours" for the public area to be opened up each day. The chair commented that the ultimate requirement was a through route from Graham Street Park to the Plazza and that the Islington Boat Club would benefit from any extra footfall, because it would help to raise their profile.

5.3. Councillor Perry mentioned that planning permission on one of the City Road Basin towers had now expired. It was noted that additional residential moorings were part of the plan, but they never materialised, since they would have conflicted with the activities of the boat club.

5.4. The subject of litter was raised. One boater explained that a trial had been proposed in Tower Hamlets, whereby boaters would collectively gather litter. This would require appropriate equipment. To date, neither the local council nor British Waterways has shown support for this.

5.5. The proposed café at City Road Locks was discussed. See below.

5.6. It was noted that a boaters' water piper at City Road Locks had been deliberately severed in late December, and it had taken over 24 hours for Thames Water to stop the wasted water from flowing across the towpath. Fortunately the conditions were not icy at the time. At first this looked like an act of random or targeted vandalism, but it was suggested that this had been done by the authorities, prior to replacing the facilities. In any event, no explanation had been provided and there was clearly a communication failure with the water supplier, judging by the amount of water wasted.

6. Planning Applications - Cafe At City Road Locks

6.1. The proposals for a Café at City Road Locks have attracted criticism from a number of residents and canal users. There are concerns about extra litter, noise and congestion; and several people have commented that the contemporary design is unsuitable in this conservation area.

6.2. It was accepted that these buildings had been neglected over the years, but in view of the growing dependency on unpaid volunteers, there is now a bigger need than ever for community facilities. Several people felt that these publicly-owned buildings should be made available to the community, whereby they could serve as a base for canal maintenance as well as providing a small cafe.

6.3. There are also concerns about the way the planning application has been handled. It is labelled as a "change of use" application, yet the architect's drawings imply a partial demolition and reconstruction. Councillor Perry explained the powers available to her if anybody requested her to challenge the application and to escalate it to the planning committee.

7. Planning Applications - Hawley Wharf

7.1. Del Brenner led a brief discussion on the Hawley Wharf proposals, and it was noted that a special working group was actively campaigning to moderate the designs and to secure Section 106 benefits for the community.

7.2. Concern was expressed about the tendency for the 'Camden Lock' name to be applied to other parts of the canal and surrounding area. It was noted that the developers are trying to rebrand Hawley Wharf as Camden Lock Village.

7.3. The current proposal for the Hawley Wharf development includes a three-storey market space. A member of the working group has conceived an alternative proposal, containing homes on the upper floors and offering much more open space for the public.

7.4. There was particular concern about the 'occupation' of the towpath due to overspill from these market developments.

7.5. It was suggested that any new development should closely adhere to Blue Ribbon Principles in the London Plan. The relevant clauses are well-documented, stating that design should always start 'from the water'.

7.6. The chair offered to post some images and some summary text on the website, for the benefit of the attendees who were unfamiliar with these proposals.

8. Planning Applications - Rosemary Works

8.1. Naomi Newstead explained her ongoing involvement with the controversial proposals at Rosemary Works.

8.2. She had publicly opposed the application for the demolition of the Rosemary Branch Works and the displacement of the working community on the site. She had spoken at one of the planning meetings at Hackney Town Hall last year. She noted that the development contravened Hackney's change of use policy, by converting commercial land to housing. The need for housing appears to be overriding all other concerns.

8.3. Although the planning application had passed its first hurdle last summer, Naomi has written to Jules Pipe (Mayor of Hackney) to highlight her various concerns and to suggest the use of Section 106 to provide affordable workspace. She is also following up the conditions to use water-borne transport for construction materials and waste.

8.4 Attendees were given a 2-page leaflet from Regents Network, that illustrates the negative impact of this development.

9. Towpath and Canal Closures

9.1. Joe Smee, Community Relations spokesman for National Grid, explained the work being undertaken to maintain the power cables that run under the towpath. This work has been underway since 2010 and sometimes requires towpath closures. A few months ago, the towpath was closed near Packington Estate, but only a minority of users were affected because the closures occurred during the middle of the working day. However, at the time of this meeting there was a continuous closure at Gloucester Avenenue for a three-week period.

9.2 The chair commented that the diversion maps are not always user-friendly because visiting towpath users can become disoriented at street level. Joe agreed to consult the Friends prior to printing future maps.

9.3. When the current work is complete National Grid will consider proposals to open up the eastern side of the City Road Basin.

9.4. The closure of Hertford Union Canal was also duscussed. This was due to a planned replacement of the lock gates and the public had been invited to witness the engineering work. However, a boater from Tower Hamlets reported that this public event was followed by a less well publicised and prolonged delay while the maintenance staff wait for the replacement gates to arrive.

10. Litter Problems

10.1. The common causes of litter were discussed. In most cases, towpath users put their litter in the bins supplied, but at peak periods the bins are not emptied frequently enough, and the overflowing rubbish gets blown into the canal.

10.2. There have also been sightings of road users, throwing dustbin liners from bridges into the water below.

10.3. The boaters often get the blame for debris dumped on the towpath or alongside the bins. For example, mattresses, household appliances and scrap wood. However, this is an unfair assumption, because most parts of the towpath are accessible at night, and fly-tippers and graffiti sprayers can escape undetected.

10.4 There was a short discussion on volunteering programmes for collecting litter. Several Friends have signed up to the Thames 21 events, some of which involve kayaking to scoop up litter. There are still shortcomings with litter collection schemes because of Health and Safety restrictions, insurance, supervision requirements. It was suggested that the maximum viable group size was nine, otherwise the arrangement costs become prohibitive.

11. Transition of British Waterways to Canal & River Trust.

11.1 British Waterways had supplied a batch of 8-page glossy brochures and these were handed out at the meeting. The brochure, named "The Canal & River Trust - keeping people, nature and history connected", includes a brief history of the canal network and sets out the vision for the future.

11.2 There was a brief discussion on the implications of this transition. There are growing concerns, particularly amongst boaters, that the move will not address some of the serious issues facing the canals, such as the lack of dredging which faces a £300 million backlog.

11.3 The Localism Bill was also mentioned. Very few people are familiar with this, but there could be opportunities in the near future to protect and promote the canal via Neighbourhood Forums.