Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting


Date and Time:
Wednesday 11th September 2013, 7pm to 9pm
Location:
London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT
Chair:

Ian Shacklock

1. Present

.
Garrie Naden Resident, Wenlock Basin
Ian Shacklock Friends of Regent's Canal
David Fathers Author, 'The Regents Canal'
Gemma Colgan Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art
Gordon Meen Reachview Resident; Friends of Regent's Canal (Camden)
Fiona Maclean London Narrow Boat Association; Resident, Battlebridge Basin
Sorwar Ahmed Canal and River Trust
Ruth Aplin Resident
Anna Hayden Resident
Malcolm Tucker Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society.
Eric Sorensen Angel Association
Tony Hay St Pancras Cruising Club
Beryl Windsor Angel Canal Festival, St Pancras Cruising Club
Keith Brown Community Organisers; Clear Village, Vyner Street
John White Friends of Mile End Park
Dohne Arnold Resident, Noel Road
Caroline Neller CHUG
Cat Vinton CHUG
Tony Islander London Canals Project
Sgt Iain Robertson Metropolitan Police
Stephen Ballard Volunteer, Canal and River Trust
Martin Anderson Volunteer, Canal and River Trust
Del Brenner Regents Network. London Waterways Commission
Lewis Towns Crowther and Towns Ltd
Kate Dobson
James Comyn
Richard Elkan Resident


2. Apologies


Ian Heptonstall
Roger Squires
Lisa Tang
Rob Inglis
Veronica Seymour Farr
Vince McCartney
Leo Chapman
Steve Burt
Bhupesh Thapa
Marnie Collins
Robert Philpotts
Jennifer Chan
Leo Collier

3. Introductions


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

3.2 The chair asked attendees to take their own notes during the meeting and to be prepared to pass them on to him after the meeting to help with the production and review of the minutes.

4. Announcements - Angel Canal Festival 2013


4.1 Beryl Windsor reported that the Angel Canal Festival had been a great success. The perfect weather had drawn the crowds (an estimated 6,000 people) throughout the day to see the stalls, listen to the bands and enjoy the street theatre. There was one lost child (later found by another child), a lost dog (promptly recovered), one seesaw accident in the park, and five lost property items found.

4.2 Coverage by the two local papers had been excellent. Extracts from the Islington Gazette and Tribune (and also from Waterways World) can be found on the following page.
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-09-01/ACF-news.html.

4.3 Ninety per cent of the volunteers were from St Pancras Cruising Club, which is based in Camden. There was a question about the need to supplement them with Islington based Volunteers. Beryl said the Angel Canal Festival had run a recruitment drive during the summer resulting in nine extra volunteers with one missed opportunity from Friends of Regent's Canal to be followed up.

4.4 Sorwar Ahmed (CRT) raised a query about safety on the lock, where he had witnessed dancers and musicians on the lock island. Beryl agreed to follow this up, but the general feeling was that the safety procedures and the festival's track record were more than adequate.

4.5 For the third year running, the Friends of Regent's Canal had a stall. Furniture and equipment was provided by the Islington Boat Club and Holborn Studios.
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-09-01/Friends-stall.html"

5. Announcements - Other Events


5.1 14th September. 12 noon to 4pm. Laburnum Boat Club Open Day to commemorate the club's 30th birthday.

5.2 14th to 15th September. London Mayor's Thames Festival.
http://thamesfestival.org/

5.3 21st September. CHUG Open Day
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-09-21/open-day-kingsland.html

5.4 21st September. Towpath Task Force at Kingsland Road Bridge
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-09-21/Towpath-Taskforce-Kingsland-Basin.html

5.5 22nd September. New River 400th Anniversary. The "Hidden River Festival" at Finsbury Park.
http://hiddenriverfestival.co.uk/about.php

5.6 1st October. Launch of Islington Boat Club fundraising campaign.
friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-10-01/All-Hands-On-Deck.html

5.7 16th October. Water Freight Presentation at CIHT
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-10-16/CIHT-presentation.html

5.8 16th October. Canal and River Trust User Group Meeting.

6. Canalival


6.1 The chair explained that an unauthorised canal festival had taken place on Saturday 1st June. This had been organised via Facebook and although the Canal and River Trust (CRT) had been aware of it, it took everybody else by surprise. It transpired that CRT had withdrawn support for the event because there were insufficient safety measures, but the organisers and participants went ahead with it regardless. Thousands of people arrived in Hackney from across London, carrying inflatable boats, and they invaded and blocked the canal from lunchtime until the early hours of the Sunday morning.

6.2 Further information on ths event has been published on our website:-
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/events/2013/2013-06-01/Canalival.html

6.3 There was a short discussion on whether the Friends might support or oppose any future events of this nature. A variety of views were expressed, ranging from encouragement to banning. The general view was that, if a floating festival was properly organised and licensed, with stewards, health and safety procedures, toilet facilities and provision for rubbish collection then most people would not object. There would need to be strict controls on people climbing over locks and moored boats and a cordoned off area to allow boats to pass through the canal. At the time of the meeting, no discussions had taken place to start preparing for such an event.

6.4 It was thought that another unofficial event was being planned for the first Saturday in October.

7. Crime Trends


7.1 There have been numerous reports about anti-social behaviour near City Road Lock. E-mail correspondence has been circulating between residents, councillors, the Police and the Canal and River Trust (CRT). Councillor Martin Klute had escalated the matter to Richard Parry, the newly appointed chief executive of CRT and Richard visited the Angel Canal Festival to see some of the scenes for himself.

7.2 Day-to-day problems have included excessive drinking of alcohol, shouting and playing of amplified music throughout the night in a residential area and trespassing on locks and roofs. Youngsters have been diving into the lock, swimming through the weir and jumping across moving lock gates.

7.3 Adults have been cooking BBQs on lock islands and lock landings, interfering with boater movements. There have been unlicensed boats, unlicensed fishermen and overstaying boats. The general situation had been described as lawlessness. There were questions as to whether the CRT, the local police or the local authority were responsible for dealing with the problems. Sorwar Ahmed (CRT) stated that all three parties were working together trying to solve the problem and that Mooring Rangers were being employed.

7.4 Some of the attendees were not convinced that any progress had been made so far and they wanted to investigate the CRT & local by-laws.

7.5 It was noted that certain boats are licensed (by the CRT) to sell alcohol to customers on the towpath, yet this often conflicts with local council regulations. This has aggravated the problem near City Road Lock, where there are already several pubs nearby and where there are problem drinkers on the towpath.

7.6 Residents have complained that they regularly call the Police, but by the time the Police arrive the offences have ceased and this renders the Police powerless to act.

7.7 Sergeant Iain Robertson introduced himself to the meeting and explained that the canal was included in the scope of his current role. He had been in the role for only three months and commented that he was constrained by a lack of resources. He suggested that one way of reducing the problem caused by troublesome boats was to ban them all from mooring on the stretch between City Road Lock and Wharf Road Bridge.

7.8 However, not all boats are troublesome and there was a counter-argument that the presence of boats makes the area safer, through passive surveillance, and it can therefore reduce the likelihood of muggings.

7.9 It was reported that there had been a spate of break-ins and muggings in the Victoria Park area of the Regent's Canal. Sergeant Robertson reminded everybody to use the 101 number for non-emergency crime and 999 for emergencies.

7.10 Some illustrations of the reckless behaviour are available on the following web pages:-
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/features/misc/hazards/gate-jumping.html
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/features/misc/hazards/hazards-at-locks.html
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/news-and-bulletins/2013/Waterways-World-Sep-2013-p28.html
http://www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/lawless_city_road_canal_basin_could_lead_to_teens_being_crushed_to_death_1_2320817

8. Litter Collection



8.1 There was a wide-ranging discussion on the problem of litter. All agreed that the litter situation was getting worse but questioned whether it was due to more people or fewer collections.

8.2 Some suggested that the overstaying boaters were to blame for using the towpath bins for domestic waste.

8.3 There was also a suggestion that boaters dump their waste into the water instead of using the designated pump-out facilities. This could be attributed to the shortage of facilities, but it was considered by all to be totally unacceptable behaviour. If anybody ever witnesses this happening then they are urged to report it immediately.

8.4 A boater complained that there was a lack of waste disposal points for boats.

8.5 Sorwar Ahmed (CRT) had advised the chair that rubbish collection was being increased to twice a day, seven days a week. This is a much needed improvement because previously there were no collections at weekends.

8.6 However, no amount of rubbish collection will stop individuals from throwing rubbish straight into the canal. One attendee reported that he had once seen a large CRT-style television set being thrown from a bridge into the canal.

8.7 Boaters reported that their engines had suffered as a result of curtains and plastic bags getting caught on their propellors.

8.8 One attendee reported that he had completed one of Thames 21's three-day Leader Courses (at 500 per person). This course is aimed at equipping an individual with the skills to lead litter picking groups.

8.9 Here is an example of a recent press report on litter in the canal.
http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2013/aug/wildlife-abandons-mucky-canal-waters

9. Mooring Conflicts and Constraints


9.1 This matter was not discussed at this meeting since an in-depth investigation is currently underway at the London Assembly. This is being chaired by Jenny Jones and further information is available on our website.
http://www.friendsofregentscanal.org/features/mooring/LA-review-2013/mooring-review.html

10. Towpath Adoption and Volunteering


10.1 The Canal and River Trust (CRT) has been encouraging groups to adopt a stretch of the towpath and to then assist with litter picking and cutting back of vegetation. This is in addition to the regular Towpath Task Force events that are organised by CRT and that target a different location each month for volunteers to work on.

10.2 One attendee disapproved of this approach on the grounds that the CRT should take full responsibility for the upkeep of the canal and not take advantage of unpaid labour.

10.3 However, most attendees were in favour of allowing groups or individuals to adopt or volunteer, on the basis that the volunteers were invariably willing to do the work.

10.4 The chair stated he supported adoption in principle, provided that private companies would not use it as an excuse to put their logos along the canal.

10.5 It is unlikely that the Friends of Regent's Canal would be in a position to adopt any stretches because we are geographically spread, but we are in a strong position to recruit and coordinate volunteers.

10.6 The chair reported that multi-national chains such as Marks and Spencer have been getting involved by pulling out shopping trollies and other debris from the canal. These types of event are often used as team building opportunities for their staff and they can be used as publicity opportunities; this is a cost-effective means of advertising for the chain, yet it also benefits the canal. In other cases, companies supply their staff as a way of paying back to the community but they do this without seeking publicity.

10.7 It was reported that Queen Mary College has adopted a stretch of towpath near its campus.

10.8 Further information on adoption is available on the the CRT website:-
http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/news/adopt-a-canal

11. Public Accessibility


11.1 The chair reported that Leo Chapman was continuing to campaign to open up the City Road Basin walkways for the benefit of the public.

11.2 Post meeting note - In early October, after several years of negotation and campaigning, the red gate adjoining the Islington Boat Club has finally been opened and it is now possible for the public to walk from Graham Street Park to the Plazza.
http://friendsofregentscanal.org/features/misc/accessibility/City Road Basin/open-red-gate.html

12. Planning Applications


12.1 Holborn Studios.

No official news to report. It was understood that Hackney Council was unwilling to accept any plans that involved demolition of the iconic chimney or the industrial facade; and the Mayor of Hackney was a keen supporter of the contribution being made to the borough by the Holborn Studios photographic business. It is likely that some of the plans are being reworked to address the council's concerns, but if the chimney is still under threat then the plans could end up going through an appeal process.

12.2 Bow Wharf.

The Canal and River Trust (CRT) is determined to fight for the proposed development at Bow Wharf, despite the decision by Tower Hamlets Council to refuse the latest application and despite the opposition from a range of canal supporters. The main opposition is coming not from boaters but from walkers and nature lovers who are amongst the CRT's targets for future support. The chair offered to write to the CRT to express concern about the proposals.

12.3 Ramp at Albert Road.

There are plans to reconstruct the ramp that leads to the Regent's Park stretch of the towpath, near Cumberland Basin. This should help to lure cyclists off the towpath before they reach the congested stretches through Camden.

12.4 New club house at St Pancras Cruising Club (SPCC)

Beryl Windsor spoke on behalf of SPCC committee member Tony Hay, who had been called away from the meeting. She said that she had seen the new plans, but the Club was divided as to whether a new or refurbished Club House was the best option.

12.5 Floating Platform at Camley Street.

Opinions were divided over the plans to build a platform into the waterspace. The original plans needed to be redrawn because the platform would have interfered with the navigational channel, but the revised plans have rectified this hazard. The mitigating factors are that this platform will be open to the public at no charge and it could offer educational benefits.

13. Canal Information Centre in Camden


13.1 The information displays were nearing completion and were being circulated by Starbucks to a handful of "interested parties". Although this project had been incubating for over a year, the design stage for the wall displays was quite rushed and this made it difficult to conduct proper peer reviews.

13.2 The Friends website will be used as a "spillover" area to hold the information that could not be accommodated within the exhibition area.

14. Date of Next Meeting


14.1 It was thought that a date in November would be preferable to December thereby avoiding Christmas activities. The chair encouraged everybody to check the Friends website for further updates.


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