Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting

Date and Time:
Wednesday 20th November 2013, 7pm to 9pm
London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT

Ian Shacklock

1. Present

Bob Philpotts Author, When London became an Island
Meredith Whitten London School of Economics
Rob Harbord
Russel Hayden Resident, City Road Lock
Caroline Neller CHUG
Nouha Hansen architecture student
Roger Squires St Pancras Cruising Club; IWA, North East London
Del Brenner Regents Network. London Waterways Commission
Rosie Clements Gander
Owain Harris
Imran Khan
Liz Hill Walker and rower.
Emma Robertson
Mike Siddell
Phileas Harper The Architectural Review
Gavin Soo Resident, Lissen Grove Moorings
Caroline Hickey
Keith Brown Community Organisers
Ron Gooding
Simon Draze
Ben Chermett
Jonathan Sharpley
Gillian Comins Angel Association; Living Streets
Matthew Duke Resident
Marcus Jones Registered Marine Surveyor, JM Marine Services
Ian Shacklock Friends of Regent's Canal
Jennet Eyre Angel Association
Denise Walker Hidden Depths Canal Cruises
Rebecca Aspin Resident
Alastair Moore boat dweller
Tony Islander London Canals Project
Sian Whittaker
Dohne Arnold  Resident, Noel Road
Marcus Trower National Bargee Travellers Association
Mark Ormrod Resident, Islington
Hilary Ormrod Resident, Islington
Lee Wilshire CASS/London Waterways Project
Richard Elkan Canal and River Trust volunteer
Mikaela Khan Canal and River Trust
Sorwar Ahmed Canal and River Trust
Scott Hamilton Canal and River Trust
Jon Guest Canal and River Trust
Martin Anderson Canal and River Trust Volunteer
Christine Kemp Towpath ranger, Bow; 3 Mills Mooring Association
Bhupesh Thapa Islington Council - Greenspace
Cllr Paul Convery Executive member for community safety, Islington Council
Gemma Colgan  Parasol Unit Gallery
John White Friends of Mile End Park
Tony Smetham
Ian Heptonstall Resident
Daniel Fernandez Goldsmiths, University of London
Zimba Moore Resident
Martin Sach London Canal Museum

2. Apologies

David Bedford
David Fathers
Jenny Chan
Vince McCartney
Richard Parry
Deborah Seyman
Katy Andrews
Beryl Windsor
Cllr Martin Klute
Cllr Alice Perry

3. Introductions

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

4. Announcements

4.1 The Regent's Canal Information Centre.

The Lock Keeper's Cottage in Camden Town has been refurbished and the new information centre is now open to the public. This was the outcome of a joint project that involved the Friends of Regent's Canal, the Canal and River Trust, Camden Council and Starbucks. The chair expressed disappointment that the signage was less prominent than he had expected but encouraged everybody to visit the centre. Some recent photographs of this building are available on our website (2013-10-09/CIC-displays.html).

4.2 CHUG Open Day

Canals in Hackney Users Group (CHUG) is hosting an Open Day at Kingsland Basin on Saturday 1st December.

5. Context of Discussions

5.1 A list of issues was circulated to all attendees and this helped to scope the main part of the meeting. There were a lot of negative items on the agenda and this reflected the bad press that the canal had attracted in recent months, culminating in a motion that Islington Council had passed on 10th October. The objectives of the current meeting were to bring the issues to everybody's attention and to bring all affected parties together, to expose differing viewpoints, priorities and constraints, to gauge progress since the last meeting (11th September 2013) and to identify sub-groups for further discussion.

5.2 To see an online copy of the issues list visit canal-issues-20131120.html

5.3 For further information about the council motion visit 2013-10-10/Motion-to-Council.html.

5.4 The chair briefly explained the general nature of these issues prior to an open discussion on them.

5.5 A resident commented that it was important to look at the overall picture and to tackle the issues collectively rather than individually.

6. Speeding cyclists

The chair recommended that inconsiderate cycling should be kept off the current agenda on the grounds that (a) it was an issue that affected the whole of society and not just the canal and (b) there were more pressing topics on the agenda that affected boaters' and other people's homes.

7. Overflowing bins and fly tipping

7.1 Representatives from the Canal and River Trust advised that litter bins were being emptied twice a day seven days a week. This was a welcome improvement on the situation during the summer months, but it was noted that the benefits would not be measurable until the crowds returned to the towpath on warmer days. The Friends website is still being made available for keeping photographic records of litter problems.

7.2 It was noted that fly tipping is a problem that must be dealt with by the councils as well as the navigation authority.

7.3 A suggestion was made, after the open discussion, to have signs next to the bins similar to the National Trust ones, asking visitors to take their litter home with them.

8. Noise pollution from static boats

8.1 The chair explained why he had made specific reference to "static" boats rather than boats in general during discussions about pollution. The reason was to encourage observers to differentiate between moving boats and moored boats. The rules are different for moving boats and the impact on residents is usually far less.

8.2 One of the most common complaints from residents is the use of engines or generators between 8pm and 8am. The Canal and River Trust has started to recruit a team of volunteer caretaker boaters, who will provide a presence at visitor moorings and will advise fellow boaters to operate withing the rules.

9. Air pollution from static boats

9.1 Islington Council has received a large number of complaints about wood smoke from moored boats, particularly near Noel Road and Treaty Street. There are signs at the visitor moorings, stating that only smokeless fuel may be used, yet nearby residents claim that boaters are using wood as a means of heating. The exception to this rule is that wood can be used for kindling while getting a fire going.

9.2 A lot of people have assumed that councils cannot enforce any rules about smoke from boats, on the grounds that the Clean Air Act applies only to chimneys on land, and that is why some campaigners are looking into changing the legislation. However, Marcus Jones (of JM Marine Services) stated that the Clean Air Act 1993 part 1 section 1 applies to boats on the canal but in special way. This is due to the fact that under the Act they fall under the definition of a vessel which has the same meaning as it does under section 313 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. In other words, the council already has the powers it needs to enforce it, so there is no need to create something new.

9.3 Councillor Convery expressed surprise at this information and agreed to follow it up with the council officers.

9.4 The chair agreed to follow this up with Marcus Jones and to post further information on the Friends website.

9.5 Post-meeting notes. A report is available on the Friends website, along with some extracts from the Clean Air Act. They are viewable via Clean-Air-Act-and-boats.html.

10. Congestion at visitor moorings

10.1 There have been complaints from visiting boaters that it is virtually impossible to find spaces at designated visitor moorings and this is deterring them from coming to London. A common explanation is that the visitor moorings are not being used by genuine visitors.

10.2 A resident commented that the Islington Visitor Moorings are more pleasurable when there is a higher turnover of visitor boaters, since visitors engage with local people and then move on to make way for the next visitor.

11. Congestion at casual moorings

11.1 "Casual moorings" refers to stretches of the towpath that are not designated as visitor moorings. Typically they are used by boaters who move around continuously within London. However, some of these stretches are becoming just as congested as the visitor moorings, and demand is outstripping supply.

12. Mooring at lock landings

12.1 On numerous occasions moored boats have been left unattended at the bollards near entrances to locks. This is partly due to overcrowding and partly due to inexperienced boaters beng unfamiliar with the rules. For example, at St Pancras Lock and at City Road Lock. To passers-by nothing seems wrong with this arrangement, but it can be hazardous to other boaters especially the community boats and service boats. The area below Danbury Street ramp serves as a turning circle for boats as well as an entrance to the lock, hence badly moored boats can cause considerable delays to others. The chair explained that it was analagous to parking a motor vehicle in a box junction.

12.2 Things are expected to improve with the arrival of caretaker boaters.

12.3 Post-meeting note. The Canal and River Trust has started to paint all the Lock Landing Bollards in a distinctive yellow colour to signify that no permanent mooring is allowed on them.

13. Lack of signage explaining the rules

13.1 There are very few signs along the towpath that explain the rules about mooring or about climbing over lock structures. As a result it is difficult for members of the public to apply peer pressure on other towpath users.

13.2 There are opportunities for the Canal and River Trust to install modestly sized signs, explaining Do's and Don'ts, at locks, lock landings, bollards and other places where rules are frequently broken. These would serve as reminders for boaters who have already read the Boater's Handbook and as sources of education for other canal users.

14. Anti-social Behaviour

14.1 There have been several reports about anti-social behaviour in the City Road area. For example, trespassing on the cafe roof and on the lock structures, spraying of graffiti, alcohol abuse and excessive noise. Sometimes the behaviour has been linked to boaters but typically it is linked to youths from neighbouring areas.

14.2 Councillor Convery suggested that the canal has become a magnet for lawlessness because mischief makers believe that they are more likely to get away with things along the canal than on the streets.

15. Coffee Break

15.1 The original intention was for attendees to have a ten minute coffee break and then return around the table to discuss the last two items on the agenda. Instead, the coffee break served as a perfect opportunity for attendees to exchange information in smaller groups and the formal meeting drew to a close.

15.2 We are grateful to the London Canal Museum and the Canals in Hackney Users Group (CHUG) for providing refreshments.

16. The future of the Friends of Regent's Canal

This discussion has been deferred to the next meeting, which is likely to take place in February.

17. Volunteering Opportunities

There was insufficient time to discuss volunteering. However, the Friends of Regent's Canal have remained committed to facilitating volunteering. The intention of the discussion was to identify opportunities, such as towpath maintenance, lock keeper duties, campaigning, museum work and website design.