Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting

Date and Time:
Wednesday 19th February 2014, 7pm to 9pm
London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT

Ian Shacklock

1. Present

Gillian Comins Angel Association; Living Streets
Beverley Dean Angel Association
Jennet Eyre Angel Association
Tony Islander London Canals Project
Helen Fawcett Volunteer
Richard Elkan CRT volunteer
Christine Kemp Towpath ranger (Bow). Three Mills Mooring Assoc
Eric Naylor Boater
David Fathers  Author
John White Friends of Mile End Park
Dave Bedford Lower Regent's Coalition
Keith Brown Community Organisers
Ron Gooding Boater
Lee Wilshire CASS/London Waterways Project
Gavin Soo Resident, Lissen Grove Moorings.
Roger Squires St Pancras Cruising Club; IWA (NE London)
John Checkley Skipper, Angel Community Canal Boat Trust.
Jason Lord Resident.
Charlie Kiss Green Party. Resident.
Ian Shacklock Friends of Regent's Canal
Alan Horwood Continuous cruiser
Gladys Greathead Continuous cruiser
Jonathan Trayner Narrowboat owner
Stephanie Dickinson Narrowboat owner
Stephen Ballard CRT volunteer
Rebecca Aspin Resident
George Theo
Gordon Meen Reachview Resident
Dohne Arnold Resident Noel Road
James Tregaskis Resident, Sturt's Lock
Effric Tregaskis Resident, Sturt's Lock
Del Brenner Regents Network. London Waterways Commission
Cllr Martin Klute Islington councillor
Martin Sach London Canal Museum
Andrew Boxer Singer (Kentish Town); cyclist
Robyn Litchfield Canalside resident
Beryl Windsor Angel Canal Festival. St Pancras Cruising Club
Nic Shore Volunteer
Mikaela Khan Canal and River Trust
Andrew Inge
Julia Torramade

2. Apologies

Bob Philpotts
Sukky Choongh-Campbell
Garrie Naden
Lisa Tang
Ian Heptonstall
Cllr Paul Convery
Cllr Alice Perry
Cllr Rupert Perry
Fiona MacLean

3. Introductions

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

4. Announcements

4.1 Viewpoint at Camley Street Natural Park

This is now open to the public. For details see Camley-St/viewpoint.html.

4.2 Accessibility - ramp closure at the City Road Plaza

The contracts manager at Mount Anvil has approached the Friends to seek our views on some plans for the Plaza end of the basin. This will involve the installation of two or three planters. Additionally they need to undertake some essential maintenance on the ramp and the ramp will be closed for a short time.

Some images and documents can be found on the page accessibility/Mount-Anvil-plans.html

The Friends were not in a position to comment because the dates of the closure were unknown and no justification for it has been provided. Councillor Klute advised that this should be referred to Islington planners.

4.3 Accessibility - footpath closure at Vincent Terrace

Islington Council has recently closed the footpath that runs along the offside of the canal between Noel Road and Vincent Terrace. This is a picturesque spot that has been underutilised in the past yet it has great potential as a rest area. For some images of this site see accessibility/vincent-terrace-closure.html.

Councillor Klute explained that the closure (by Islington Greenpace) was a result of a health and safety review, that the lease had expired around two years ago and that the council was unsure whether to invest in corrective action. There was a perception (amongst council officers) that this space was of limited value to the public.

The chair noted that the timing of this closure was very unfortunate, because he was trying to use this wooded area as a selling point for designating this stretch of the canal as a "quiet zone", and he urged the Angel Association to complain to the council about this loss.

4.4 Accessibility - locked gates at City Road Basin

Leo Chapman has continued to lobby Islington Council about the locked gates around the basin. Things had improved last year when the walkway was finally opened up between Graham Street Park and the Plaza, but there is still no access on the East side of the basin. Leo has been campaigning for about ten years, because the original redevelopment Masterplan promised uninterrupted pedestrian access around the basin.

There is no longer a good reason for keeping the gates locked and the council is encouraging a presumption of access.

4.5 Utilisation of the Regent's Canal Information Centre.

The refurbished visitor centre has been open to the public for three months but there are still a lot of canal supporters (e.g. towpath rangers) who are unaware of it. There is clearly a need to publicise this facility and to encourage volunteer groups to book the community table for meetings and to make use of the leaflet racks for canal promotions.

4.6 Planting events at Hanover School, City Road Basin. (1st and 8th March)

The parents and teachers of Hanover School are adopting a stretch of the towpath near City Road Lock and they are holding two events in early March to launch a new garden below the school wall. Further information is available on the web page Hanover-School-Garden.html

4.7 Blue plaque for Robert Aickman

Waterway campaigners are appealing to Camden Council to install a blue plaque in Gower Street to mark the centenary of Robert Aickman, co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association. Robert Aickman was instrumental in saving the canals from dereliction in 1946 and the chair offered to write, in the name of the Friends, to the council to support this idea. There were no objections.

4.8 Recycling Initiatives (dumb barges)

Lee Wilshere (London Waterways Projects) brought a model to the meeting, to demonstrate how "dumb" barges could be deployed on the canal for recycling purposes. Attendees were invited to review and discuss this model once the meeting had been adjourned.

4.9 Holborn Studios update

Hackney Council is proposing to add the Holborn Studios buildlings to its Local Heritage list. The chair offered to write, in the name of the Friends, to the council's conservation officer to support this idea. There were no objections.

Further information on this proposal is available on the web page local-listing.html

4.10 Local elections (22nd May)

The chair asked attendees to look out for hustings meetings and written discussions between political candidates, especially in the council wards that embrace the canal. (The five boroughs of the Regent's Canal are Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets). The local elections often provide an opportunity to quiz budding and existing councillors about crime, housing, transport, air quality and other topics that affect the canal.

Mikaela Khan agreed to look into the registration process for resident boaters, who are often excluded from local council matters.

4.11 Canal and River Trust User Meeting (26th March)

The next CRT user meeting is scheduled for 26th March and it has been rebranded as the "Waterway Forum". Advance questions must be submitted by 28th February to

5. Volunteering Opportunities

5.1 There was a discussion on volunteering to allow existing volunteers to introduce themselves and to explore how the Friends might contribute to the various programmes.

5.2 Some observers had been sceptical about the use of volunteers - and about the Big Society model in general - fearing that the authorities have been ducking their responsibilities, but their concerns were refuted by the active volunteers who explained that they were given adequate training, supervision and equipment. There had also been reports in the national press about threatened job losses at locks, leading to public safety risks, but this issue is not currently relevant to the Regent's Canal.

5.3 There were no objections to the Friends of Regent's Canal giving support to volunteering initiatives. The chair pointed out that we have no funds or other material resources, but we are in a strong position to publicise and facilitate events and programmes, for example through our website, bulletins, Twitter and word of mouth.

5.4 The Canal and River Trust (CRT) organises Towpath Taskforce events that usually visit the Regent's Canal on the third Saturday of each month. These are supervised by CRT employees, who supply equipment and a boat. The focus is on litter picking, painting and cutting back of vegetation. These are often promoted via the Friends' website and our bulletins and it is hoped that these events will become more frequent as the CRT's infrastructure builds up.

5.5 The CRT has been advertising vacancies for volunteer lock keepers. The expiry date for applications was 28th February 2014.

5.6 The CRT is recruiting a greeter volunteer to welcome visitors at Little Venice. A recruitment event was being arranged at the Toll House on Saturday 8th March. It was suggested that the Toll House should be kept open throughout the year to allow visitors and regular canal users to collect information.

5.7 The "Wildlife on your waterways" project is continuing to recruit volunteers. This is based in Camley Street Natural Park (near St Pancras Lock) and is run by the London Wildlife Trust. The Friends have been stakeholders since the launch of this project in 2012. The project's aims are to discover and enhance the canal's wildlife.

5.8 Various organisations and community groups are willing to help with volunteering activities. For example, Canals in Hackney Users Group (CHUG), Queen Mary's Support Group, Friends of Mile End Park, Thames21. Some of the activities require proper liability insurance and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) was suggested as a potential source of assistance.

5.9 David Bedford described some initiatives in the name of the "Lower Regent's Coalition". This is a group of volunteers based near Limehouse who have been liaising with the Friends in recent months.

5.10 Richard Elkan described an initiative that he has been proposing to the CRT. This is a water-borne litter collection service that would involve a dory (a small boat) with oars or a motor. The equipment costs seemed trivial compared with the benefits and it is likely that the Friends will work with others to promote this idea further.

5.11 Some boaters are currently in discussion with the CRT about increasing the number of recycling points. See item 4.8 above (Lee Wilshere's dumb barge model).

5.12 Comments were made about the poor rate of litter collection by official contractors. Some people felt that there were too few bins, judging by the amount of overflowing litter, while others felt that the CRT should adopt the National Trust approach of asking visitors to take their litter home with them. It had been reported in late November that the bins were being emptied twice daily, seven days a week, but there is little evidence that the contractors are committing to this arrangement. It was noted that plastic bins were being set alight and hence they were being replaced by metal ones. (Post meeting note: a resident has noted that some of the damaged plastic bins have never been replaced so there are fewer bins than before).

5.13 A narrowboat owner questioned why all the emphasis was being placed on cure rather than prevention. She suggested that there was a need for public education about the hazards of letting litter fall into the canal or onto the towpath. Rebecca Aspin offered to design some signage that might be used on bins, etc.

5.14 Useful Links

Towpath Taskforce London
Volunteer Lock Keepers
Greeter Volunteer at Little Venice Welcome Station
Lead Volunteers
Micro volunteering events coordinator
Thames21 events .
Wildlife on your waterways project
Lower Regents Coalition (Facebook page)

5.15 Useful Contacts

Canal users can send comments about litter (and accompanying photographs) by e-mail directly to the CRT at

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

6.1 Some discussion notes were supplied to all attendees on the reverse of the agenda. A copy of these notes is available on the web page Future-of-group.html

6.2 Judging by meeting attendances and other factors, the group has a strong future but the workload is increasing, the range of special interest groups is widening and the geographical spread of participants is much greater than before. This means that volunteers are needed to assist with the running of the group.

6.3 The concept of a written constitution was raised. Gillian Comins spoke to the audience giving strong reasons for keeping the Friends as an informal forum. She explained that there was nothing wrong with the group serving as a talking shop and urged everyone to drop the idea of constraining our activities with a constitution. Nobody disagreed.

6.4 It was suggested that the Friends could provide a monitoring role for reacting to planning applications in the vicinity of the canal. The chair noted that there was already a conservation advisory group that performed this function well in Camden but the other four boroughs were poorly served. There are already a number of Friends who are capable and motivated (see minutes of meeting, May 2013) and help is now required to coordinate their contributions.

6.5 Volunteers are requested to assist with the Friends' stall at the Angel Canal Festival. This event takes place on 7th September at the City Road Basin and help will be required not only with setting up and manning the stall on the day but also with preparation of leaflets and displays.

7. Mooring Constraints and air quality issues

7.1 The Canal and River Trust (CRT) is assessing options for additional moorings on the Regent's Canal. There are stretches that look suitable in theory but in practice there are problems with water depth and other factors.

7.2 An Islington Council representative, Sukky Choongh-Campbell, had planned to attend the current meeting to explain proposals for tackling air quality issues, but this discussion was postponed because the council report was still undergoing review.

7.3 It was reported that things had improved in the Noel Road area following measures taken by the CRT and the council. Councillor Klute confirmed that the number of complaints had dropped off since the caretaker wardens had established themselves. There was still work to be done but the efforts made so far seemed to be paying off.

7.4 A consultation was underway to review temporary changes to visitor moorings at Paddington. The changes include additional mooring spaces, installation of water points and concessions for trade boats. Details can be found in this PDF file.

7.5 The London Assembly mooring review concluded with a report named "Moor or Less". It was published on 27th November 2013 and the local government officers are awaiting comments. The Friends of Regent's Canal were involved throughout this review and all attendees were encouraged to read and comment on the report. The final report is available on the London Assembly website.

7.6 There have been regular reports of vandalism of boater facilities at Victoria Park. A water point at Old Ford Lock has been taken out of action repeatedly by a determined vandal. The CRT has referred this matter to the police and is looking into permanent preventative measures.

7.7 There are proposals for lighting up the towpath on the Lower Lea. This would be funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and canal users' views were beng invited.

7.8 Mooring has been suspended in the pool opposite the Filling Station at Goods Way near King's Cross. The towpath was also scheduled to be closed during the erection of pontoons. Questions were raised as to how the Friends could encourage better management of the site for all canal users.

7.9 A boater complained about the behaviour of security guards at the offside moorings opposite the Granary steps at King's Cross. This led to a brief discussion about the ownership of the land. The area is promoted as a public space but it is privately owned and the public are permitted access on certain terms. This anomaly was reported in the Guardian in June 2012.

7.10 The chair mentioned the "Better Relationships on the Waterways" project. This is run by the CRT and it serves to bring together various types of boater and canal user, to thrash out mooring issues. It is led by Sorwar Ahmed, the CRT's Boater Liaison Manager who was appointed in 2013.

8. Next meeting

8.1 The next public meeting is likely to take place on a Wednesday evening in May 2014. .