Earlier this month The Floater published the NBTA case in some detail. Now we have invited Lee Wilshire, Founder of the London Waterways Projects to explain why he feels his project should take precedence over Continuous Cruisers mooring at the site, near an old gasworks, and instead provide community, fixed price moorings.
Lee first approached Canal & River Trust about developing this site as a social enterprise in 2013. After over three years of discussion he says he can finally confirm taking possession of the site.
Lee says: “This site will test and pioneer our approach to moorings provision – on the basis of need and connection to the local area. Through developing fixed price moorings we hope to enable individuals and families with most need, or who have a strong connection to the local area (perhaps through work or school) to put down roots without having to leave the water.
“Initially London Waterways Projects will operate Corbridge Crescent on a short term agreement with the Trust, during which time we will repair and restore the site railings and sow the seeds of a mooring community. We will use this time to finalise details of far more extensive works to repair the canal wall and bring full services to the site.
The interim moorings do not include any services and prices for moorings during the initial interim period are £375+VAT a month.
Lee points out that access to the Gasworks site has historically been through a broken fence, and claims there has been repeated use by unlicensed boats and criminal activity at times.
He went on: “The reason we are developing the site is because I approached the Trust back in 2013 following the GLA report with a list of plausible sites and Corbridge was the one which came out on top as the site deemed most suitable to try to develop.
“The fact that the site has been moored on for many years is neither here nor there - the site is currently signposted as operational use and it's on the offside.
“I'd be the first to defend towpath moorings, such as the loss of a much larger section of towpath to permanent moorings in Hackney Wick (which I objected to unsuccessfully throughout the consultation process) but the gasworks site is not, and never has been, in that category.
“I've worked with the NBTA on a few things and in fact discussed London Waterways Projects with some of their London members prior to anything happening with the development.
“However I find this case to be a bit hypocritical - for the NBTA to object so vehemently to what we are trying to do here on an offside site, when they never opposed the case when twice as much actual towpath was converted to long term moorings in Hackney Wick.
“To foster the kind of benefits we would like to provide on our mooring sites, we advertised this in the public domain so that all boaters had a chance to participate - I suspect had I said nothing and given the moorings to my mates, or auctioned them off to the highest bidder, the site would now be occupied and no action other than bemoaning the tide of 'privatisation' would have occurred.
“Instead we have fundamentally tried to be fair to everyone, and now have families with children ready to take on a mooring at the site but I am left feeling as though I may be putting young children in the line of fire for abuse from what is in reality a very small minority of boaters.
“Finally, I'm also left feeling that as an organisation the NBTA really needs to review what they stand for and who they represent.
“I joined a waterway community which was full of people with different ideas, who nonetheless figured it out and got along. We might not have been able to see eye to eye on everything, but accepting these different views and moving forward was one of the many things which made the community genuinely interesting and dynamic.
“The NBTA currently seem to be adopting a 'with us or against us' approach which ultimately I feel will only serve to undermine the canal community as a whole and I can't say that such an approach represents me as a CCer or any of the many friends I've made over the years.”
Lee says his London Waterways project is pretty simple but claims it has quite far reaching positive benefits to the waterway.
“Though moorings are the most obvious thing right now, the overall project isn't just about moorings.
“The general idea is to develop non-auction moorings which are priced based on cost to develop and operate, rather than just maximum profit.
“There is an application process which is intended to help to create a community rather than a parking space for boats and the intent is to support people who need a mooring most for whatever reason. (E.g. family with a child who used to moor in town some of the time and out of town at others but now find they just can't get into town because its all too busy, or who can't double moor because someone is disabled etc etc.)
“The ultimate aspiration is to outsource this shortlisting process to local organisations who have skill and experience in assessing applications - to this end, we are currently working to develop strong relationships with a number of local housing associations in proposed areas.
“I have spoken informally to CRT a number of times over the years about supporting community projects through providing sub-market rate leases and, whilst they have been supportive in principle, the quite rational response is that central London also needs to support less-loved parts of the network which still need to be maintained.
“Whilst I would love to have CRT give sites away to community groups, it makes sense to me that these sites shouldn't be in zone 2 where there is some potential for revenue, considering they have 2200 miles of canal across the country to keep in water.
“What London Waterways Projects aspires to do, is to meet CRT in the middle and to pay market rate for the land/water on a site; by then not making a huge profit from the development (and minimising costs more intensely that a commercial developer might), we are able to make the actual price of moorings significantly below the prevailing market rate.
“This also comes down to leases, and we are working with CRT to secure the longest leases they are comfortable with to spread the initial financing over the longest period of time. After the initial lease period it's probable that the site will be maintained by London Waterways Projects, but a negotiation will take place over new lease terms as with any commercial lease renewal.
“Though the moorings are priced based on their costs, they are still a revenue stream and in time when the construction work (and worse the banks interest!) is paid off this will hopefully result in some surplus to support other projects which benefit the canal.
“I'm a firm believer in getting on with something if you know it's right - to that end I've started the Bins By Boat Trial, as a part of London Waterways Projects.
“I've not been paid a penny for doing that but have spent a not insubstantial amount of time and my own money supplying bags to boaters, developing and maintaining a website and managing the whole thing.
“This was a situation where everyone agreed it made sense but it just needed someone to get on and do it to make it happen. In time, with the ability to offer small grants, I would love to support other boaters in similar projects which just get on and do something that hopefully has a lasting benefit on the canal.
“Aside from moorings supporting community projects, they can also be used to piggy back much-needed facilities for the wider boating community.
“I don't believe in relying on solely on C&RT to fund new facilities when there is a viable alternative, in London at least I think my approach is a viable alternative.
“We need facilities and we need offside moorings. It seems logical to me to try to use offside mooring development to fund new facilities rather campaigning for more facilities solely funded by CRT, resulting in more money which CRT can invest elsewhere.
“Beyond the moorings the wider remit of London Waterways Projects is to make the case for boats and boaters with planning authorities and to engage with surrounding community groups to increase understanding of the needs of boats and boaters.
“An example of some of this would be representations on planning applications and ongoing dialogue with a number of London Boroughs and Housing Associations to make provision for and better understand boats - by no means are we the only ones doing this, but through extensive experience I have gained over the years I have a ton of knowledge about the costs and the practicalities of doing stuff on the canal, and can now quickly fag packet ideas & costs to move a conversation beyond "we'll look into it" into maybe actually happening.”
You can find more about the project here: