Attended the River Thames Alliance mooring meeting this morning in Reading (10:00)
We have been to them before but this was the big annual meeting and high on the agenda was illegally moored boaters. The chairmans opening adress said that the issue is growing and now affecting many parts of the Thames and must be addressed.
The EA only have jurisdiction over mooring on their own assets, so if its on council or private land, they can not intervene bar amking sure the craft are licenced and insured, and most are!
A few highlights below
There were talks from the EA, locals councils and other river groups about the river which included overall management of the locks and waterways.
Oxford City council have as bad a problem with illegal boats as anywhere on the river. He went on to talk about areas where they have found virtual encampments of boats, also taken over public land, like a squat.
One major issue is that there are so many different land owners it has been difficult identifying who owns what, and getting all the parties to together. The mapping of that area took 6 months and in that identified a number of 'packets' of land with no ownership.
The illegal moorers got wind of this and have been putting in FOI's to get the list. So no ownership of the land = free mooring, no hassle. 10/10 for them doing it, clever cookies for sure http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/umbeg_meetings_2?unfold=1
Work with Unlawfully Moored Boats (UMBEG) was formed as a collaborative approach to working with partners so resolve the problem, identify hotspots, share intelligence
The Thames Landscape Strategy for Kingston council talked about new mooring on the Thames, Their is proposal to ahve visitor mooring along Queens promenade in Kingston, more here and they need any commentshttp://www.kingston.gov.uk/kingston_moorings_plan_implementation_report.pdf
EA update in very brief:
Adding 11 more warranted staff to patrol the river, plus a further 20 volunteer boatmen
Increasing patrols and visibility
Using powers under the Inland Waterways (IWO 2010) order to prosecute offenders
Income rising through better payment at locks and moorings
A number of cases coming to court very soon that could be significant if proven
David Allister of Richmond Council gave a talk about the new byelaw. They will have specific areas of 24 hour mooring and areas of no mooring, all with much better signage to make it very clear. mentioned that in the past, any new signs had been taken town within days of going up.
New local enforcement team will be put in place.
The new byelaw with give them the legal right to prosecute which is very difficult at present. The illegal moorers know all their rights and has made it very difficult to do anything. The Byelaw could take 2-years to come into force but are putting pressure on about this.http://www.richmond.gov.uk/home/council_government_and_democracy/council/council_consultations/consultation_details.htm?id=C00937
Whilst this new byelaw is not perfect, it will stop permanent mooring which is the greatest problem. yes they can 'buddy up, and swap places on 24 hour mooring, but still they have to move. I think we support this move as the TAC, any comments?
Lastly there was an open forum and was raised again about where the illegal moorers go, the ones who are in genuine need of housing, as against those who just are playing the system. No real answer to this as of yet.
This is only a summary of the meeting.