4th October 2017
Once every three months or so the elected boater representatives to the CRT National Council meet up with CRT staff to review topical issues which we need to understand in order to offer a meaningful insight into the National Council, which last met in September.
The meetings take place at Aqua House in Birmingham, which occupies a site next to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal just below the BT tower. If you ever need to visit just aim for the tower and you cant go wrong.
Having arrived by bus I decided to approach via the towpath, walking up from the Walsall Road. I have to admit that it wasnt long before I removed my headphones on account of all the rather dodgy looking characters loitering in the undergrowth. This is clearly a favoured area for rough sleepers and even as a big chap I was more than a little intimidated, not that I had any trouble. With the weather on the turn I felt very sorry for individuals who find themselves in cardboard boxes in this dark, dank and seedy area.
Anyway, I arrived and was joined by three of the three private boater representatives, plus Nigel Hamilton who is the other Boating Business Representative for a 2.5 hour meeting which included discussions on the following topics:
As with so many largish organisations, we struggle to understand how CRT is organised and which departments do what. In an ideal world there would be a full organisational structure with up to date job descriptions, but this just doesn't exist and would consume a lot of resource to compile and maintain. We decided to have a dynamic walk through session in 2018 when the structure will be explored and the areas we are interested will be looked at in closer detail.
Clean Air issues
Even before the mayor of London announced his intention to press for tighter smoke emissions we were aware of a government initiative covering similar ground. The mayors intervention serves to highlight the issue and will probably advance action to address a known issue.
The CRT view is that any change will require new primary legislation, which isn't likely to occur in the short term, but the issue is on the horizon and approaching. The impact of any changes will include boaters, particularly those that run engines and burn coal / wood. The Trust is therefore starting to consider what they can do alongside what boaters can do.
The increasing number of boats subject to significant alteration (overplating, extensions / stretch, rooftop storage etc) has an impact on the RCD approval which was issued when the post 1995 boats were originally registered. There is no credible infrastructure to re assess modified boats to ensure they remain safe.
This issue impacts BSS and will be covered in a future session when all impacted parties will be present, including insurers.
Stages 1 and 2 are complete. The outcomes have delivered "rich" feedback which have taken longer to collate than was originally anticipated. The outcomes are being presented to the NAG (National Advisory Group) next week and the mainly e-mail based questionnaire is being sent to all private license holders next week.
The aim of the final stage of the consultation is to seek feedback highlighting preferred options and identifying unanticipated consequences. This is a one off opportunity to amend the approach to licensing and mainly provides free format text boxes for comments.
Business License holders (particularly hire boat fleets) are not included in this process and will be reviewed when the approach to private boats is agreed.
There is a concern that only the vocal 10% will respond and the mass will not offer feedback, distorting the perception of general opinion. Please take 10 mins to review the survey and respond during the 10 weeks available.
There seems to be an increasing number of pinch points around the system where wider narrowboats are getting stuck. The question was asked if there is a common cause (maybe forced grouting?) and this will be taken away and considered as part of the repair programme.
Equality Act Customer Services Policy
We were offered a short presentation on the above which is in response to the Equaltities Act and replaces the disability Discrimination Act, Special Provisions Act and Race relations Act which we are familiar with.
This policy is a work in progress to ensure CRT's Policy and Practices comply.
London Mooring Strategy
- Some scope to increase mooring space has been identified (room for about 100 boats) but much of this is outside the central area and is not all owned or controlled by CRT.
- Provision of moorings by non CRT providers will be encouraged
- Improved short stay moorings in 11 locations which will be subject to daily inspection to prevent abuse.
- Four new pre bookable moorings will be made available, building on the success of Rembrant Gardens in 2017. Olympic Park, Kings Cross, Limehouse Cut and Regents Park. Pre bookable trader moorings will be created in Kings Cross.
- Winter Moorings to be improved outside the central area.
- Improved facilities are palanned over a number of years including water, rubbish, pump outs, elsans, low impact living encouragements.
- Improved communication between boaters and the Trust.
- Increased Business Boating activity.
- Encourage accessible and affordable access to water for all - eg canoe launch sites.
Online Mooring Reduction Policy
Results from 2009 to 2017 (587 on line moorings removed in response to new off line moorings) were shared and the programme will be the subject of a review in 2018 including consultation and feedback.