River Lea boaters to lose out to rowing clubs?

July 2017 - A Canal & River Trust London Mooring Ranger is proposing new restrictions that may see current mooring spaces removed on the lower part of the River Lea, writes Alec Wood.

The C&RT official has written a proposal outlining the removal of boats in places where the navigation is less than 18 metres (nearly 60 ft).

C&RT claims this is to aid rowers from two rowing clubs on the River Lea, although the current proposal would only affect the river near the Lea Rowing Club who use the stretch between Old Ford Lock in Hackney Wick and Tottenham Hale Lock.

A navigation of 60ft width is equal to around 8 narrowboats side by side. Places such as Homerton Road (at the bollards) and near White Post Lane are often used by London liveaboard boaters and have been named by C&RT as spots where mooring may be removed.

Calculations by local boaters suggest this would equate to 31 mooring spaces or up to 62 boats double moored and they suspect there is more to come as the proposal does not name all the areas that could come under the 60ft rule.

Alexander Gudmestad, the C&RT London Mooring Ranger (East) who dreamt up the proposal says in the introduction to the C&RT proposal: “The idea is to ease congestion so that the rowers can use the river with reduced risk. Most of the proposed changes are what we at the Trust deem as navigational improvements on this part of the river. Some changes are simple short term measures we want to put in place as soon as possible.”

When the Lea Valley Rowing Club General Manager, Stephen Mitchelson was asked why he believed the changes were needed for rowers on this stretech he said: "The point of rowing is to win races and therefore to go as fast as possible. Slowing down or stopping interferes with training programmes.

“Ideally we would like to be able to continue training without having to stop every few minutes."

Stephen Michelson refers to rowing boats having to stop or slow down when passing moving canal boats. The idea is, if there was more room to navigate, the rowing boats wouldn’t have to slow down when past by a moving canal boat but instead carry on as fast as they can.

But his estimate of a boat every few minutes is something of an exageration. A pilot study of how many canal boats travelled on the lower part of the River Lea per day, showed that boats going past every hour or so.

Dr Ben Bowles Research Assistant (Maritime and Rivertime Research) at London School of Economics who headed this pilot study said: “In light of claims made by Lea Valley Rowing Club, myself and two assistants undertook a pilot study to ascertain if the club's estimation of boat traffic on the stretch of the River Lea downstream of the club's location at Springfield was accurate.

“When these four days of observation are averaged, there are 20.25 boats per day, or an average of 1.125 boats/hour."

Given that the survey undermines the rowers' case there may be those who suspect C&RT's proposal has another purpose to it.

National Bargee Travellers Association London spokesperson Graham Ryder argued: “This C&RT proposal goes too far. Parts of the River Lea are not even 60ft and demanding this much is unrealistic.

“Canal boats going past rowers only happen every so often, there isn’t a good reason to stop people mooring in these places.

“It is a policy which only serves to evict people and waterways are for everyone."

It’s not question of rower against boat dweller as we found out when we asked a rower from the East End, Jay Miah, what he thought of C&RT proposal.

He said: “It's not good to move into an area and expect it to be a certain way. The Lea isn't a wide river.

“Living supersedes rowing. Rowing doesn't trump someone's home. I really enjoy rowing but it just doesn't.

“There is inconvenience and there's inconvenience. It's like comparing apples and oranges."

Helen Delmar who lives on her boat and travels up and down the River Lea said: “Taking up 60ft of the canal doesn't sound like sharing to me, it sounds like rowers getting priority over those living here, be that boaters.

“Lets dispel this myth CRT proposal will be for the benefit of sharing, this proposal by C&RT is a river grab and would leave beautiful stretches of the river inaccessible to boat dwellers wishing to moor up. It's completely unacceptable and I won't stand for it.”

Photos: The proposal by Alexander Gudmestad, the C&RT London Mooring Ranger (East).

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