Time to challenge silly visitor mooring limits?

June 2017 - Boaters notice that shortening visitor mooring times seems to be a knee-jerk response from Canal & River Trust and, to a lesser extent, British Waterways before them. As Peter Underwood explains, it is not particularly logical, but can boaters do anything to change it?

Certain parts of the system – ironically not the busiest – have a plethora of short duration visitor moorings. It seems to be C&RT's only answer when holiday boaters complain; even though it doesn't help.

The standard response is 'it's fairer' a refrain I heard many times four years ago when NW Waterways Manager, Chantelle Seaborne unilaterally decided to make most of the moorings on the Lancaster Canal 48 hours, without consulting boaters.

After that debacle C&RT promised to consult about visitor mooring changes but that didn't stop the 'fairness' claim being repeated, nor did it stop them trying to sneak in changes in Birmingham and most recently on the Grand Union without proper consultation.

However, the Trust has never adequately proven its claim that shorter time limits are fairer to visiting boats – indeed it is still being said, without any evidence, as part of the London Moorings consultation.

In fact, shorter mooring times do make it slightly more likely a visiting boat will find a mooring – but only in very limited circumstances. When I consulted a mathematics professor and expert in probability theory working at both Oxford and Birmingham universities he said that was only the case if the visitor moorings were neither too busy nor too quiet.

In simple terms, reducing visitor mooring times makes no difference to a visiting boat finding a spot in places like London nor out in the countryside.

Yet we have C&RT and the IWA pushing for more moorings below the 14 or 7 days that are standard in London, despite the fact that it won't make it any 'fairer' for visiting boats.

Just as annoying, especially to those cruising for more than a week or two are the severely time-limited moorings on canals like the Shropshire Union and the Leeds and Liverpool.

Most of the mooring spots on the Shropshire Union that don't suffer from the sloping edge common to the canal are labelled 24 hour, and have been ever since the Shropshire Union Canal Society persuaded British Waterways that was acceptable many years ago.

Between Wigan and Liverpool on the Leeds and Liverpool the short-term mooring fanatics have gone further, with 24-hour moorings common in the small towns, villages and even countryside on one the lesser used waterways – another throwback to British Waterways.

These aberrations ought to be subject to challenge by boaters and The Floater asked C&RT whether there was any procedure for boaters to ask the Trust to look again at visitor mooring time limits that were clearly unnecessarily restricted.

The answer seems to be that there isn't. One of the spin doctors told me: “I’ve just had a chat with Matthew Symonds – there’s no official process but boaters can get in touch with the local waterway manager to let them know their thoughts and recommendations.”

Perhaps it is time there was a better way to challenge such restrictions and oblige C&RT to consult about increasing mooring times in certain places. Let us know what you think.

Photos: (1st) 24-hour mooring at a rural spot on the Leeds and Liverpool, (2nd) 48 hour mooring spot a Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal.

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