Boaters protest East End gentrification

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

The National Bargee Travellers Association is keeping up the pressure on the Canal & River Trust on several fronts – and the latest is what they see as the gentrification of the canals in London. Peter Underwood has tidied up the press release.

The area in question are former public moorings on an historic wharf right next to the gas works (Corbridge Crescent) in Tower Hamlets that are set to be made into private leisure moorings as part of “regeneration” of the area.

The NBTA says the area has been used as a public mooring for years until the Canal & River Trust looked to turning them into private moorings.​

The campaign against the takeover was launched at a boat community get together to protest.

Marcus Trower, the National Bargee Travellers Association deputy chair said: “London has seen so much gentrification, where areas have been regenerated, but not regenerated for the people living there already. Many of the people that have lived there for generations have been forced to move out.”

“On the waterways, we are seeing much the same. Areas which have been used for years as public spaces for any boat moor up to have been taken away, replaced by private moorings for a few which have the money to pay for it.

“These public moorings are part of the history of the canal. They should not be made private, they should be open for anyone to use. We are making a stand, we will do anything we can to keep what is public, public.

“Boat dwellers gathered at the public moorings in Tower Hamlets to protest against the privatisation of the public mooring, discuss what should be done to keep the moorings public; and the good times we've had at the moorings over the years while we shared some home cooked food.

Thea Smith, a local boat dweller which came to the event said: “The gas works has been a much loved space on the Regents Canal. When I began to live on my boat the gas works was the first place I met people, learned to tie my ropes, and discovered the beautiful community that the canals have to offer.

“I am in shock, saddened and disheartened by the Canal and River Trust's plans to privatise this space.”

Graham Ryder, a local tradesman and boat dweller on the moorings right now said: “I have been lucky enough to be able use the gas works mooring in the building of my narrow boat, Gwendowlyn.

“It has been the biggest and best project I have ever worked on and the gas works mooring is one of the few places that people can do work on their boats away from the towpath.

“I feel that places like the gas works are disappearing fast and don't have to be privatised to work properly for the boat and general community.

Luc Van Helfteren another local boat dweller, said: 'It will be a real shame to lose this lovely idyll in Tower Hamlets to the rising tide of privatisation and gentrification of our public places, and to see a well established community space ripped from the hands of those who have used it and looked after it for so many years.'

Photos: (1st) The NBTA protest against 'gentrification', (2nd) Boaters using the gas works moorings in 2012.

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