Boat count shows slow growth in numbers

May 2017 - As total boat numbers creep up by just 2.4 per cent and the percentage of continuous cruisers recovers to the 2015 level Peter Underwood looks at the patterns shown by the Canal & River Trust's annual boat count.

The number of boats on C&RT waterways has risen from 29,958 in 2016 to 30,677 in 2017 although there are another 3,446 in marinas and other waters that don't require a licence, bringing the total number of boats to 34,123.

With 4,757 of that number recorded as boats without a home mooring that means just 14 per cent are continuously cruising (down by 843 boats from 5600 in 2016), whilst another 10 per cent avoid C&RT licence fees by mooring on private waters.

The Canal & River Trust’s says that licence evasion on its waterways has reduced by 0.7 per cent overall in the past year to 3.7 per cent, with 96.3 per cent of boats holding up-to-date licences. This is the eighth year the rate has stayed below five per cent.

Jon Horsfall, interim head of boating at Canal & River Trust, said: “Unfortunately, a small minority continue to enjoy the benefits of boating on the waterways without putting anything back to fund their upkeep. In 2016/17 we had to remove 101 boats from our canals and rivers as they were unlicensed or in breach of our terms and conditions.”

He doesn't specify how many of those 101 boats fell into each category.

Given C&RT's current focus on changing the mooring rules in London, with a large scale consultation going on it is keen to point out that waterways in London have seen an increase of 339 boats – an increase of over nine per cent – but it doesn't say that is a slower rate of increase than in previous years.

In fact, overall boat numbers are up just 2.4 per cent with numbers in the North, North Wales and Midlands have seen a drop of up to one per cent but in the Central, East, South West and the South East regions numbers are rising by between two and four per cent.

Jon continued: “The popularity of the boating lifestyle in London remains high. Congestion aside it also puts a lot of pressure on the Capital’s 200-year old waterways: the facilities are seeing more use than ever before.

​"It’s a challenge to meet the demands of this soaring growth but we are working with boaters, other stakeholders and canal users to develop a strategy that will help identify ways to address some of the challenges that it presents.”

In fact, with just 14 per cent of boats not having a home mooring and around seven per cent of those in London there seems to be a lot of time and money being expended on a very small section of boaters.

There are 339 more boats in London than in 2016 and the last five years have seen numbers grow by about 1,500 boats to a total of 4,000.

Nationally there are just 637 more boats on the system than last year with total numbers up by just over 1,000 over six years.

The number of boats without a home mooring remains fairly static with 273 more Ccers this year but, as numbers dropped by 234 between 2015-16, the increase since 2012 is 445.

Photos: (1st) C&RT's breakdown by regions, (2nd) The growth in London boat numbers since 2012 - and how they are distributed, (3rd) London's Victoria Park in 2015, (4th) Little Venice - always busy moorings.

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