A meeting of boaters concerned with the implementation of private moorings on the River Lea, London, at Leyton Marshes was held on the 21st March 2012.
The mooring site comprises a stretch of river bank approximately 150 metres long on the east side of the river Lea, and will provide moorings for perhaps 10 boats. The land is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and consists of open parkland, which is currently used for leisure and recreation by members of the public. Management of the mooring is being carried out by the Lea Valley Springfield Marina, which is owned and run by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA).
Google Map link to the location:
The mooring site comprises the land on the east side of the river, south of the cattle grid in the adjacent Sandy Lane, and to the north of the nearby pedestrian bridge over the River Lea.
Sign at the mooring site:
The site has been habitually used for many years as casual moorings by many different live-aboard boaters. The boats moored at this site have been defined and licensed as Constant Cruisers (CC), which is a term used by the Canal and River Trust (CaRT), who manage the River Lea, to describe boats without a home mooring. These vessels are required to move to a new mooring every 14 days.
In 2012 Leyton Marshes was the subject of conflict between Olympic Delivery Authority and many local residents, dog walkers, and other concerned individuals and groups. The conflict centred around temporary basketball courts which were built as part of the London Olympics. Campaigners feared that the courts would set a precedent and that development and buildings would become permanent on the site. The campaign turned quite nasty with campaigners imprisoned and slapped with claims for legal costs by the authorities. Trust between many locals and the LVRPA have not recovered, and many still fear a creeping development of the Marshes. The campaign group Save Lea Marshes (formerly Save Leyton Marsh) is opposing the imposition of the new moorings, which amounts to another privatisation of public space.
During the meeting boaters raised a number of issues and concerns over the Leyton Marsh mooring plan. These are set out below.
1) The “privatisation” of this mooring site removes it from use by Constantly Cruised boats.
2) That the rental and privatisation of these moorings may set the precedent for other locations and leaves open the possibility that CaRT will work with the LVRPA to privatise and commercialise significant portions of the Lea. Also this model could be used on other waterways in London and the rest of the country. This would mean a reduction in available mooring sites for the CC community.
3) A LVRPA report from 2013 (Note 1) shows the Park’s “concerns relate to the poor state of the boats”.
And in a letter dated 26th May 2011 to Sally Ash, Head of Boating at British Waterways (now CaRT) (Note 2) from the Lea Valley Park’s chairman says “I acknowledge the limitations on your powers to enforce against physical appearances.”
Lee Valley Springfield Marina, who have been inviting applications for the moorings on Leyton Marsh, require a photograph with the application. One boater reported a Lea Valley employee informing her that she would be unlikely to be allocated a mooring due to the poor visual appearance of her vessel.
The LVRPA chairman’s wish for “powers to enforce against physical appearances” appears to have become a reality.
The above evidence was discussed at the meeting. All persons present at the meeting were unanimous in their condemnation of this, and agreed this constitutes a form of social cleansing.
4) The implementation of these moorings may be not be lawful insofar as virtually all boats in the area are live-aboard, but the new moorings are classified as “leisure”, i.e not live-aboard. A residential mooring requires planning consent from the local authority. These moorings do not have such permission, which is presumably why they are classified as “Leisure”.
5) Another question and concern raised at the meeting was whether any land adjacent to the moorings would be closed off. The group was concerned that if even the smallest amount of land was closed off this would mean a loss to the local community of MOL. Concern was raised that although an enclosure of land may not be carried out now, it may eventually be enclosed, and as such form a gradual loss of MOL. However if no land is closed off the group wondered what benefit any boater paying for a mooring at the site would gain, especially because they would not benefit from any rights as residents owing to the fact that the LVRPA are claiming the moorings are not residential.
6) The land registry shows that the land and river bed which constitute this mooring site is owned by the LVRPA, and has been for decades.
7) The land immediately adjacent and parallel to the mooring appears to have a public right of way over it.
8) The LVRPA report and letter mentioned above gave the meeting cause for concern due to the fact that it clearly regards live aboard boaters as a problem, not an asset.
(1) Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Scrutiny Committee 7 Nov 2013 at 1100.
(2) Letter included in the above report from Derrick Ashley, Chairman, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to Sally Ash, Head of Boating at British Waterways. 26th May 2011