Talk of the Olympics is everywhere, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon with a piece I wrote whilst on work experience at the Hampstead and Highgate Express about how London’s canal boat dwellers are the latest community to suffer as a result of it. Underneath is the original piece, the edited version is shorter and has a slightly different slant. I’ve linked it here.
Canal boat residents have raised their anger over the effect of restriction zones put in place for the Olympic Games.
A restriction zone of 15 miles has been implemented around the Olympic Park area, stretching from Little Venice to Lea Bridge Road in Lea valley and the Limehouse Basin in the south.
The restriction zone means that boat owners within the area who are classified as ‘continuous cruisers’, those without a permanent home mooring, will have to either pay to stay or relocate for the 10 week duration of the Games from the 3rd July.
Continuous cruisers are legally permitted to stay in any one area for 14 days. However, this is often overlooked by British Waterways, the agency that deals with canal boat matters, if the owners do not cause any trouble. This means that canal boat residents can sometimes stay in one area for months at a time.
Boat owners with permanent moorings within the area will be exempt from the Olympic restrictions.
The cost of a designated Olympic mooring site will cost in-between £50-£350 per week whilst £36 per week ‘summer mooring’ permits have also been issued on a first-come-first-served basis for any free spots within the controlled zone.
Whilst 94 people have taken the designated mooring option and a further 100 have requested to stay within the Olympic mooring zone it is estimated that 176 boat owners will move to avoid the charges into the buffet area outside of Little Venice.
Boat owners in the Regents Canal area are worried about the effect of people being forcibly moved from their current homes.
Jasper Rolfe, 22, a student who owns one of the house boats, said:
“There’s a lot of dislike amongst boat owners about being asked to leave for the Olympics. I don’t think the welfare of the people on the house boats is being taken into adequate consideration. We won’t be allowed to move back to the area for 10 weeks which obviously could affect people in terms of in the area their jobs, hospitals and education for their children. It’s a terrible inconvenience and plus it’s going to create a massive backlog along the canal as people try find somewhere new to moor outside the Olympic exclusion zone, it’s just pants for the people, really.”
British Waterways have also been contacted by the owners of boats that nesting birds have made their home. As it is illegal in the UK to disturb nesting birds they fear they may risk falling foul of the law if they have to move their vessel in time for the Olympics period. The agency has made special provisions in connection with Natural England for anyone affected to have their stay extended to the 12th July by which time they believe that any active nests will be fully fledged. Currently four boats on the Regents Canal have been granted additional stay on these grounds.
Joe Coggins from the Canal & River Trust has defended the decision to implement additional mooring costs during the Olympics.
He said: “The income from Olympic moorings will be used to cover the additional staff resource required for the course of the Games, and to improve facilities and infrastructure in the area.
“We have recognised, through consultation with stakeholder groups and boaters, that the Games are going to cause disruption for local boaters, and we want to minimise this. We have been working with them to find a solution that strikes a balance between their needs and lifestyles and the wider requirements of the Olympics.”