Canal living set to be sunk by hike in fees
Mooring costs blow for boat-dwellers near King’s Cross who are escaping soaring property prices
20 July, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Boat-dwellers Julian Green, Simon Hodgkinson and Sarah LaBrasca: ‘It’s a vibrant and mixed community’
PEOPLE who moved onto canal boats as a solution to London’s sky-high property market are now set to be hit with a dramatic hike in mooring fees.
Boat-dwellers near King’s Cross claim they could be priced out of their barges if planned increases come into effect.
The Canal and River Trust wants the fees to rise by up to 45 per cent over three years – 15 per cent a year – at some sites on the waterway.
The charity says some mooring fees have fallen behind the market rate. To raise money to maintain the canal, it needs to raise prices.
But Julian Green, 47, said the significant increase would mean he would probably have to move from his boat in Ice Wharf, off New Wharf Road.
Mr Green, who has lived on his boat for 14 years, said: “I work for a charity, I earn a reasonable amount, but I’m right on the edge of what I can afford.
“There are several people who will simply not be able to afford it.”
He said his fees will go up from £11,000 to £12,500 a year. When he first arrived it was £5,500.
Many people chose living on a boat because it works out cheaper than buying or renting a home nearby.
“We can’t figure out exactly how the price has been determined and we would like them to do a more open and reasonable review with us,” said Mr Green. “I would like them to make sure everyone can use the waterways, and make sure London is not a place for the rich only.”
Retired couple Simon Hodgkinson and Sarah LaBrasca have lived on a boat for seven years at nearby Fife Terrace.
They say they are also likely to be priced out by the rent increases.
“It’s a very vibrant and mixed community, professionals to single mothers, to key workers, and some very poor people,” said Mr Hodgkinson. “We, as members of that community, should have the same kind of rights and security of our housing as people who live on dry land. It has been destabilising.”
Ms LaBrasca said: “It’s very magical here but there are some constraints. You live in a very small space. You don’t have running water. We have it, but you don’t necessarily always have electricity.”
A Canal and River Trust spokeswoman said the market price was based on a review of mooring fees, both the trust’s and those of other operators across London.
“The current popularity of London’s canals is unprecedented, with 76 per cent more boats on waterways today than in 2012,” she said. “ This is another small symptom of the housing pressure in London, with more demand for the limited number of residential moorings available.
“The trust manages some of the residential moorings in the capital, with the remainder rented out privately. The price that people on our moorings are paying has, in a number of instances, fallen behind the market rate.
“As a charity we have to raise the money needed to maintain canals. It is therefore important that we charge a fair market rate for services we offer, including moorings.”
She said that consultation was continuing, adding: “The maximum increases we’ve proposed are 15 per cent a year for three years, which will still make living on a boat on a residential mooring in central London, in places like Little Venice, Islington and Shoreditch, good value when compared to other ways of living.”