Thursday, 30 July 2009

Mockery of Moorings Tenders process

I've mentioned before BW's policy of only offering mooring vacancies to the highest bidder.

This is what presently constitutes British Waterways' process for allocating vacant moorings on its waterways. Their justifications for this (and the almost universal opposition from the main boating user groups) can be seen in full detail here.

20/20 - Visions or Illusions? (Part 2)

There is an interesting third sector debate rumbling in the public housing sector at the moment.

Housing Associations have for many years been deemed to be third sector organisations. One of the implications of that is, because they are not full blown public bodies but 'independent', they are not subject to the same legal and public scrutiny processes as a Council Housing departments. For instance The Freedom of Information Act for instance does not apply to Housing Associations.

Well a tenant has managed to persuade the Courts that because her landlord receives public money and works so integrally with the public housing process they should be subject to a thing called Judicial Review - This is the legal process for challenging the lawfullness of a public body's actions. (See for instance 'Inside Housing's coverage)

The intertesting point to me in that story is that the landlord is considering issuing an appeal to try to avoid being subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The Housing world has split on this one. The landlord was most recently taking the view that they could not afford the expense and trouble of even the possibilty of allowing of their actions being scrutinised in this way and was last I heard, trying to persuade other landlords to join in an appeal.

The opposing view and one which I ascribe to, is one of deep disgust that they should fear being subject to this level of scrutiny when their decisions can have such an impact on people's lives. Housing people of a more radical view like me take the view, if your policies and procedures can't stand up to this sort of public scrutiny when the sector is in receipt of millions of pounds worth of public funding a week, and has a huge impact on the lives of so many people, then we (and you!) should be worried!

This illustrates one of the potential down-sides of letting BW go third sector. The already weak accountability processes in BW when it comes to policy decisions may be further weakened and that is in itself enough of a reason not to endorse BW going third sector?

(First published by me as a comment on Narrowboatworld, earlier today

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Big Green Gathering cancelled

To confirm that Big Green Gathering has been cancelled, it appears due to a last minute decision by the authorities to pull the licence on several points. See:

I have also had this from friends of friends who were due to be trading on the site and it is definitely off.

If you know anyone in transit or planning to go please let them know because it's expected the Police will be turning people away before you get there.


A recent posting by 'Grey Nomad' on Narrowboat World on the latest BW annual report:

Having downloaded the PDF version into a PDF reader, I have done a word search. The results are quite interesting:-

Boats 11 counts,

Dredging 8 counts

Locks 17 counts

Maintenance 35 counts

Property 167 counts

Perhaps that's all you need to know?

BW's latest annual report is available from:

Plug being pulled last minute on Big Green Gathering?

I was sad to see that Mendip District Council are threatening to stop BGG going ahead only a few days before the event was due to open, despite having given the go ahead through the licencing process only a few weeks previously. It seems this only just broke and that an injunction hearing to will take place in the High Court tomorrow (Monday). (Click on the title above to link to the BGG website for the latest updates.)

Here's thinking positive thoughts and wishing that whatever the problem is, it can be sorted out.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Lammas Project

Best wishes from me to the the Lammas project at the forthcoming planning hearing:


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Lesson - Don't draft things in MS Word and paste to your blog

I have discovered the hard way all the of the hidden formatting codes embedded in Word, when I pasted the last article. (Stuart - now I know why you love your Mac !) If some of the formatting and text colours in my last post look weird, blame Bill Gates. I am presently re-learning the mysteries of HTML subject to which I hope to be able to make the last posting a bit more presentable shortly!

20/20 - Visions or Illusions?

The winds of change may finally be breaking through in Watford. British Waterways recently launched “2020 – A vision for the future of our canals and rivers”.

That British Waterways needs to change and modernise is self evident. A £30M deficit, no prospect of Government bail-out, plus the emperor’s new clothes having fallen off BW’s planned reliance on the property market, all focus the mind, even in BW!

The immediate consequences for those most intimately connected to the waterways however are that we are paying the price.
  • Boaters, the largest and most valuable group of individual fee paying customers, are seeing licence and mooring fee increases at the hand of BW of typically 7-10% per annum.
  • Mooring vacancies are now only offered to the highest bidder.
  • A thousand BW staff including their frontline patrol teams (but not the board and directors who led them into this mess!) is having to re-apply for nine hundred vacancies (i.e. rather than upset a hundred members of staff with redundancy notices, let’s upset a thousand!).

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Recent Times article on Grow Your own food in the city

I liked this article - it touches on many of the ideas that have crossed my mind, living in central London. (Click the title to link to the item).

The best eggs I have eaten in a long time came from a former work colleague who keeps their own chickens and 'sold' their excess, giving the money raised to the organisation's charitable wing.

Monday, 13 July 2009

London: Recent Example of BW tactics against unauthorised residential boats

While looking for something else I found this in a set of BW's recent user group meeting notes:

Q. Boats overstaying in large groups at the same site are effectively creating an estate without planning consent. If the facilities at Fieldes Weir are closed, where will the Elsan containers be emptied?

A. The facilities at Stanstead Abbots are not a long distance away, so boaters should go there instead.

Q. Will the water supply be turned off at Fieldes Weir?

A. Yes, all the facilities will be suspended. There are currently boats moored illegally which are permanently connected to the BW water supply, so turning it off will make them move.

Moderation of comments

One reason I have to leave all this switched on is my experience of BW's propensity to threaten litigation and other actions against people who publish things they don't like hearing! The merit of what is being said is not always taken into account, and rather than tackle the issue head on, BW have been known to use scare tactics and the threat of legal costs to muzzle complainants and critics.

I will happily defend my own words but in this environment I have to take a little care about what I let other post on my blog.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

What's got me round to writing a blog?

I've been campaigning on residential boating issues for many years. One of the frustrations has been trying keep in touch with the different and diverse community of residential boaters. Time to try something new?

I'm aware of lots of individuals and groups dotted around the country who never quite manage to hook up with each other. If all this blog does is a get a few more of us talking to each other then that's what I intend.

I hope some of the folk who don't feel able to engage with the mainstream user groups will if nothing else see this and know they are not alone.

I believe we need ultimately to network and stand together if we are not to be picked off one by one? I have seen this happen to many of my boating friends over the years and it is still going on.

British Waterways Moorings Policy Consultation

BW's national consultation structure includes something many of us call WUSIG. It's a six monthly meeting between BW and the main Waterways User Groups.

In April 2009 they tabled a detailed paper for attendees laying out a huge range of proposed new policies towards moorings management generally.

What does it say? Well I saw this in my capacity as a NABO officer so I can't tell you! And don't bother looking again at the BW link above either because at the time of writing, nearly three months later, notes of the meeting are not yet posted.