Monday, 10 August 2009

Moorings Tenders at the RBOA AGM

A jaunt into the country to a pub near Hatton for me on Saturday to the Residential Boat Owners Association Annual General meeting. I was going anyway but billing of one Robin Evans as guest speaker made the journey even more attractive!

The venue was a bit of a disappointment. Bit of a shambles and not too friendly. I'm sure that they are under pressure and feeling the pinch like the rest of us but getting grumpy with the customers does not seem like a good plan when you are also trying to take £15 off them for lunch? (I subverted this anyway by walking round to the cafe on Hatton Locks where a full English and pot of tea came to £6.)

So back to business. One has to respect Robin for coming to these events and I will always give Robin that much credit. He does come out to meetings like this and take the flak. Unsurprisingly there was quite a lot of it, though as ever firm but polite.

Inevitably Moorings Tenders came up and we got what I found to be a not very well thought through response. I won't go into all the detail but it has raised the question, (e-mailed to Robin a little earlier!), how much profit is BW making out of its directly managed moorings?

I have never suggested BW should subsidise moorings and I'm getting fed up with that old story Robin. Time to drop it.

(I also don't mind effectively paying a levy to support BW operations generally through my mooring fee provided most of that our money is going back in improving boating facilities generally. Unfortunately it seems that any surplus BW have made recently on mooring fees has been eaten up by debts BW have incurred through bad investments?)

This being an RBOA gathering, the fact that scarcity means that residential berths are receiving the highest tender prices was raised. It was forcefully pointed out from the floor that this is pricing a lot of people who live on their boats out of the possibility of taking a mooring.

Poor Robin also appeared genuinely annoyed when it was pointed out that contrary to previous undertakings, BW's Marinas unit did not appear to be consistently supporting the inclusion of more residential moorings during planning applications for marina developments. To his credit Robin agreed to rattle a few cages in Watford today.

There was clear consensus that BW needs more residential moorings on and by the network, but the problem I see it, is that as things stand, these moorings will only go to the highest bidder. We ran out of time to explore this one further.

It seems obvious that if the prices that new and existing moorings command are out of the reach of those boaters already living on the waterways who want them, all any new moorings will represents is BW developing a new revenue stream.

Continuous Cruisers at the meeting I think felt a little concerned at all the talk of long term moorings and they have my sympathy.

It's important that people realise that boaters don't need to have any long-term mooring and that this is statutory right under the Waterways Act. The Act enshrines the principal of a universal licence for unlimited private navigation. This was something many of us in RBOA and NABO and elsewhere fought to get in the Act and have subsequently defended for many years. As the legislation shows, Parliament agreed with us.

We say BW (whether they like it or not!) also have a duty to make sure that there enough visitors moorings (and sufficient dredging in other places) so that people can continue to exercise those rights.

Dodging that one is sticking one's head in the sand and creating expensive new residential moorings to offer to highest bidder is not going to fix that?

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