Monday, 26 October 2009

One gone two to go!

(The above images (C) and with thanks to Del Brenner/Regents Network)

I'm pleased to post a copy of a Press release from my friend Del from Regents Network about a local bugbear which I was about to write something about myself - Del has saved me the work! It seems BW have finally dragged one white elephant away!

As of this morning the vacant space in Paddinton Basin was roped off and empty - I wonder what is going there next - maybe I will ask?!

One apology in advance - I am still working on some technical issues and making copyright enquiries over posting the local news article Del refers to in the item that follows - if it can be arranged I will let you see that as soon soon as possible.

Rid Paddington Basin of Business Barges?

Failed business barge Brunel has finally gone from Paddington Basin (see attached press article), after 5 years.

It is very revealing to see that in the article BW admit that Brunel has been a failure. It was reported that BWs property development manager, James Lazarus, revealed that “the business barge Brunel has not been successful”. It is a pity it took 5 years for them to realise that their business barges are unpopular and not a very good idea.

BW say in the article that the other two business barges have found tenants, which is not strictly true as they do not seem to have had permanent tenants, but are used from time to time for meetings and so on. In fact, BW has used them on occasions as extra office space.

Note: The five business barges at Eagle Wharf on the Regents Canal are also standing empty most of the time, and so are the three inappropriate new business barges blocking the wharf at Tottenham on the Lee Navigation. They are a waste of good water space, and push out residential moorings.

Two more to go at Paddington

The two business barges, Cowford and Fleming, still left in Paddington Basin should be towed away under BWs “Licence it or Lose it!” campaign. Neither of them has a valid licence, nor have they got mooring permits.

Cowford has a June 2009 Licence, 4 months out of date.

Fleming has a March 2009 Licence, 7 months out of date.

BWs enforcement powers allow them to tow away boats from the waterway which are in breach of licencing regulations, and to scrap or sell them. To reinforce their determination to penalise non-payers, BW launched their ‘Failing to Display’ campaign in July, headed by Simon Salem, BW marketing and customer service director, who commented that money could be much better spent “tackling the real evaders who perhaps think that they are above contributing towards the cost of maintaining the waterways network”. This surely applies to Cowford and Fleming as this is not the first time that they have been well out of date with their licence payments. A late payment charge of £150 can also be imposed on each vessel.

These two business barges were set up by British Waterways London (led by Mark Bensted), and managed by a company which is in partnership with BW, and driven by Paddington Basin Business Barges Limited which is also in partnership with BW. So, does it look like BW have one rule on licence evasion for residential boat owners who they will severely penalise, and another rule for their pet business barges which they have responsibility for? Who are the ‘real evaders’ that Simon Salem reprimanded?

A good home for the barges

The historic barge Cowford could have a worthwhile future if it was converted back to its original state. David Wood recalling the two business barges, says that they were “genuine lighters, but I will have to take another look. I believe Cowford was one of the last T & G Class of canal barges and was a sister of the craft I modelled for the London Canal Museum collection of barges”. He was not so certain of the origin of Fleming.

What a welcome prospect of the two barges being put to a sensible and useful purpose, rather than languishing as floating offices in BWs failed business barge venture.

An update on Brunel

At great cost (to public funds) Brunel completed its journey from Paddington to Brentford. It was ballasted down with over 30 tons of water so that it could fit under the lowest bridges, and it only got seriously stuck at one point and more ballast was added. The door in the side of the vessel had been welded up, and Brunel’s hulk was then transferred to a Thames tug and towed downstream where it was delivered to a location in docklands. The final bill for the transportation is not known.

Brunel still does not seem to have a current licence (it expired in June 2009), nor a mooring permit. To be compliant it will need a safety certificate, which BW may have difficulty in obtaining for this vessel.

It is not certain where Brunel’s final destination will be, but wherever it goes BW must put in a planning application. It should not get consent, as floating offices contravene the London Plan as they are a land based use. They infringe Policy 4C.19 which clearly states that the moorings should not have uses such as commercial offices, and that our waterways are not available as an extension of the developable land in London.

Whatever its future use is, it is hoped that the name will be changed. It is a disgrace to have such a monstrous fake of a vessel linked to the great man, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

It is a solemn thought that Paddington’s gain will be someone else’s loss.

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