Saturday, 29 May 2010

More Mushrooms - Realities of being a British Waterways residential moorings customer

Myself and my neighbours are fighting huge price rises (as are a small number of other boaters who are BW mooring customers). Mysteriously, all the information that BW had previously posted to justify these increases seems to have been removed from the BW website. (If it is relocated I will let you know.)

Although many BW Moorings Customers got a reasonable settlement on moorings fees this year (2%), a small number of us have been hit hard with increases of up to 20%.

I've written before about how when it comes to their moorings generally, I think that BW are simply profiteering.
  • I and others have previously claimed that BW are running a near monopoly on the supply of moorings on the waterways they control.
  • I also have said that I believe BW are engaged in a programme of marginalisation, and financial exclusion against residential boaters, in some cases in ways that in other parts of the public sector would be considered to be harassment
  • Another keystone in this is of course the ongoing policy of allocating moorings vacancies to the highest bidder.

Put it all together and there seems to be a comprehensive policy to gentrify residential boating.

BW have consistently said is that they feel little moral obligation to boaters and residential customers in particular - "we are not a housing authority".  Maybe not, but the reality is that several thousand people lawfully make their homes in their boats on BW water.

Anyway back to gentrification: As a direct result of the 15% increase (to £5,732.75 pa) and the promise of a similar percentage increase next year, three of my ten neighbours are now committed to selling their boats.

I said gentrification above: two of those selling are doing so on the primary ground that they cannot afford to live here any more. (One is retired and the other works as a teaching assistant.) The third boater has also said that the increasing fees are a big factor. Two of these neighbours have been residential boaters for over twenty years but now they have just had enough and believe they are being priced out.

It seems to me that residential boaters are in BW's view solely a market sector to be financially exploited: They have in the past claimed that previous governments have supported them taking this approach. Funnily when I have asked government departments, they have been less explicit, saying it was a matter for the BW board.

The reality from my perspective is that in following such policies BW is destroying people's lawful lifestyles and and in so doing trying to break up the communities I and many others have lived in for many years, so that we can be replaced by the highest bidders.

We will see if Richard Benyon, new waterways minister will take a less blinkered view of BW's activities in this area than many of his recent predecessors.

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