Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Book Barge row - missing the point?

It's interesting how the media furore around the 'book barge', Word on the Water, has developed. On social media and elsewhere there is much about the 'unfairness' of a higher bidder getting the long term mooring in Paddington. Make of that what you will but given the background to my recent petition to CRT, and the way the allocation of CRT moorings is decided generally, the outcome in this case should come as no big surprise.

Narrowboatworld, never a gentle critic of CRT, acknowledges in its article that the boat has a roving trading permit (clue in the name) and that the current occupation of a berth in Paddington was a temporary arrangement. So it seems inevitable to me that CRT would ask Word on the Water to move on if they didn't make the highest bid.

However more worryingly many of those complaining seem to me to have missed the bigger point. The idea of having a commercial mooring or two in the Paddington area was consulted on with local canal users through the Better Relationships Group (BRG) and CRT have as usual ignored what was said in the consultation process and gone another way.

The advice from the BRG was against creating a long term mooring for the sole use of the lucky 'winner'. The issue was raised as part of directed informal consultation with local trading boats, at the suggestion of BRG members. It was felt and confirmed after asking them, that all floating businesses who want to trade in London have difficulty finding moorings in suitable trading spots such as the Paddington area. The wider group were sympathetic to that feed back and broadly supported the notion that one or two temporary mooring spaces should be reserved for trading craft.

However all else being equal, the trader using such a reserved space would be subject to the usual 14 day rule and have to then move on.  So we also suggested that such a space be available but on an extended stay basis, say monthly, to a series of roving businesses. i.e. potentially different traders appear in the spot each month; a sort of floating pop-up business space. This is of course completely different to what CRT have actually done.

So yet again CRT have failed to listen to what was said to them in a consultation. Whether the campaign by Word on the Water to have a permanent mooring despite losing the tender is fair or reasonable I will leave to you to judge.

But what they are campaigning for is not what some local users intended should happen.

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