In the London borough of Islington, there have been more restrictions to boaters pushed by the Council. It has been argued by Sukky Choongh-Campbell, the Air Quality Officer at Islington Council that the trial period for Islington visitor moorings should be ‘extended to all parts of the canal in Islington’. It was also argued that the trial period, which took place earlier this year, should be introduced permanently.
With the support of Islington Council, the Canal and River Trust (CRT) have already made changes to Islington visitor moorings such as the following:
- A limit of 7 days mooring.
- ‘No Return’ rule (whatever that is because as the CRT has said ‘we will not specify return rules’).
- A ban all fuel other than smokeless coal.
- Mooring to be kept to a single line of boats in winter, with a maximum of two abreast in the summer.
- Introduce a caretaker boater who advises boaters.
- Introduce a quiet zone which includes no ‘loud’ music including limits on engine and generator noise.
The above was agreed to by some boaters with the understanding it was an unique situation at Noel Road because the Council and CRT said that the ‘smoke and noise is funnelled down the canal’. However, Choongh-Campbell has said there is ‘evidence of dispersal to the Muriel Street / York Way area which is now our priority’. Since you can’t disperse the funnelling shape of the canal what she means is the dispersal of boat dwellers.
It turns out that unique situation at Noel Road is not to the main reason why the Council wishes to limit boaters’ freedoms. As Choongh-Campbell said ‘the number of boaters in Islington has grown considerably and the potential for nuisance year round has increased alongside it’. So there it is, we are a potential nuisance and the more of us there are, the more potential nuisance there is.
In a bizarre turn, the Islington Council has produced a ‘Best Practice Guide for Boaters’, which seems like a cut and paste job of facts that any boater will know with suggestions about noise, pollutants and other things they would consider a nuisance. Again it starts off people living on the water ‘can bring with it problems of overcrowding, anti-social behaviour and nuisance’.
So where does this anti-boater attitude come from? Where boaters are considered some kind of social problem. Well, the Council claim that the problem comes from having more boaters on the water due to ‘population growing faster than homes can be built’.
Bollocks, this is them passing the blame onto other things, there are many empty buildings in Islington and in London as a whole. Anyway, we are in an age of record low council house building, it’s not about how slow homes are being build. Also, where is the Islington Council complaint about increasing population of very rich people in places such as Islington causing anti-social behaviour by driving up housing prices and therefore forcing out the poor in the area.
The problem is the people complaining about boaters are these anti-social rich people. They are on a mission of cleansing the area of the poor with the help of the Council. Council housing has been sold off, rents have been pushed up, squatters and other homeless people cracked down on. And who else is there left to attack? That’s right, the boaters.
And there have been attacks. In October 2013, a motion had been put to a vote at the Council stating that there is a problem with boaters. This was put by two Labour councillors from the two Islington wards in which the canal goes through. The majority of Labour councillors passed the motion which called for the CRT and the State to be harder on boaters over air and noise pollutants. Labour councillors then went off and wrote articles and got themselves recorded in papers that there are problems with air and noise pollution etc from boaters. The Labour councillor for St. Peter’s ward- Martin Klute, states there has been an increase of boaters and claims this has meant there have been many residents who are so fed up of them that they’re thinking of moving. The Labour councillors for Caledonian Ward then made a statement that they want stretches of the canal kept clear of moorings.
So why is a Labour Council and their councillors attacking us? Well, Labour wants to create a Labour-only space of anti-boaters to undercut any other party getting votes from the people who are anti-boater. They have at least manage to make the anti-boater space Labour only as the Islington Lib-dems have keep out of it because they are trying seem more left than Labour after having it’s name dirtied by going to bed with the Tories nationally. The main issue on the Islington Lib-dem website is about saving the libraries from Labour’s cuts and no mention of problem boaters. Islington Tories are just being factory made Tories with all the shit that carries with it but again no mention boaters.
The Greens have taken up camp defending the boaters. On Islington Green Party website they defend us but make the argument such as boaters should be supported because ‘the boat dwellers use local businesses such as shops, launderettes’ and ‘they demonstrate that the canal is a valuable, living feature of Islington’. So what if we didn’t, would they still support us?
I think we should take any support we are given but at the end the day we can’t leave it to politicians to defend us. We must organise ourselves to defend our interests.
And let this be a lesson to us, if we let the force against us take a bit they will try and take the lot.