The serene surroundings of Cheshunt’s Lea Valley were interrupted when a man employed by CRT to collect their rubbish began swearing violently at a bin that looked like it had exploded.
This new spot for a congregation of boaters, not because of their new-found love for Cheshunt, but as a result of CRT’s policy of forcing boats to ‘increase their range’ and with nowhere to dump their household rubbish the trash of a dozen boats was being crammed into a container the size of a large pedal bin. What was needed was something ten times the size. If a tap and an Elsan were located here the boaters in Cheshunt would have found themselves in canal heaven.
Facilities are scarce
CRT says it’s ‘committed to…improving facilities for boaters’. A Better Relationship Group (BRG) was formed for boaters to discuss concerns with CRT. Facilities are second on the group’s list of objectives (increased moorings being the first and increased enforcement being the last). The need for far more facilities cannot be denied, particularly west of Paddington. CRT’s own survey of ‘London’ facilities, from Bishops Stortford in the north to Cowley and Brentford in the south west (a lot of canal) revealed how poor facilities are; 9 Elsans, 15 taps, 5 pump outs, 9 rubbish points and 5 WCs, and some of these scarce facilities, such as the pump-out at Stonebridge lock are in poor working order, or are in complete disrepair, as is the case of the WC at Victoria Park which is now a distant memory.
More boaters = more facilities?
The increasing number of boats (14% in 2013 and 10% in 2014) means more revenue for CRT and should mean more facilities. CRT and BRG made some very modest proposals; 3 new pump outs, 2 new Elsans, 3 new water points and 4 oil collection points, but none of this work has been carried out.
What is stopping CRT? They’ve admitted new facilities are necessary, they have the money, with a surplus of funds in 2014. If they were as pro-active about taps, bins and Elsans as they are about ‘enforcement’ there would be facilities at every other lock. Is it incompetence or some kind of ‘benign neglect?’ My own experience of their administration has convinced me they are incompetent. As someone once said, it’s like Kafka meets the Marx Brothers.
There is a hypocritical corporate mentality at work. Behind the marketing machine with its cuddly website, the pretty signs and volunteers strategically placed at Camden for the tourist, behind the image of a progressive organisation that cares about boaters and the environment, is an antagonism to an alternative lifestyle and utter indifference to recycling and issues around housing. At the same time individual boaters, who are paying a licence fee, are subjected to the kind of monitoring usually associated with a police state and denied the facilities that every household in the country has a legal right to; a water supply that is easily accessed and rubbish disposal that is not a health hazard.
CRT has said that it intends to, ‘educate boaters about cruising requirement’, but ‘continuous cruising’ requires actually facilities and not mere lip service to the idea of better facilities, in this respect it is CRT which is in need of education and not the boating community.