E is for eco, F is for FAIL

CRT and Islington Council’s much vaunted green washing project is not going smoothly…

In the first half of 2018, Canal and River Trust (CRT) and Islington Borough Council (IBC) announced their intention to introduce  “eco” moorings either side of the Islington Tunnel on the Regent’s Canal. Despite CRT and IBC both admitting that boaters had a negligible effect on emissions compared with the hundreds of thousands cars, lorries and buses which pass nearby every month, this did not stop them from proposing the banning of generators & engine running  and, after a 2 year trial period, the banning of burning even smokeless fuels.

While Paul Convery, a Caledonian ward councillor and mouthpiece for anti boater feeling in the area, saw the scheme as addressing the specific concerns of canalside residents, the council and CRT were soon presenting the scheme as a “pilot”, although for what exactly they seemed unsure or unwilling to say.

In the original plan, the scheme was supposed to start in October 2019. But in two meetings held by CRT in September 2019, one with organisations & interested parties and the other with boaters, it became clear that this was not going to happen, and the CRT PR machine continues to be eerily quiet on the subject even now.

It also became clear that the whole scheme, which sought to solve a problem which doesn’t exist, had been planned on the back of a fag packet.

While the scheme was going to be assessed after 2 years before the solid fuel ban was to be introduced, the success criteria given by IBC spokespeople was nebulous to say the least, despite persistent pushing for clarity; whether the moorings would be bookable or not had not been decided; whether the electricity would be charged through the MeterMac system used on CRT long term moorings or some other system had not been decided; the distance between the electricity bollards was still up for discussion; the requirement for 32A supply, which an effective electrical heating system would need, and the safety implications of this had not even been thought about.  But in hindsight most of these points remained moot as the CRT project management team had still not been able to agree an extension of the mains electricity supply to the towpath. At the time of writing – more than 2 months after the scheme was supposed to start – this still hasn’t been agreed.

But these technical matters are a distraction from the real crime of the eco moorings: that they will exclude a large number of boaters from being able to moor here. In the meeting with boaters, the IBC project manager came up with ideas about how they could help boaters upgrade their boats to meet the requirements to moor; but all of these ideas were around the technical advice they could give on how best to spend several thousand pounds. When challenged on what they could do to avoid the social exclusion of boaters, she just gave a blank stare, as did CRT.

The eco moorings are seriously at risk of becoming moorings for single night stays and the increasing number of ghost boats, neither of which need to run their engines to charge batteries or heat water, as well as boaters for whom money is not a serious problem and who are willing to be nudged into changing their boats at huge expense. Despite their sheepishness, this is how CRT see the future of boating in the capital. Unless we challenge their green washing now, gentrification by stealth will begin whenever the scheme finally starts.

The future is green; the future is shiny.