Relief and rage as riverside moorings set to be removed

November 12 2020
Relief and rage as riverside moorings set to be removed

Controversial moorings on the River Avon at Saltford are set to be removed by the end of 2022.

The site in Mead Lane has long been the source of a dispute between boaters and residents.

The decision follows a survey to assess “the suitability of this land for moorings following concerns raised by the community relating to the extensive repairs/construction of the Mead Lane highway and riverbank during 2005.”

Live-aboard boaters say they are angry that members of Bath and North East Somerset Council decided to have the moorings removed despite no evidence they are damaging the riverbank.

They say the facilities are irreplaceable and vital for their access to healthcare and education.

But residents branded the authority “negligent” for allowing mooring in Mead Lane and said it was “imperative” they were taken away.

The 48-hour moorings were due to be removed from the start of this month and the 14-day moorings will be relocated by a target date of December 31, 2022.

Boater Rebecca Sarll threatened legal action against the council if it pressed ahead with the plans without considering the impact on boaters.

She told cabinet members: “The council has spent tens of thousands of pounds on reports and surveys and reviews that all say the moorings should remain. It is only the residents’ view that is affected by these decisions – for hundreds of boaters, it is the safety and security of our homes.”

Although a survey by Atkins in September found “no indication that mooring is adversely affecting bank stability”, Ms Sarll said the council was ignoring the findings and instead taking residents’ claims “at face value with zero data to back them up”.

She added: “The council has to understand the lives of those that their decision will affect, as removing the moorings will lead to legal action.”

Around a third of the moorings in Mead Lane are for stays of up to 48 hours and are favoured by leisure boaters, with the other two-week moorings used by live-aboard boaters, who need to keep moving throughout the year under their licence conditions.

Council officers have recommended removing the 14-day moorings at Mead Lane once suitable alternative locations can be found. But Ross Fender said the Atkins report “can’t be any clearer” in recommending that the existing moorings should be improved. The report said Mead Lane was “possibly the only place on the river where mooring for 14 days is practical and legitimate.” 

Mr Fender said: “It would be crazy to spend vast amounts of money again investigating [alternative mooring sites] when the homework has already been done. Mead Lane is safe, it’s proven, it’s been tested."

The proposals to remove the Mead Lane moorings followed years of escalating tensions.

Residents accused boaters of criminal activity, staying longer than they were allowed, running their engines for extended periods, damaging the riverbank and littering.

Boaters said they had been harassed by residents monitoring their movements and discriminated against – issues they said they do not face elsewhere on the waterway.

Neighbourhood Watch coordinator Elisabeth Evans said all residents had ever tried to do was “protect this area for the greater community to enjoy”.

She said terminating the moorings was “imperative” and called for a “swift solution”.

The recommendations to cabinet had proposed a “long-term aspiration” to remove the moorings.

Councillor Paul Crossley, the cabinet member for community services, proposed a target date of December 31, 2022, for removing the moorings, adding: “Some will say it’s prolonging the agony, but this can’t be done quickly.”

The council budgeted £35,000 this year for “Mead Lane activity” and a £25,000 recurring sum from 2021/22.

Councillor Croslley also proposed charging boaters for mooring at Mead Lane from March 1 next year so the council has money to invest in new moorings in alternative locations.

He said the cabinet’s vote was the start of the process and offered to meet with boaters – something he admitted he had not yet done.

Mooring in Mead Lane is being banned between November and the end of February.

The council will work with the Canal and River Trust to jointly fund a river warden to lead on enforcement, and work with the police to review the parking restrictions in Mead Lane.

The cabinet unanimously agreed the recommendations.

Future decisions on the moorings will be delegated to Councillor Crossley, in consultation with the council’s director of environment.

Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service