London Assembly member Jenny Jones with, centre, Ian Shacklock, of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, and a representative of the Canal and River Trust
Published: 7 June, 2013
by PETER GRUNER
AN urgent investigation has been launched over claims by residents living near the Regent’s Canal at Angel that noisy engines and fumes from boats are making their lives a misery.
A team from the London Assembly which visited the canal on Tuesday to interview both sides in the dispute will report back to Mayor Boris Johnson, who lives near the scene of the row.
The team, headed by London Assembly environment committee member Jenny Jones, spoke to residents in Noel Road and boat owners in an effort to quell the simmering dispute.
Residents, who have lodged daily complaints with the Town Hall, say the noise and fumes mean they cannot keep windows open or sit in their attractive south-facing gardens in the summer.
Boat users insist complaints are exaggerated and that the biggest problem on the canal is finding mooring space. They say the canal is becoming more crowded as people realise it is cheaper to live on a boat than buy or rent a home.
St Peter’s ward councillor Martin Klute warned in the Tribune in January about rising tensions between residents in Noel Road – once home to writers Joe Orton and Nina Bawden – and boat users.
He said this week: “I’m still getting lots of complaints about this, sometimes two or three a day. If someone ran a noisy generator outside a house and created lots of smoke we could take legal action to stop it. But somehow it’s a different situation on the waterways.”
The London Assembly team heard from Paul Strudwick, a member of the Inland Waterways Group, who said the stretch of canal close to Danbury Bridge and City Road Basin may have “special” problems because it is in a gully. On windless days, smoke does not disperse.
Normally, six or seven narrow-boats are allowed temporary moorings opposite homes in the road, for up to 14 days. But as many as 20 boats – often double or even treble moored – can sometimes be tied up, according to residents.
The team heard from officials of the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) that it is making efforts to deal with the issues, but being a charity resources and manpower are low.
Resident Dawn Arnold said: “We want to live in harmony but often residents can’t sit in their gardens because of the smoke and noise.”
Boat-user Samuel Roy said noisy engines at night disturbed him too, but added that it did not happen very often.
“People mainly run engines late at night during winter months when they are trying to keep warm,” he said. “Residents would normally have their windows closed and wouldn’t be using their gardens. There is an element of people complaining for the sake of it.”
The investigating team spoke to Ian Shacklock, of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, and the council’s executive member for sustainability Councillor Ismail Rakhia.
Sorwar Ahmed, London boater liaison manager at the Canal and River Trust, said: “As a charity it’s great to see people making use of the canal but we do appreciate that, as it becomes busier, there are some things that need to be solved.
"I’ve joined the London team to work closely with Islington Council, boaters and local groups so we can deal with these issues while managing the canal for the benefit of everybody who lives on and alongside it, as well as visitors from further afield.”