Kings Cross suffers from Angel Islington’s ‘Not In My Back Canal’ problem

IMG_20140331_100510273A couple of readers and now the council have got in touch to point out the issues caused by canal boats moored in the Kings Cross basin.  It turns out that council regulation of smoke and noise from issues caused by canal boats at the other end of the tunnel in Islington  has caused people to moor in Kings Cross instead.  It’s one of those classic public/private issues that arises from high proximity city living, whether you are moored or in a house.  Uneven enforcement moves the problem on elsewhere – a not in my back canal issue (ahem).

For boaters’ perspectives on this Islington issue see this Canal World discussion forum read down the thread for a balanced discussion on whether Islington berths are genuinely usable anyway and this good piece on Towpath Talk.  However a real problem is being caused for local people in Kings Cross.  A council pollution officer writes:

I’ve been asked by a local resident to email you and let you know about the problems they’ve been having with barges moored near their homes.

Over the past few years we’ve observed an increase in the number of boats moored along the canal as more and more people are choosing to live on the waterways; this is the case not just in Islington but also in neighbouring boroughs.

The increased numbers have also brought with them an increase in the number of noise and smoke complaints received by the council. This has been a particular problem at Islington Visitor Moorings (IVM -the stretch between Colebrooke Row and Danbury Street). We would usually find in the region of 18 boats moored in this location and due to the geography of the area the noise and smoke does not disperse very well leaving residents homes filled with wood smoke and diesel fumes plus quite often they were disturbed by noise from engines and standby generators.

The council has been working with the Canal & River Trust (C&RT) to resolve these issues and we’ve agreed a pilot project that aims to remove wood burning from this location in order to improve local air quality and also declare a quiet zone. This has been in place since November 1st and we’ve had a drastic decrease in complaints received.

Many of the boats that previously moored here have moved through the tunnel towards Kings Cross and now we’re receiving more complaints from this area.

The rules outside of IVM are slightly different in that boaters are permitted to burn wood for heating; the council is responding to every complaint to assess nuisance and if this is witnessed we follow up with the appropriate action. Once the pilot project is over we will be asking the C&RT to replicate the prohibition on wood burning across the canal network in Islington and also consider a feasibility for providing more mains power.

We are in the process of writing a best practice guide to reducing pollution from boating; particularly as the health of the boater is more affected than anyone else’s and we need to make people aware of what action they can take to reduce emissions as well as their own personal exposure.

Can readers remember what happened to the moorings that used to be West of the Maiden Lane bridge, where Kings Cross central is now? Couldn’t they be brought back there?

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
This entry was posted in Community Health and Welfare and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Kings Cross suffers from Angel Islington’s ‘Not In My Back Canal’ problem

  1. Those people who lived on boats just west of york way were simply evicted a few years ago: 2007 I think. The person I remember is jake elster-jones and you could see if he is still at that yahoo.

  2. That didn’t work. He was j.elsterjones (at)

  3. Sophie Talbot says:

    They were evicted and part of Camden and Argent’s plan includes a new permanent mooring where the old one was (below what’s currently ‘The Filling Station’, no idea when it will be built but something tells me it won’t be affordable for the majority of boat dwellers. Affordable moorings is a major issue….

  4. The Council’s pollution officer is not quite right about the burning of wood. At the Visitor Moorings near Noel Road, wood burning is prohibited by CRT as a condition of mooring. Everywhere on the canal, wood burning is restricted by provisions in the Clean Air Act (1993) which only permits wood to be burned in specialy approved types of wood burners (ones which can reach high enough temperatures to eliminate smoke). It is an urban myth that canal boats are exempt from the Clean Air Act. They’re not. Canal boats can burn smokeless fuels but, even then, must be done in ways that are consistent with the Environmental Protection Act (1990). The Council is the enforcement authority for both these Acts.

    On the section of canal west of the tunnel between York Way and Caledonian Road are a number of unauthorised moorings. Boats parked there have caused aggravation for many months. They have been putting smoke into the playground at Copenhagen primary school and affecting many homes on the Council estates at Treaty Street and Tiber Gardens. Double and triple mooring has exacerbated this. For many months, residents and the local authority have repeatedly asked the Canals and Rivers Trust (CRT) to enforce these mooring rules as part of an effort to remove polluting craft. No mooring is permitted on this stretch of the canal yet unauthorised mooring has been persistently overlooked to the point of effectively being condoned by CRT. I have now insisted that CRT enforcement officers get these boats moved as quickly as possible and enforce CRT license conditions if there is breach. Given the extent of mooring presently, CRT needs to erect a number of signs along the towpath clearly marking the areas where mooring is prohibited, also stating what penalty there is for breach.

  5. Paul says:

    On what basis do you say that the moorings from the tunnel to York Way are ‘unauthorised’?

  6. Zebedee says:

    @paul_convery : Fantastic idea! Just keep erecting more and more signs so boaters will go and triple moor somewhere else. Another practical and holistic approach to solving problems.

  7. Jess says:

    Yes, just to reiterate – just because you have never seen boaters moor somewhere before you simply cannot assume it is unauthorised. A boat license permits a boater to navigate their boat and moor up anywhere on the towpath side for 14 days. The canal in London is busier than it used to be, therefore you will see boats where you didn’t see them in the past. CRT cannot charge fines or penalties either, there is nothing in law that permits them to do so. Have a good read of the waterways acts and understand how things might differ from parking restrictions and fines on the bankside – because it cannot be compared!

  8. Pingback: How can canal users and canal side residents ‘live harmoniously and healthily together’? | Kings Cross Environment

  9. Rebecca says:

    No one seems to be concerned about break ins and boaters being mugged though. The area off the canal in Kings cross in packed with intimidating chavs and vandalism that affects both, land and water residents. Is anybody going to look into that?

  10. Sophie Talbot says:

    I live next to the canal (although next to a very expensive permanent private mooring) and use it just about everyday walking at least the stretch between The Cally and Camden Lock market. At night I regularly walk between The Cally and York Way. I’d love to see enforcement of clean air whilst I would hate to see the boats moved on. Inhabited boats lining the canal have helped make the canal a safer place. There are noticeably fewer intimidating men hanging around and fewer aggressive men with abused dogs too as the presence of inhabited boats is deterring them from their worst excesses. I love meeting friendly boat dwellers and occasionally chewing the fat with them, again this makes me feel much safer. The sterile increasingly hard landscaped Granary Square area of the canal is softened considerably when boats are allowed to moor there from time to time too. I yearn for a solution that will welcome boat dwellers of all kinds in King’s Cross whilst keeping the air clean.

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