River Lea boaters oppose plans for 'water safety' zones with flotilla of protest

Hackney boaters protest plans to install 'water safety' zones along the River Lea. 

Hackney boaters protest plans to install 'water safety' zones along the River Lea. - Credit: Sarah Collins

Boaters from Walthamstow Marshes to Hackney Wick, joined together in a flotilla of protest, opposing plans for 'water safety' zones along the River Lea. 

Protesters floated along in protest on Sunday (June 13) of plans by the Canal and River Trust to place safety zones on a section of the river. 

The Canal and River trust says the zones are needed to ensure the waterway is safe following its own reports of 240 incidents on the river from 2014-2019.

Boats floated along the river with some playing music and others donning banners opposing the plans. 

Boats floated along the river with some playing music and others donning banners opposing the plans. - Credit: Sarah Collins

But a representative from the National Bargee Traveller Association disputes the statistics and is concerned the proposals will remove mooring space and restrict boaters.

Kerry Gilfillan, from the National Bargee Traveller Association, said: "In the ['water safety' zone] areas fewer boats will be able to moor.

"Boats will be more bunched up , they will be crowded and when boats are bunched up then people who are less physically able, older boaters or boaters of disabilities, will have more difficulties being able to boat and being able to pursue this life.

"I don’t trust the Canal River Trust's figures. We have asked for granular data so we can understand exactly where they are getting those figures from and they have not provided us with the granular data."

A spokesperson for the Trust told the Gazette how the figures come from incidents reported.

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He added: "Of course this means they may well be under reported, as not everyone will think to tell the trust if they’ve been in an accident.

"We’ve had some reports of nasty collisions between boats and rowers [and] our absolute priority is to ensure safety on the water. It would be negligent not to act when we know there’s an issue."

The trust is trialling two water safety zones, one at Broxbourne and a second on the Lower Lea between Old Ford Lock 19 and Tottenham Lock 17. 

A protester dressed as a boat cat on June 13. 

A protester dressed as a boat cat on June 13. - Credit: Sarah Collins

It is also doing further consultation work with an independent facilitator in order to "find a solution" that will work for all the river's stakeholders. 

To learn more visit: canalrivertrust.org.uk

The Canal and River trust says the zones are needed to ensure the waterway is safe.

The Canal and River trust says the zones are needed to ensure the waterway is safe following reports of dangerous incidents on the river between 2014 and 2019. - Credit: Sarah Collins


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