Water safety zones along Lee Navigation

The Lee Navigation has a thriving community and a rich boating history dating back to the Bronze Age. In the last 200 years commercial barges have used it as a freight route, rowing clubs have been on the water for more than a century and in recent years there has been a surge in popularity amongst private boat owners, some of whom live on board.

Lea Bridge, River Lee Lea Bridge, River Lee

As the waterway has become busier, this has put increasing demands on this finite space leading the Canal & River Trust to set out proposals in 2018 to create Water Safety Zones as part of the London Mooring Strategy.  Since then, the charity has been developing proposals for a 12-month trial, with the help of boaters, rowers, and paddle sports clubs. 

The proposals are designed to balance the needs of all those who use the Lee Navigation, with a focus on safety, particularly for those craft that are more vulnerable on the water.

Lee Navigation Forum

Notes from the meeting of the Lee Navigation Forum (LNF) held on Tuesday 8 March 2022

Notes from the meeting of the Lee Navigation Forum (LNF) held on Tuesday 25 January 2022

Notes from the meeting of the Lee Navigation Forum (LNF) held on Tuesday 16 November 2021

Notes from the meeting of the Lee Navigation Forum (LNF) held on Tuesday 12 October 2021

Statement on removal of grab bars: Thursday 10 February 2022

The Trust has written to Lee Rowing Club informing them that we expect the Club to cover the costs to reinstate safety measures in this location. An assessment is being carried out to decide the best option to rectify the damage, so that this can be undertaken as soon as possible.

Water Safety Zone update: 27 October 2021

Water Safety Zone update and next steps: Wednesday 1 September 2021

The independent facilitators Hopkins Van Mil have now completed their stakeholder engagement on the Trust’s proposed Water Safety Zones on the River Lee Navigation. Having listened to all the ideas, issues and concerns, the facilitators have presented their report to the Trust. Their full report and methods used to reach the findings can be read here.

Our response to the recommendations and what we will do in response can be read here.

Update on stakeholder engagement: Monday 28 June 2021

The online engagement undertaken by the independent facilitators has now closed. There were 655 responses. Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

The next stage of engagement following this will be that the independent facilitators will meet with representatives from the different stakeholders during the beginning of July to discuss how the issues raised can be addressed.


Water safety zone FAQs

1. Why are you creating water safety zones?

Parts of the River Lee are very busy with competing users of the waterway. It is really important that the navigation is safe for everyone: boaters in powered and unpowered craft. The water safety zones are about making everyone aware of other users of the waterway and to make clear the dos and don'ts to keep the navigation safe.

We are not immediately introducing the Water Safety Zones as proposed but are working with stakeholders in the advisory Lee Navigation Forum to review proposals. From Monday 10 January 2022 we started to enforce no-mooring rules, using the improper mooring process on boats that moor where they should not on the Lower Lee and Broxbourne, as we do elsewhere on our waterways.

2. What is a water safety zone?

A water safety zone is a designated part of the waterway where additional signage and safety restrictions are in place because of very high or competing waterway uses, for example powered boats, canoes, kayaks, rowers, and stand-up paddle boards.

3. Where will the water safety zones be?

We are looking at trialling two water safety zones on the River Lee. One is at Broxbourne between Aqueduct Lock 8 and Carthagena Lock 7, and a second on the Lower Lee between Old Ford Lock 19 and Tottenham Lock 17.

4. Why have you chosen these areas to create water safety zones?

The waterway in both of these sections of the River Lee is busy with powered and unpowered boats and include two rowing clubs that have been using the river for more than a century. With such high and wide use, the water safety zone is to help ensure that everyone navigating the water is safe and is looking out for the safety of others.

5. What will the water safety zone mean for all waterway users?

It should make the waterway safer for everyone navigating the zone. We are asking waterway users in the water safety zone to follow these simple rules:

  • Rowers and small boats ahead, keep a careful look out.
  • Navigate slowly and keep to the right
  • Display lights at night without dazzling
  • Sound a horn at bends and to all boats
  • Observe mooring signage
  • Can boats still moor in the water safety zone

Yes, boats can still moor within the water safety zone, but for the safety of all waterway users it’s important to follow the mooring signage.

From Monday 10 January we will be applying the improper mooring process on boats that moor where they should not.

7. How will you manage the water safety zone?

Our local team of staff, additional support staff and volunteers will monitor and record boat sightings in the water safety zone to help ensure that everyone understands the waterway rules and follows them.

Since October 2021 Trust staff and District Enforcement staff have been carrying out daily towpath walks talking with boaters about mooring safely and reminding where boats should not moor. Additional signage has also been installed to remind people where they should not moor.

8. What will happen to boaters if they ignore the water safety zone signage?

If people ignore the rules, they will initially get a reminder. If they ignore the rules a second time, they will enter the improper mooring process which ultimately could lead to restrictions when renewing their boat licence. These measures are about making sure everyone using the waterway is safe so we hope people will follow the water safety zone rules. Following several months of additional communication and education, the improper mooring process will be applied on these sections of the Lee from Monday 10 January 2021.

9. Won’t the creation of water safety zones in these areas just move boats to other areas and cause problems there?

The combined water safety zones will cover an area of just over 10km, less than a quarter of the overall length of the Lee Navigation. Most of the space in the zones will be available for boats to moor, with over 4.5km for mooring in the Lower Lee section and 1.8km of mooring in the Broxbourne section. The water safety zones include existing areas where boats should already not be mooring, including in bridge holes, on sharp bends, and where the waterway is particularly shallow or given over to plants.

10. If the water safety zones are a trial what is your review process and how can I give feedback on the water safety zone?

We will be monitoring the water safety zone trials over the first year and seeking feedback from people using the water. There will be a feedback form available for you to complete when the trial begins. We will also be working with stakeholders to form an advisory Lee Navigation Forum to consider other ideas and measures to improve water safety on the Lee.

Timescale of implementation

Between October 2021 and January 2022 we have been speaking and communicating with boaters to help ensure everyone understands the existing rules of the river. We hope this will help boaters to abide by the existing rules without the need for further enforcement. From Monday 10 January 2022 we will enforce via the improper mooring process where the rules are breached. We will also discuss with stakeholders through the Lee Navigation Forum other suggestions and options to make the river safer including further restrictions.


Please note that we are currently only focussing on implemneting existing rules, the areas marked as red 'no-mooring'

Broxbourne no mooring sections (marked in red)
Lower Lee no mooring sections (marked in red)

Click on the links below for a more detailed map view showing the initail proposals for the Water Safety Zones.

  1. Broxbourne water safety zone
  2. Broxbourne water safety zone - no labels
  3. Lower Lee water safety zone
  4. Lower Lee water safety zone - no labels

In response to concerns raised by the NBTA

Is the Water Safety Zone just about the safety of rowers?

No. The Water Safety Zones are about making sure that these busy sections of the Lee navigation are safe for everyone. When there are lots of craft using these areas, it is essential to ensure that there is clear navigation and sufficient passing space to reduce the risk of collisions or other safety incidents.

It has been reported by some that you are removing 550 mooring spaces from the water safety zone, is this true?

The inititial proposals showed where moorings would be restricted to single narrowbeam or widebeam/double moored boats, but we are initially implementing the existing ‘no mooring’ rules, and will discuss other measures with the new advisory forum we’ll be forming. We understand that some reported a loss of 550 mooring spaces in the initial proposals, the 550 number had been calculated based on all mooring space being double moored and did not include any space between moored boats. Even now, not all space in the Water Safety Zones is or can be double moored, and boats do not moor without some space between them. The 550 lost mooring space figure was an exaggeration that did not reflect the current mooring space nor the proposed moorings space.
Although there will be some restrictions on where boats can moor to ensure that a safe navigation width is maintained, there will still be lots of mooring space.

  • In the Broxbourne water safety zone, there will be 1824 metres (5984 ft) of mooring space
  • In the Lower Lee water safety zone, there will be 4529 metres (14,858ft) of mooring space
  • In the Broxbourne Zone this is equivalent to towpath mooring space for over 132 x 65ft boats and in the Lower Lee zone this is equivalent to towpath mooring space for over 411 x 65ft boats.

The average number of boats we sight in the Lower Lee section is 352, maximum sighted 387. The average number of boats we sight in the Broxbourne section is 42, maximum sighted 71.

Are you forcing liveaboard boaters out of the Water Safety Zones?

No, liveaboard and leisure boaters are welcome to use and moor in the Water Safety Zones, but they are asked to adhere to the mooring rules to makes sure the navigation stays safe for them and all other users.

How much no mooring will there be in the Water Safety Zones?

The space designated as no mooring is already space where boats should not moor, for example in bridge holes, on sharp bends, or where it is inaccessible for boats to moor due to shallow depth or vegetation.

  • In Broxbourne there will be 1360 metres (4461 ft) designated as no mooring.
  • In the Lower Lee section there will be 3324 metres (10,905 ft) designated as no mooring.

Are you restricting mooring stay times in the Water Safety Zones?

No, there are no changes to the existing time you can moor in these areas.

Are you restricting access to the boating facilities within the Water Safety Zones?

No, boaters will still be able to use these facilities, just as they do now.

How many boating safety incidents have there been in the Water Safety Zones?

  • Between 2014 and 2019 there were over 240 recorded safety incidents within the proposed Water Safety Zone areas. It is likely that many more incidents or near-misses have gone unreported.
  • 57 of the recorded incidents were between unpowered and powered craft. 28 these incidents were in the Broxbourne area and 29 in the Lower Lee section.
    The number of incidents involving collisions between unpowered and powered craft has been rising.
  • On the Lower lee section, in 2014, 27% of collisions were between powered and unpowered craft, by 2018 this had risen to 56%.

Inappropriately moored boats and the lack of safe passing space or access to the bank are often a contributing factor. It is really important that the navigation is safe for everyone: boaters in powered and unpowered craft.

The Water Safety Zones are about making everyone aware of other users of the waterway and to make clear the dos and don'ts to keep the navigation safe and help reduce the number of safety incidents on the river.

Last date edited: 4 May 2022