When I started working at the Trust nearly 18 months ago (it doesn't seem that long ago!) I was very much thrown in at the deep end (if you'll excuse the pun) of the south east visitor mooring project. Although I had arrived after the 'very heated' consultation on the proposals to change stay times at lots of short-stay visitor moorings had ended, and the initial plans were being scaled back, there was still a lot of the strong views from boaters about the issue.
The November meeting was very constructive and helped to distill some of the key messages from boaters about the VM project. The first thing we were told was to 'keep it simple', I.e. Not too many zones, stay times, confusing signs or rules and regulations. The second most frequent feedback was that we should 'make sure there is good evidence for changing visitor moorings at specific locations before making any change'. From this feedback we simplified some of the arrangements at the three trial sites and started to gather better information about how moorings are used at other sites. We'll use this information before making future changes to visitor moorings.
Throughout my work on the south east visitor moorings it's been clear to me that in the past, across the canal network, there has not been a consistent approach to visitor moorings. This has resulted in visitor moorings being installed with different signage and a whole variety of stay times. It's also meant that in some cases, it's not very clear why a visitor mooring has been introduced at a location that doesn't appear at first glance to merit it. This clearly isn't very helpful for boaters who move around the network.
To help to provide some clarity and consistency to future decisions about short-stay visitor moorings, the Trust has formed a small group to produce up a national framework for visitor moorings. This will provide some clear and simple standards and guidance that local waterways can use to inform future decisions on visitor moorings. We hope to have the first draft of the framework completed ready for consultation in the New Year.
It's really important to emphasise that the visitor mooring framework is not going to be a 'rule book' that prescribes how every visitor mooring must be. It also won't see the Trust changing all our existing visitor moorings or creating lots more. These kind of decisions are always going to be best made by local teams who, working with local boaters and others, know their area and what kind of visitor moorings are needed.
If local changes are to be made then we will expect local waterways teams to use the framework guidance to show what evidence there is for that change and to demonstrate how they have consulted locally around those changes. A consistent, but locally informed, approach to visitor moorings is definitely the way ahead.
Boating Liaison Manager (south)
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