Riverboat owners in Cambridge: ‘We’ll be forced out of our homes’

PUBLISHED: 06:49 16 October 2016 | UPDATED: 20:23 16 October 2016

Boaters outside the Guildhall before the council meeting. Picture: Keith Heppell

Boaters outside the Guildhall before the council meeting. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Boaters living on the River Cam have voiced their concern at city council proposals to change the mooring rules – which they say could force them out of their homes.

The changes could see the mooring licences, which are the equivalent of band A council tax payments, doubled from £1,200 per year to £2,400, equivalent to band F.

At a council meeting on Monday, riverboat residents aired their fears that many would be priced out of their homes, forced to sell their mortgaged boats at a loss, or be forced to leave the city and be unable to keep their current jobs.

Camboaters chairman Jim Ross, who lives in a boat on the river and works in the city as an architect, said: “We would welcome a meaningful consultation. We do not think at the moment that, with the way this consultation is structured, it is meaningful.

“It is biased and heads in one direction on a couple of points. One of those is the effective clearing of Riverside. Effectively that reduces our community by a third. There are currently 110 boats on the river, and that would take the number down to 70.

“What we are looking for is a consultation that will be to the benefit of all involved.

“What we’d like to see is a policy that contains a safe and secure situation for those on the river, allowing our community to flourish and contribute, satisfies the council’s need for a simple and efficient management and mooring policy, and satisfies the apparent need for the council to increase revenue.

“We believe there is a way to achieve this but we don’t believe the way the current consultation is structured can achieve it.”

Council officers said that around £63,000 to £66,000 is generated from the moorings, of which £35,000 is used to support revenue costs, and the remainder is returned to the Labour-run council for use in other services.

The council’s Labour and Liberal Democrat representatives were in opposition throughout the discussions.

Cllr Tim Bick, a Liberal Democrat, said: “What a mess this seems to be. We have swirling around, from what we’ve heard from the public speakers, a sense that there is a desire on the part of the council to see moorings as an income generator and, circumstantially, I’m told that there are grounds to believe that. And then there’s the sense that there is a sort of desire to socially cleanse the river shore. I really hope, and I’m sure it’s the case, that none of us as a committee would want those things to be said of us as a council.”

Cllr Rod Cantrill, Lib Dem spokesperson for finance & resources, said: “I am deeply concerned that the Labour ruling group has not listened to the riverboat residents on their concerns on the consultation that proposes mooring fee increases of over 25%. The number of people attending last night’s meeting highlights the concern within the community.

“Many of the river boat residents are now at risk of being made homeless, at a time when the Labour-run city council claims to helping those in most need.

“The Liberal Democrat opposition group will continue to fight for the same moorings increase (equal to an increase in CPI per year) that has been in place for a number of years and also to ensure that no one is made homeless through this ill thought through process”

Labour councillor Peter Sarris said: “I am deeply insulted on behalf of my residents when I hear the Liberal Democrats accusing the Labour group or any group on this council of social cleansing. This administration put equality auditing at the forefront of all of our policy positions and that will be the case with respect to the river as it is the case with everywhere else.

“Those points that have been made are important, but we cannot give one interest group or one community a veto as to how we consider the marshalling and management and stewardship of our resources for the broader interest of our community and the common good.”

Recommendations were accepted by Cllr Richard Robertson, head of finance and resources, and await ratification by full council.

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