Coronavirus could see Regent’s Canal businesses go bust unless government helps Canal and River Trust

GoBoat operates from Little Venice. Picture: GoBoat

GoBoat operates from Little Venice. Picture: GoBoat - Credit: Archant

Businesses based on the Regent’s Canal in Little Venice face the “very real risk of falling through the gaps” in support for those affected by the coronavirus lockdown measures.

London Shell Co. A floating restaurant on the Regent's Canal. Picture: London Shell Co

London Shell Co. A floating restaurant on the Regent's Canal. Picture: London Shell Co - Credit: Archant

A number of waterborne businesses and charities which use the canal between Little Venice and Camden are facing a dire future,

They don’t pay business rates, instead shelling out equivalent amounts of cash to landlords for their boats and the Canals and Rivers Trust (CRT) for mooring fees and other associated costs.

But because businesses like the highly-rated restaurant boat London Shell Co don’t pay rates, they are also not eligible for business rates relief.

And because the CRT tself is a charity that’s been hard hit by loss of income itself, it is not able to waive any fees.

London Shell Co. A floating restaurant on the Regent's Canal. Picture: London Shell Co

London Shell Co. A floating restaurant on the Regent's Canal. Picture: London Shell Co - Credit: Archant


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Harry Lobek, who runs London Shell Co, told this newspaper: “As a group, we’re trying to get together to lobby for support, and it’s looking more and more likely that we’re not going to get a summer season.

“A lot of these companies could go bust. People can maybe take three months of this, but six would be make or break time.”

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Julian Wootton runs GoBoat, which runs boating trips along the canal.

He told the Wood&Vale: “We are just slipping through the cracks at the moment. We need some sort of extra support and help that might give us certainty.Like a lot of businesses we are trying to do our best.”

Children on a school trip using the Floating Classroom on the Electric Barge. Picture: The Electric

Children on a school trip using the Floating Classroom on the Electric Barge. Picture: The Electric Barge - Credit: Archant

Simon Ryder who runs the educational trips along the canal on The Electric Barge is similarly in trouble. He said: “We’re a charity, but quite rightly all of the charity funding is going to places which are meeting a frontline need. “We just need to government to help the CRT out.”

A spokesperson for the CRT said it was “acutely aware” of the difficult circumstances for waterborne businesses. They said: “It is vital that these businesses, which are unique to the waterways environment, survive the coronavirus crisis as they bring so much life to our waterways.

“We have been calling on the government to provide specific support for waterways businesses as most are not able to access the existing schemes.”

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has not responded to this newspaper’s request for comment.

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