Olympic restrictions force house boats off the Regent’s Canal

Canal boat owners have spoken of their anger at being forced to uproot their homes on the Regent’s Canal due to Olympic waterway restrictions.

While most Londoners face travel disruption with the Games just weeks away, barge dwellers have been forced to sail out of Camden as a restriction zone stretching across 15 miles of water took effect on Tuesday (July 3).

Some 176 boat owners who do not have permanent moorings on the canal have moved outside the zone, which stretches from Little Venice to the Lime House Basin in Docklands and the Lea Navigation in Tottenham.

The canal boat community has been left worried about the effect of people being forced to move their homes.

Student and house boat owner Jasper Rolfe, 22, said: “We won’t be allowed to move back to the area for 10 weeks, which obviously could affect people in terms of their jobs, hospitals and education for their children.

“It’s a terrible inconvenience and it’s going to create a massive backlog along the canal as people try to find somewhere new to moor outside the Olympic exclusion zone.”

Artist and house boat dweller Sandra Hirst, 39, said: “They should just let the canal boat residents and nature be.”

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Boats with permanent moorings are not affected by the zone, which has been set up for security reasons and to keep waterways clear during the Games.

But 370 boats which usually take advantage of rules allowing anyone to use canal moorings as long as they move along every 14 days, have been affected.

Of these, 194 boat owners have paid for special licences – costing from �36 to �350 a week – to stay within the Olympic zone.

But the other boats have been forced to sail outside it – with many expected to moor in Little Venice.

Receptionist Bernadette Rowan, 35, of Bartholomew Road, Kentish Town, said: “I don’t think boats should have to move. The people who are on these boats live and work in this area – this is their home.”

At least four boat owners with nesting chicks on their barges also feared that they would be unable to leave as it is illegal to disturb nesting birds.

Jason Leach, head of Olympic programmes at The Canal & River Trust, said security restrictions were “inevitable” to accommodate the many people who wanted to visit London, some in canal boats and yachts.

He said: “The Olympics has brought about an extraordinary transformation of the canals of London and allowed us to restore and reopen waterways which had been clogged and abused since the Blitz.

“This has created an amazing boating destination which will benefit communities and visitors to London for generations –long after any temporary inconvenience has been forgotten.”

The trust has promised to work with any struggling boat owners to find them suitable moorings.