Houseboaters being ‘socially cleansed’ around Olympic site

Chris on his houseboat

I love to tell people that I have a younger brother who lives on a houseboat near the centre of London, and then wait for their reaction. For many, houseboat-living is essentially connected with the beautiful tranquil countryside, rivers and canals, wayside pubs and flowery meadows, canal locks and pretty marinas……. The reality of urban houseboat-living, however, is a little different. It is an ‘alternative lifestyle’ in one respect, but for some it is the only alternative.

Notwithstanding, perhaps the most famous London houseboat dweller in recent years was Richard Branson who, through the upwardly mobile years of his business development, lived with his family on a narrow boat. But for many, living on a river or canal may be their only choice, for a variety of reasons…..but chiefly economic. So, when GB won the bid for the 2012 Olympics, and the East End of London became the favoured site, not everyone was ecstatic with the prospects.

Nearly 200 houseboats are moored either within the Olympic park or just outside. Loosely applied legislation about residency has allowed these dwellers to have permanent, or semi-permanent, moorings along the River Lea, but with the approach of the Olympics, British Waterways are now doing their utmost to drive them out. Reasons for this: unsightliness of houseboats, security, temporary lettings for boats during the Olympics at inflated prices…..etc. The permanent dwellers, of course, see this as discrimination and something akin to social cleansing.

Of course, I agree with the houseboaters. Who wouldn’t want to support a sibling to hang on to his home? Click here for a Guardian news report. What are your thoughts?

About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on January 30, 2012, in Miscellany and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I agree with you Frank – the houseboaters have rights over eminent domain issues. There must be some sort of government advocacy organization which fights for fair housing and against discriminatory practices in England. Sounds like a protest march is in order or is that an Ann Arbor thing?

  2. Frank, There you go again! It’s all because you folks refuse to go with the flow re: what side of the road, er, canal, one chooses to ride/navigate on! Here in the colonies “house boats” are way more expensive than dry land (sic) housing so only the rich and famous can afford to even lease one for a holiday, say nothing about owning one! Ever wonder why folks on this side of the pond can be spotted in those one or two person kyacks? It is not possible to own or inhabit a bigger vessel!

    All kidding aside and steering wheel location not withstanding, I agree that this action is a shame. Good luck to your brother on this, and are those water bikes lashed to the side of his homestead?

    • Joe, great to have support from one of the “old colonies”! Great Britain may once have been a ‘great place’ of inventiveness, but the truly amphibious bike (ie. that rides both land and water equally well) is still looking for a Dyson to come up with the trick ;0)

  3. Olivia, fear not……these houseboaters know how to defend their rights, but small numbers and lack of finance will limit their ability to defend themselves legally. But there are lots of other ways, in this electronic age, of garnering widespread support.

  4. It always happens….
    people find a cheaper, more satisfying way to live and the ‘authorities’ come along and try and make them conform. If people are prepared to put up with less amenities and more day-to-day chores (that arise when one has to get wood & water & light under ones own steam!) why should they not be left to get on with it?
    Anyone not living in a ‘normal’ house with a ‘normal’ job ends up getting hassle. Look at what has happened to the travelling communities, the Gypsies and any non-conformist group.
    Why can’t we have a society that is tolerant and mindful that we are all different and some may choose a different way of life?
    Just on a financial footing – think how expensive it would be if you suddenly had to find homes for all those living just on boats around London??
    I hope the Water People get proper support from Citizen’s Advice and welfare groups and get their voices heard. It is a real pleasure to see families living aboard boats along the rivers and canals of our land, it should remind us to ensure our freedoms are kept – before they are all legislated away!!!

  5. …….you raise some very important issues, Jo. They need to be heard.

  6. Hooray for the non-conforming life!

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