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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?

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