Shapps urges councils to increase houseboat moorings

Boats on the Llangollen Canal Image copyright PA
Image caption Grant Shapps said a residential mooring could allow people to live closer to their jobs, family or school

The government is offering councils financial incentives to allow more moorings for houseboats on waterways.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps says new moorings could be eligible for the New Homes Bonus, which sees the government match council tax from new-build homes.

He says houseboats could allow people to live in areas that otherwise might be out of their financial reach.

The Local Government Association said the incentives were "all well and good" but there were wider housing issues.

'Lease of life'

Mr Shapps said: "Landlords, councils and communities all have a clear incentive to get more mooring sites in their areas.

"Around 15,000 people live on our waterways and many more would like to do so. The government's commitment to localism could be an opportunity for living on boats to be given a new lease of life."

Mr Shapps said the money that councils received from mooring sites could be invested in new marina facilities or waterside recreational activities that everyone could benefit from.

Half the population lives within five miles one of Britain's waterways, while water based recreation and tourism is thought to generate more than £1bn for local economies and support 24,000 jobs, he said.

Mr Shapps said creating more residential long-term moorings could also reduce the number of boats overstaying on the towpaths of canals and waterways.

Sally Ash, of British Waterways, said the organisation hoped Mr Shapps's call for more moorings would "alleviate localised congestion along the towpaths".

"We are also pleased to note the reassurance from Mr Shapps' department that people can qualify for housing benefit for help with mooring fees," she said.

An LGA spokesman said it was obviously not opposed to ideas or incentives that gave more people access to housing, but the crux of the problem was that councils needed more powers "to build 21st Century council homes".

"The problem is councils do not have the muscle that they need, the flexibility doesn't exist - the wider issue about housing goes a little deeper," he said.

Alan Wildman, chairman of the Residential Boat Owners' Association (RBOA) said: "Living afloat is arguably the most sustainable, lowest impact way to live, whilst still being able to enjoy 100% of the modern amenities that are available to those who live in conventional housing."

'No moorings'

News website reader Jenn, from Falmouth, Cornwall, told the BBC she had considered living on the water when she moved to Brighton for a new job, but found it very difficult.

"Despite an array of amazing and relatively affordable converted working boats on offer around the country there are no moorings. And an average boat with a decent mooring for sale now rivals any house purchase," she said.

Jenn welcomes more moorings but says they have to be in places that are convenient for people, with services and access available.

"I had to find somewhere to live quite quickly and ended up choosing a place on dry land because there seemed no way I could find a boat and a place to moor it close enough to where I work."

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Claire Thompson says living on a houseboat is not quite the cheaper housing solution people think it is

Claire Thompson, from Reading, lives on a houseboat with her family of four.

She told the BBC living on a boat was "great", but the government needed to concentrate on helping those already living on the water.

"We need more moorings, but to serve those already on the water - not to encourage more people to live aboard. They would be better removing the rulings around residential moorings, which would immediately increase the number of moorings," she said.

She added that living on a houseboat "is not quite the cheaper housing solution people think it is".

"Utilities are different, mobile broadband is rubbish, every two years you need to get the boat out of the water to black its bottom.

"Also if I was an awful neighbour, the people on the boats around me could move but they might not be able to throw me off my mooring. There are a lot of things to consider - I don't think that just adding more moorings will help the housing situation," she said.

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