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PLA Meetings RUCF and PHRNG 03 Dec 2022 10:33 #133119

  • Andy Soper
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  • Neeltje
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DBA report, Tidal ThamesAuthor: Patrick Schulenburg1st December 2022
I recently attended the PLA’s  RUCF and PHRNG meetings. Some topics were covered in both meetings so I will be as succinct as possible and only cover points that are relevant to our members.

RUCF (River Users Consultative Forum, Upper) 24th November 2022

We were introduced to a few new PLA staff members.  New Harbour Master Adam Layer and Assistant Harbour master Adam Montgomery.Adam Montgomery is going to be in charge of the upper tidal Thames, a role that he shares with Rachel De Bont. Both Assistant Harbour Masters will rotate between the upper and lower tidal Thames every 4 months. The good news is that they are both very approachable and keen to work with the DBA.  -After quietening down during the pandemic, the river is extremely busy again. Commercial and recreational traffic is back to pre pandemic levels and recreational sports such as kayaking, swimming and SUP (Stand up paddleboarding) have increased. These sports were taken up during the pandemic and continue to be very popular.  Inexperienced recreational river users such as paddleboarders pose a significant risk and we need to be particularly cautious when cruising in busy areas such as Richmond.  Incident reports are up significantly. This is seen as a positive development as incident reports help the PLA to see where there are problem areas they need to address.  Wash complaints are also up. This is in part because it is now easier to report an incident online and because traffic on the river has increased. Whilst reports of wash are always taken seriously by the PLA, Deputy Harbour Master Darren Knight also made the point that many barges and houseboats that are complaining about wash are not moored up correctly. He reported that a houseboat that had recently sustained damage during a wash incident, was only loosely tied to the pontoon with no springs. Sound signals All vessels should use sound signals when appropriate, specially when leaving pontoons. Many of the commercial operators present said that they didn’t always use sound signals because of complaints from residents in Central London. The PLA insists that they should use sound signals regardless. 

 PLA Harbourmaster’s Recreational Navigation Group (PHRNG) 30th November 2022We were introduced to new Assistant Harbour Master Rachel De Bont, who will be sharing the role with Adam Montgomery.Rachel has a keen interest in barges and regularly sails on Thames Sailing barges Will and Marjory. She is also on the Medway Match committee and we talked about the possibility of including Dutch sailing barges in future matches, which is something Scott Pereira is championing.  Darren Knight mentioned that next time we do a tidal Thames passage, he would be happy to send someone from the Harbour Master team to assist during the pre passage meeting.  Both Peter Finch from the Thames Society, and I , expressed our concerns about the proposed Marina development at the Waterman’s centre in Brentford. I raised the point that there are rumours that the developers are planning on filling the moorings with static houseboats rather than making them available to barge owners. I asked if the PLA had any power to ensure that the moorings would only be allocated to vessels that can actually move under their own power. The reply was that although that is the PLA’s preference, it is more of a planning issue for the council rather than the PLA. Darren Knight did assure me that he would look at the initial proposal and make sure that developers stick to what was agreed. The site has been cleaned but construction of the Marina has not started yet.The tideway Tunnel is 90 % completed and there has already been a decrease in barge movement related to the construction.  Hammersmith Bridge remains open, but we were warned that eventually work will be carried out and disruption in the future is to be expected. Richmond lock and weir. The central weir gate remains closed whilst a new piece of machinery is being manufactured and the weir gate repaired. This is the reason why the Richmond Draw off is lasting for two months this year rather than the usual three weeks. Over the next few years the other gates will probably also need repairing, but it should take less time as the part in the gate that is likely to fail, has already been designed. For the next few years we should expect the Draw Off to last a bit longer than usual, possibly five weeks rather than three. MudI raised the point that in the last year we have seen a huge increase in mud building up on the shores of the tidal thames. This had also been observed by other people present at the meeting and th PLa admitted that it was a concern. The reason for the build up seems to be low fluvial flows. The hope is that it will wash away in the winter. The increase in silt in some areas means that barges need to be very vigilant and plan thei r passages carefully to avoid running aground.  Narrowboats travelling from Limehouse to Teddington and Brentford, are often ill equipped and don’t have a proper passage plan. Two narrowboats recently ran aground when they tried to get through the canoe portage at Richmond lock…I assured everyone at the meeting that we have very few members in the narrowboat community and that DBA members on the whole tend to take the tidal Thames very seriously. I did say that the DBA could potentially advise and help the PLA to draw up and distribute material that could help prepare boaters for the passage from Limehouse to Teddington. We agreed that we should probably discourage or at least warn boaters wanting to transit from Teddington to Limehouse, that the access to Limehouse in a small craft such as a narrowboat can be quite treacherous.  Wet wipes. We discussed the huge banks of wet wipes that have built up in some areas. A few volunteers trying to clean up the wet wipes by hand is not realistic. It was mentioned by several people present at the meeting that the PLA needed to take more drastic action to remove the wet wipes. Darren Knight assured us that it was a hot topic and that the PLA are taking it very seriously. Noise pollution from rowing coaches and coxes.  I spoke to PLA sports manager Jenny Cooper about the fact that many rowing coaches have their megaphones turned up to full volume which is an issue for DBA members living on the river but also a concern to many land lubbers who live near the river. We agreed that the majority of coaches are very considerate and that it is a minority that are causing the problem. She was of the opinion that it was a question of educating coaches and making them aware of the importance of turning down their megaphones and not to use them before 7am.  Any breaches of the tideway Code should be reported to the PLA. 
Best Wishes
Andy Soper
DBA Director Representation and Treasurer
mv Neeltje
0044 (0) 303 666 0636

You don't need a barge to join - a dream of boating in Europe will do'. See www.barges.org

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