South Dock Marina residents and boat-owners say rent rise is overboard

News Desk (12 November, 2015) Housing

Mooring fees are set to rise 23% over the next four years.

6434Worried residents at South Dock Marina.

Houseboat residents and boat owners in South Dock Marina have expressed their anger and worry over an “outrageous” hike in mooring fees.

The 23% rise may force some residents already struggling with the high cost of boat life to leave the Rotherhithe dock.

Allen Atwell, chair of the South Dock Marina Berth Holders Association, said: “It’s a big chunk of money and we get the impression that this rise is being rushed through.

“A number of residents who have been here for decades are being forced out. One woman is really quite emotional about it, she’s been here for 25 and will have to leave her home. But due to the rising fees it is making it even harder for to sell boats – it’s a real ‘Catch 22’.”

Boat owners say that they understand that mooring fees do go up, just like housing rents do on land, but argue that the rise is simply a way to exploit boat owners, who may be seen as living a cheap lifestyle.

Allen said: “It is a diverse community here – we have teachers, policemen, doctors, families and OAPs.  We’re not rolling in money. We have mooring fees, council tax and also need to pay for the upkeep of the boats, which is considerable.”

Residents also claim that there has been a lack of “clarity” from the council with regards to the rise, with residents left in the dark over whether the 23% hike will be immediate or spread over a period of time.

Allen said: “We want to put a freeze on the whole thing until we can discuss it properly – because at the moment it seems that the council want to push this through and then discuss future rises with us.”

Councillor Darren Merrill, Southwark Cabinet member for environment and public realm, blamed “yet more government cuts” for the rise.

He said: “South Dock Marina have had their fees and charges frozen for three years, but we now need to make changes.  We have checked these against other marinas providing similar services and our charges are still competitively priced.

“We’ve listened to berth holders and so are phasing charges in over a four year period to give berth holders time to budget for the future. We’ve also reduced the monthly licence charges, so berth holders who cannot pay yearly, will have a reduction over the first two years.

“Our on-going investment programme means that the marina is kept at the highest standard. We have spent over £650k in improvements so far, with an additional £1m investment planned in the next two years.”

Jen says:

To correct Councillor Merrill:

1. There has not been a three year mooring fee freeze in the marina. The last three years increases for the moorings (rent) on my home are 14.5%, 3.5% and 6%.

2. For over 20 years the council failed to put the money paid by berth holders back into the marina, until the walkways and electricity system became dangerous. In the last couple of years, the council started to fix the problems, created by two decades of under-investment, to bring the marina up to an acceptable standard.

3. Councillors haven’t listened to berth holders or even to their own Scrutiny & Oversight Committee, which put a hold on the fee rises and recommended further engagement with residents, with housing officers present.

4. Councillor Merrill’s response to the committee’s recommendations was to immediately put up the mooring fees by 25% and then offer to have 4 meetings with residents, after the fact – even though the fee increase would already be in place.

Residents have both mooring fees (rent) and mortgages or loans for their boats, so rising mooring fees are only part of the housing costs and in addition to council tax there is also 20% VAT on rent.

Jack says:

I would like to echo the last points made by Jen and bring to the discussion regarding a future £1m investment highlighted by the Cllr. Are the residents paying towards this investment and what are these investments? We have had no notification of how this money will be spent.

The council has failed to write to each resident highlighting a 4 year roll out of fees. We are still waiting for a detailed letter stipulating the impact of the council rushed through rise.

Merryn Owen says:

South Dock Marina is an economically diverse community, something of a dying breed in Central London. This is a community of people who have found, and in many cases built for themselves an affordable home in central London, many are now to be priced out of that home by a Labour Council in a constituency with a Labour MP after a process that, as Councillor Merrill confirms in one of the few accurate statements he makes in your article, has benchmarked fees against a commercial entity. To me this seems a direct contradiction to the Labour Party’s pledge both in local election and the General Election campaigns to prioritise affordability and security in housing, to seek to protect a place in Central London for ordinary Londoners and to do something to control the rampant commercialisation of housing in the capital. I wonder if Southwark News will continue following this story which seems to me to stand as a stark example of the potential social cleansing this area faces?

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