Today is the ten year anniversary of the final eviction of Jericho Boatyard which has never been replaced despite all stated intentions. The closure of the last remaining public boat repair facility in Oxford is directly linked to the current allegations of antisocial behaviour of people living on boats.
The allegations involve numerous accounts of smoke from badly maintained engines, unkempt boats, boats sinking, fires and other safety concerns, boats being worked on next to the public towpath, concerns about lack of facilities such as obtaining fresh water and disposal of toilets, broken down boats, pollution, fuel supplies being stockpiled on the bankside of permanent moorings, the use of portable generators for electricity for things like charging batteries and supplying power tools, we could go on…
Each of these issues could be solved by the provision of a permanent facility in Oxford. Complaining about badly maintained boats while a boat yard stands empty for ten years in the heart of the city so that residents have nowhere to maintain those boats is adding insult to injury.
The Oxford City Councillors responsible for overseeing the Jericho Boatyard saga, Suzanna Pressel and Colin Cook, have each spoken out strongly in favour of a final solution to these issues involving the criminalisation of everyday boating behaviours. These councillors representing the citizens of Jericho and Osney, which includes dozens of permanent and hundreds of transient boats, are the exact same councillors who have established and supported the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group, a secretive unaccountable committee involving navigation authorities and the police promoting the removal of unwanted liveaboard boats from inside the city.
From the 1790s bargemen and wharfmen working the Oxford canal were an integral feature of city life. In the 1890s, North Oxford locals paid for the building of St Margaret’s Institute – providing baths and books for wharfmen. Today, in the heart of Oxford, boaters have no choice but to live without supporting resources and are forced into a fight for self-sufficiency simply to survive.
This is a dark day of remembrance for us, continuing a dark time for Oxford boaters.