20% of canal marina berths are reported to be vacant, so why are so many new marinas still being planned and built across the canals network?
Operators of existing marinas are concerned about their businesses and the viability of their industry. Boat owners may enjoy some mooring price competition but many are concerned about the congestion caused by new marinas in popular canal locations. Both groups are annoyed by the increasing numbers of boats on online moorings, especially continuous cruisers paying no mooring fees, but moving them into offline moorings as was promised just doesn’t seem to be happening. And all the time even more marinas get proposed and built.
Paul Lillie, the Managing director of Pilling Lock Marina in Leicestershire, has complained to his MP about the Canal & River Trust (CRT) allowing new marina proposals in his area which he says threaten the whole viability of his business. The consultant who helped prepare his objection to a nearby 652-berth marina at Ratcliffe-on-Soar found that only 48 of the UK’s marina operators are trading at a profit, 77 were showing signs of failing and 45 currently up for sale at a loss on their original capital investment.
Perhaps the most contentious campaign has been against the 550-berth Barby Pools Marina at Onley, three miles north of Braunston on the Oxford Canal, which has now received planning approval from both local authorities despite many objections.
Other proposed new canal marinas include Yarnton on the Oxford Canal with 206 berths and a hire boat business, a 252 berth marina at Swindon on the Staffs & Worcester Canal and a 188-berth marina with a 120-bedroom hotel and leisure spa and fitness centre by Ellesmere wharf on the Llangollen Canal.
CRT chief executive Robin Evans was reported as saying – “It is not for the Trust to regulate the supply of marinas on its network. This is a matter for market forces to determine. If we were to try and do this it is almost certain that we would be in breach of competition laws”.