A NEW crackdown has been launched against boaters illegally mooring in Oxford.

Members of the city’s boating community last night said the new strict regime was unnecessary and would force boaters out of Oxford.

The crackdown was launched after Oxford City Council paid £44,000 towards work by the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group (Umbeg), which also includes representatives from British Waterways, the Environment Agency, Thames Valley Police and other landowners.

Boaters met last night at the Town Hall to set up a support group in response to the move.

Mike Hamblett, who lives on a narrowboat on Castle Mill Stream in the city centre, said: “Now that Umbeg is being funded by the council I think more ‘no mooring’ signs will go up and boaters will be forced to move on much more often.

“That’s why we are having a meeting, so that we can respond to Umbeg in a more formal way.”

Radley-based Jon Ody, whose businesses services narrowboats, said he had noticed more restrictions on the River Thames in recent months.

He said: “A new notice has been put up recently at Godstow outlining the cost of moorings.

“The first night is free, the second two nights are £5 a night, and then it’s £50 a night after that.”

Simon Hibbs, 34, a youth worker whose narrowboat is moored on the Oxford Canal at Wolvercote, complained last month about unemptied toilet bins on the canalside.

He added: “If someone is unlawfully moored and they are leaving litter then they should be dealt with, but I think there are more important things to spend council funds on.”

The council has agreed to provide funding over two years from April to help pay for “proactive riverbank enforcement” of the River Thames and Oxford Canal.

The money is aimed at providing “a targeted programme of enforcement to deal with the growing problem of illegal moorings”.

This is the first time the council has designated specific funding for this type of enforcement.

Jericho and Osney city councillor Susanna Pressel said: “Oxford has been seen as a soft touch by boaters from other parts of the country and that’s partly why we need more money to deal with this issue.”

She said hundreds of boaters lived in Oxford and added that some were mooring illegally, while others were “leaving litter, flytipping and trashing green spaces”.

Ms Pressel said the city council wanted to create more residential and visitor moorings on the city’s waterways.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “The Umbeg meetings were set up in 2010 by the enforcement agencies to tackle unlawfully moored boats along the riverbank and navigable waterways.

“Boaters are invited to attend the meetings and make representations. We are working in partnership with other organisations to ensure that the riverbanks are kept clear of unlawfully moored boats and those who have a lawful right to moor can do so.”

The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing moorings on the Thames while British Waterways enforces moorings on the canal.

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