A fence at any cost

Published: Monday, 08 June 2009

AFTER a coroner suggested a fence along Rochdale Nine in Manchester, British Waterways, well into its health and safety mode, hastened to accede, no matter the cost of the fence and the danger to boaters.

The cost of the fence, which would be erected along the existing wall, is a cool £200,000—and rising. But the cost to boaters will be extreme difficulty in getting access to the towpath, and in getting to the lock landing on foot.

It was the latest death of a person climbing over the wall, and after many other similar incidents that prompted the coroners' suggestion, as the small wall separates the canal from the many pubs and bars of the gay village, shown in the picture, that runs along the canal side.

The fence would consist of stainless steel posts set into the ground alongside the existing wall. The posts would curve over the the wall to hold a stainless steel rail, which would run directly above the wall. The gap between the wall and the rail would be filled by reinforced glass panels.

This means that boaters would have to climb the stone steps, shown in the picture, that are needed to get over the small wall onto the towpath to set the next lock, steps which have been a fixture for 200 years. Then the boater would have to clamber over the new fence, which in itself would be extremely dangerous, as obviously, the fence will have been installed to stop people doing exactly that.

However, when the plan for the fence was drawn up, British Waterway 'forgot' to inform the council that the steps were needed for the use of boaters, in fact went a step further in stating 'As outlined above the fence will not hinder or interfere with the ability of canal users to navigate the canal'.

Accepted the word of BW

Boaters contacting the planning department have been told by the department that British Waterways has assured them that there will be no problems. And of course, knowing no better, the planners naturally accepted the word of British Waterways over that of individual boaters.

The Inland Waterways Association and many boaters have contacted the planning department about requiring the continued use of these steps, and means of access through the proposed fence. But the danger to those boaters needing access to the towpath and attempting to climb the fence has simply been washed aside by British Waterways.

Failed to display proper notices

With the council itself failing to display the proper notices, the decision, that was originally to have been made on 28th May, has been delayed. New notices have now been issued which means a new period for comments is allowed, being accepted up until 19th June 2009. The decision will now be taken by the planning committee at a meeting on 23rd July at 2.00 pm in the Town Hall Annexe.

This means that boaters who were not aware of this situation now have a chance to make their feelings known, and particularly point out the errors in application.

Our thanks to Martin Clark of Pennine Waterways for the information, and for the photographs. He has published full details of this shameful episode that can be seen at the link below.