Houseboat owners face huge hike in mooring fees under proposed Waterways Ireland bylaw changes

Some of those living on country’s canals fear they may be forced elsewhere as cost of annual permits set to rise into the thousands

People living on houseboats along the country’s canals are facing a sharp increase in their mooring fees if proposed changes to Waterways Ireland bylaws are implemented.

At present, many of those living on boats on the country’s waterways, predominantly canals, pay an annual fee for an extended mooring permit (EMP) at a cost of €278. A second phase of public consultation on the proposed changes ends on Monday.

Under the changes, fees would increase to €4,000 and go up as high as €7,500 over the next several years for an “urban serviced houseboat mooring” location such as Grand Canal Dock or the 12th Lock at Castleknock in Dublin.

Waterways Ireland is seeking to recategorise various mooring points around the country, changing the price of the permits based on the facilities at each location. In a statement, the cross-Border body said the “proposed houseboat fees were calculated after extensive research by Waterways Ireland including the commissioning of an independent review by KPMG”.

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Several people who live on boats are concerned about the impact increased costs would have on their ability to remain on their boats.

Alistair Morish, a member of the Irish Residential Boat Owners Association, said he moved on to his boat in his 60s as he was unable to get a mortgage on a conventional home. He is moored at Confey on the Royal Canal in Leixlip, Co Kildare where he pays €278 a year for a permit. The mooring has no additional infrastructure such as mains water or sewage pump-out but Mr Morish could still see his permit fee increase to €1,000 a year.

“The reason you buy a boat is because you can’t afford to rent or you want to be able to save up money to get yourself a deposit on a house,” he said.

“The fees are huge percentage increases and we’re pretty certain boat owners won’t be able to afford them ... [Waterways Ireland] say if you can’t afford the mooring permits at this particular location [they have] a cheaper location and it’s further out which basically is evicting people ... people are going to be evicted from their communities. People have put down roots. They’ve got children in school, some of [the liveaboards] are elderly.”

Waterways Ireland said it will be offering current liveaboards a houseboat permit for the location in which their boat is already moored and that its objective is “to minimise disruption to houseboat communities”.

It said the current bylaws are “undisputedly out of date and unfit for purpose”.

No changes can be made to the existing bylaws without them being signed off by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

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Glen Murphy

Glen Murphy

Glen Murphy is an Irish Times journalist