Rise in canal boat use 'causing community tensions'

Reports that the rising use of canal boats as cheap accommodation in London is causing community tensions feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Guardian reports that with house prices and rents soaring in the capital, "a growing fleet of narrow boats and other craft is carrying workers into the capital. But the trend is bringing its own problems, including a ‘fleet versus street’ conflict between boaters and those whose properties border the towpath". The newspaper says that in Islington, "those living on the water have been accused of being inconsiderate neighbours and jumping the queue for affordable housing. Leisure boaters are not happy either".

An opinion piece in the Financial Times (subscription required) asks what is the "architecture of austerity". Architect and designer, Edwin Heathcote, says: "Unlike the last periods of austerity, the 1930s and 1940/50s, labour is now expensive while materials (which were scarce after world wars) have become relatively cheap. The result is a decline in the crafting of buildings for their particular place and a coarsening of detail. Glass curtain walls look high-tech but are cheap and easily reproducible. The result is a deracinated landscape devoid of thought or rootedness to place".

An article in the Independent laments the loss of Victorian gas holders following news last week that energy operator Nation Grid is to redevelop many of its sites into new homes.

Following separate news that National Grid intends to remove some of its more visually intrusive pylons from the countryside, an article in the Guardian asks whether electricity pylons really are a blot on the landscape. Architecture critic Oliver Wainwright says: "The process of banishing power lines below ground involves digging a 50 metre-wide trench 2 metres deep to accommodate the six cables that each pylon carries, leaving ragged scars across the landscape – at a cost of £7 million per pylon. If this countryside cleansing scheme was extended to the whole network, it would cost more than £630 billion – not far off the UK’s entire annual public spending budget. So save your money, National Grid, ignore the impractical aesthetes, and learn to appreciate your noble army of six-armed soldiers".

The Guardian reports that Royal Mail has put its former south London mail centre at Nine Elms up for sale, "which analysts estimate could fetch up to £662 million". The newspaper says "Royal Mail said it would make a decision on the Nine Elms site, which was closed in 2012, once it has reviewed all options, which include a sale or developing it with a partner. It won planning consent from Wandsworth council in March 2012 to create up to 1,870 homes, more than six acres of public space, 1.2 acres of community and retail space, as well as a new primary school. The ratio of homes classified as affordable housing is 15 per cent".

The Telegraph reports that the Prince of Wales has claimed that most British people have "lost any real connection with the land" as he aired his concerns about the future of the countryside. The newspaper says that the Prince, in a foreword for Country Life magazine, "warned that unless the public learns to value the countryside, such cherished British traditions as village pubs, local markets and dry stone walls will disappear forever".


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