The long-running saga of St Mary’s moorings could well be reaching its end. The PCC has been in negotiation with various groups of people – Wandsworth Borough Council, the Port of London Authority, the Environment Agency and the owners of three of the four barges currently moored here – and have reached a point where a clear plan is in place. To that end, the Church Council has voted to build the new moorings itself in the coming year, with a view to running them ourselves through a reputable moorings management company.
So what has actually changed? Chiefly, relationships. Through no-one’s particular fault, a deficit of trust and cooperation had developed. The passing of time had made it appear increasingly difficult for people to think they could work together. That has decisively changed.
First, the London Borough of Wandsworth (who manage the churchyard on behalf of the PCC) has accepted its responsibility to repair the river wall and has offered us a sum of money by way of contribution. We hope to partner closely with them.
Second, the Port of London Authority are working cooperatively with us to deal with the most difficult issue – the one trespassing barge blocking development. We and they have come to an understanding about how this can be handled and we have agreed to take firm and decisive steps to play our part, which will enable them to do play theirs.
Thirdly, the barge owners feel included in the conversation. Much could be said about the past – and in every difficult situation like this there are different accounts of that past – but now we are all looking to the future and there is a sense of teamwork.
So what will now happen? The plan is for us to sell a long licence to one barge owner which will bring in significant up-front capital to part-fund the project. Put alongside the money offered by Wandsworth, the PCC has created a workable and relatively low-risk business plan (through the professional skill of Philip Krinks and John Hughes) which will enable us to finance the building of the new moorings through the sale (or re-mortgaging) of one of our two properties. The Finance Team will recommend an approach shortly. We will then have four moorings on which to permit the mooring of vessels on annual licences, which we anticipate will give us the return of our investment within 4-6 years and then a steady and increasing annual income thereafter for at least 30 years. We intent to appoint a professional project manager to oversee the project and to work with the Council’s Design Department to finalise the design and seek tenders. The moorings will be residential only, thus ending the long history of sub-letting that has contributed to the historic difficulties. Our churchyard and its moorings will become a more attractive place, with pretty barges and the possibility of genuine community developing.
Of course, there’s a lot of hurdles to cross yet. But we feel quietly confident that the time has come to make this work and we shall be doing our utmost to make it happen. Some of you will naturally say “I expect it when I see it.” We hope to bring your expectation a reality.
Simon Butler on behalf of St Mary’s Church Council