A COUNCILLOR is calling for a summit to discuss crime on the waterways after a narrow boat was badly damaged by vandals in Stalybridge town centre.
Cllr David Sweeton believes the answer to ongoing problems may be to create a special cordoned off mooring area which the public has no access to.
In the meantime, Cllr Sweeton wants the Stalybridge ward councillors, police and Tameside Council to get together to find a solution.
There was a similar meeting not long ago to tackle youths who were causing mayhem on Tesco’s car park.
The badly vandalised narrow boat was discovered when Stalybridge Town Team were carrying out one of their Saturday morning clean ups.
Cllr Sweeton, who was in the group that found the vandalised boat, said: “There have been problems before with boats moored near Tesco’s and this is not a bolt from the blue, but it is an escalation.
“There have been instances of kids hurling things and rocking boats at 2.30am that begs the question why they are out at that time.”
Cllr Sweeton believes creating a special protected mooring area may be the long-term solution.
He explained: “It would be between Tesco’s and the canal and would probably involve a 100m section being fenced off to create a buffer area.
“It would probably cost a lot of money, but safe mooring for boats is something we need to aspire to.”
Peter Rawson, a former chairman of Stalybridge Town Team and council member of the Huddersfield Canal Society, described it as the actions of the “mindless minority”.
“Sadly stories like this are giving us a bad reputation and undermining what we are trying to achieve, and only serves to drive people away from the canal that is a big asset for the town,” he said.
Peter, who added the incident had been reported to the Canal and River Trust, explained there had been talk about secure moorings for some time.
He said: “They would be costly and, in these times of cuts, there isn’t a lot of money about.
“This terrible incident does push our case for secure moorings.”
The actions of the vandals received widespread condemnation from residents to the Stalybridge Town Facebook page.
There was also a post from narrow boat owner Sean Powell who disclosed the vandals had tried to sink it.
He also revealed he had been renovating the boat, but doesn’t know what to do now.
In the light of the narrow boat being vandalised, Cllr Sweeton has issued the following statement.
He wrote: “The recent spate of vandalism serves only to tarnish the reputation of the town and the canal and bad news travels very fast, particularly in the boating community.
“Boaters are becoming reluctant to moor up and spend the night in town through fear of the vandalism that others have encountered and reported.
“Local councillors are now working with the police, the Canal and River Trust and Huddersfield Canal Society to see how we can reverse the negatives and improve security to ensure boaters can have the confidence to see Stalybridge as an important and attractive destination, moor up and spend more time and money in the town.
“Turning the situation around will not be easy and will need the support of residents and businesses, in fact the whole community will need to come together to ensure our action plan succeeds.
“On the canal, consideration is now being given to the creation of secure mooring facilities where only boaters will have access.
“It may be possible at some stage to include the provision of canal side water and power supplies in these areas to further encourage boaters, but of course all these measures will depend on funding.
“None of these secure areas will in any way prevent public access along the main towpath which will be available all the way through town as at present.
“An audit of the existing CCTV provision in town (both publicly and privately owned), is in the process of being carried out to see if this can be realistically improved to provide additional security for all visitors and this will be factored in to the overarching canal safety plan.
“When future canal side sites, such as opposite Longlands Mill and Staley Wharf, are being brought forward, developers will be encouraged as part of the development brief to incorporate the provision of water and power facilities and security measures for boaters along the adjacent canal.
“This aspiration is now being taken forward and locked into the overall development brief for the Stalybridge town centre.
“Our volunteer team (Stalybridge Town Team environmental group alongside the Canals and River Trust) will continue to clear up along the canal and improve the maintenance standards in conjunction with the Canal and River Trust.
“The canal is a fantastic asset for Stalybridge which itself already has many fine buildings and such great development potential.
“A safe, secure and attractive environment is essential to attract more people to visit and shop in town and for investors to engage in the redevelopment of the many derelict and under used sites that we have.
“We all need to pull together to ensure that the vandals do not continue to undermine the reputation of Stalybridge town centre, the canal and the town’s future development potential.”