Jericho Community Boatyard

Our dreams for the Jericho Wharf boatyard

This meeting was held on February 13, 2019

Jericho residents talking to Bruce Heagarty, a trustee of the Jericho Wharf Trust and a director of Jericho Community Boatyard, over a wooden model of the proposed development

At the ‘My Jericho’ talk on Feb 13th, Bruce Heagarty recalled with emotion the day in 2005 when he and fellow-boaters took direct action to assert the right to maintain and repair their boats locally. ‘We had been squatting on the site of the old closed-down Jericho boatyard for a year or so. One day, we had 100-strong meeting of our Community Boatyard organisation, and decided to make a last-ditch protest against eviction. We would crane boats out of the canal onto the wharf to show what we were about.

‘It was a really exciting day. This 70-ton crane squeezing into the yard, in the midst of police and officials protesting, noise and uproar, and the tv cameras rolling. We managed to lift eight or nine boats out, then worked on them to show what was involved in maintaining our boats and why we needed a boatyard.’ They were part of a countrywide movement against loss of boatyards and facilities to serve canal boat users and residents. From this stretch of canal, the nearest alternative boatyard was – and is – several miles away at Eynsham, which makes it inaccessible to many locals.

This 2005 protest was covered on all TV channels and made a great impact among the boating community nationwide. Clearly, the elation of the moment also made a lasting impact on Bruce and his fellow-protesters, because 13 years on they are still as strongly united around the need for a community boatyard as ever.

This need was officially endorsed back in 2005 by the Planning Inspector. As a result, the requirement for a Community Boatyard, as well as for a new Community Centre, have been established as integral to any redevelopment of the land previously owned by British Waterways next to St Barnabas Church and along the Canal. These two mandated components have unintentionally become twin thorns in the planning application process, leading to delays, refusals, project plan collapses and postponements in the redevelopment of the site. Developers tend to underestimate the cast-iron commitment of community and Council to them, and overestimate their potential profits as a result.

JCBY directors Ali Bastin and Mark Davies had started the meeting with a broad historical sweep - showing how since the 1790s the canal had been integral to the development of Oxford and had helped shaped local industry, as well as the diversecommunity. Indeed at the time of the boaters’ eye-catching protest other local groups were, from their respective viewpoints, also already pressing for community interests to be served in any major development. And and as time went on these groups joined forces so as to present a common front. In 2012, the Jericho Community Boatyard (JCBY) organisation along with the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, the Church and the Jericho Community Association created the Jericho Wharf Trust. ‘Working alongside others has made all the difference’, according to Heagarty.

Flanked by Alistair Bastin and Steve Watts, both directors of the JCBY, Bruce Heagarty described boaters in general as an unruly lot. The difficulties of negotiation with developers and Council officials require infinite patience and dedication to detail. ‘We could not have gone through all the plans and statistics and understood all the political nuances without the help of Jericho Wharf Trust board members such as Phyllis [Starkey], David [Feeny] and Peter [Stalker], he told ‘My Jericho’ Chairman John Mair and a packed Community Centre audience – including many Wharf trustees.

The plans for the boatyard in the current application – a new application is in the works after a two-year period of silence and stalling by the current owners of the site – will provide two dry docks and one wet dock. This avoids the need for a crane, since boaters can work on their boats’ nether regions in the dry docks. Other facilities include professional management as well as DIY facilities, bunks where boaters using the yard can sleep, and on-site workshops for carpenters and others. ‘This will be like boaters having a garden shed in which to pursue hobbies or spare-time jobs.’

John Mair referred to a recent Oxford Mail story which suggested that work might already be underway by the summer. Cold water was widely poured on this possibility by knowledgeable audience members. Not only is there a planning application process to go through, but many other negotiation and preparatory hoops, even if the application succeeds. Inevitably, discussion began to focus on the feasibility and profitability of the entire enterprise. One of many unanswerables is whether the developer might succeed in reducing the amount of affordable housing he has to provide below the usual 50%, on the basis that he is being obliged to provide two important Community facilities.

Much needs to happen before the green light shines and the construction of any part of the Community Centre or Boatyard can begin. Right now it is still a case of Dream on, or alternatively row, row, row your boat gently down the stream … At the end of a lively debate everyone pored over the wooden model of the last redevelopment proposal, or was it the one before? Meanwhile if anyone wants to lend support by joining the JCBY, please apply, you would be more than welcome.

Further information from:
Jericho Wharf Trust

Report by: Maggie Black

Steve Watts, Bruce Heagarty and Ali Bastin, direcotrs of Jericho Community Boatyard

My Jericho is a weekly series of conversations organized by John Mair. Most are at the community centre but there are also visits to interesting places in and around Jericho. Entry £2.00 or, if at the Community Centre, you can bring a cake. Profits to the JCA.

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Some events include a tour. So we have an idea of numbers, please book via Eventbrite where indicated.

Forthcoming meetings

Date Venue
Wed 20 Feb
Mark Damazer

Former MD of Radio 4, Master of St Peters College

Community Centre
Tue 26 Feb
Peter Hitchens

Mail on Sunday columnist

Community Centre
Wed 6 Mar
Flamenco and Jericho history
Guitarist Marcos Young and Sue Pead
Community Centre
Wed 3 Apr
Father Christopher
St Barnabas Church
St Barnabas Church Cafe
Wed 10 Apr
Bill Emmot

Former editor of The Economist

Community Centre
Wed 17 Apr
Peter Bennett Jones
Hat Trick productions
Community Centre
Wed 1 May
Wine and cheese party
End of run party
Jericho Cheese Company, Little Clarendon Street

Previous events

At the community centre

13-02-19Jericho Community Boatyard
06-02-19Susanna Pressel
30-01-19Fiona Hawkins
04-12-18Former postman, Ali
21-11-18Baroness Jan Royall
14-11-18Alan Rusbridger
07-11-18Rough sleepers in Oxford
31-10-18David Mills
17-10-18Roma Tearne
09-10-18Evening for Bill Heine
03-10-18Sir Christopher Ball
12-09-18Richard Dick
15-08-18Susan Brown
29-03-18Maggie Black
21-03-18Sir Rick Trainor
15-03-18Will Wyatt
14-03-18Ian Stuart
07-03-18Steph Pirrie
21-02-18Fr Jonathan Beswick
14-02-18Mark Davies
06-02-18Pandora Maxwell
31-01-18Sir Richard Peto
24-01-18Teresa O’Hara
17-01-18Maggie Whitlum
10-01-18Michel Sadones


23-01-19Lady Margaret Hall
09-01-19Lord Mayor’s Parlour
18-04-18Worcester College