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‘Left out in the cold’: the boaters locked out of fuel support

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O nce thought of as the coolest place in Britain to live, Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has become a small hub for people in search of a bohemian paradise in the north; among them are the canal boaters who moor up in the former mill town.Despite living in such confined quarters, this small and mobile community has, however, been finding life much more expensive as the cost of living crisis continues, and government help is only available for some.Ema Pightling, 29, a charity worker from Bradford, lives on a narrowboat just outside Hebden Bridge town centre and has been struggling to heat the vessel as fuel costs rise. “This winter has been horrific,” she says. “We’ve been waking up at minus six degrees.

It takes a lot of coal and wood to heat up. People are starting to burn possessions – old clothes, old socks, T-shirts. We’ve had times where we’ve had to because we’ve not been able to afford wood and coal.”Boaters have seen a steep rise in the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which they use for cooking and heating.

The price of red diesel – used in boat heaters and engines – has also increased by at least 20% since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, while costs of coal and wood have also risen.Carolyn Edwards, 54, a lecturer at the University of Leeds, says that a 13kg bottle of propane has risen from £30 to £45 over the last year and that a bag of coal has doubled to £16 over the past two years. “In October I’d say it went up by about another 50-60% again.

This winter is much more expensive.”Edwards lives on a small boat in the town centre and wants some help with her energy bills, but says those living off the main electricity grid have been excluded from government assistance.The government said last week

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