The local mooring strategy steering group met again on 8 November. We are able to provide notes of most of the discussion, taken by a volunteer, which are at the end of this article.
The most significant point that emerged at this meeting was the fact that there is a strong consensus among the different interest groups – liveaboard and other boaters, the hire boat industry, local authorities and parish councillors – around the table on the following points:
Photo: Bob Naylor KAcanalTIMES.co.uk
A small minority of inconsiderate boaters cause nuisance to neighbours
Boats moored along the towpath add interest to the canal which most people enjoy
BW and some boaters currently don’t agree on the definition of ‘place’ in the context of mooring restrictions and the 1995 Waterways Act.
BW should enforce the 14-day rule regardless of whether it generates income.
Hire boats, long term moorings and marinas all contribute valuable income additional to boat licence fees which is needed for the maintenance of the canal
If BW enforced the 14-day rule consistently and fairly there would be no need for any other restrictions.
No child should have to change schools as a result of the local mooring strategy.
Overstaying is an issue which BW should address by enforcing the 14-day rule consistently and fairly.
Reviewing existing mooring designations and restrictions is an important function of the mooring strategy
The length of 14-day mooring space should not be reduced.
The provisions of the mooring strategy must be consistent with the 1995 British Waterways Act
The strategy will not be enforceable if it sets restrictions in excess of what is required by the 1995 British Waterways Act.
When you buy property you do not buy the view from that property or have a right to it.
However, the Chair Sally Ash of BW would not allow discussion of these points of consensus so that the meeting could move forward with a strategy that all parties can accept. Instead she insisted on breaking into small groups and discussing the ‘Vision Statement’ produced by parish councils in the Limpley Stoke valley as a basis for the final strategy, presumably because BW finds this vision statement more to its liking than the proposal that it should use its existing statutory powers.
A challenge to the process
As a result of the meeting, and in response to a message to the local mooring strategy steering group from one of the unaffiliated boaters’ representatives, the National Bargee Travellers Association has challenged the legality of the local mooring strategy process. The NBTA said:
“It is vital to remember that the work of this Steering Group is clearly a prototype for national BW policy. I would like to express my concern on the strongest of terms in relation to the revelation that has now come to light. For the avoidance of doubt I give, both myself and on behalf of the National Bargee Travellers Association, my unreserved assurance that under no circumstances will I support the composition of policy that amounts to discrimination against a minority group.
I note that the Secretary of State for Communities has determined that Bargee Travellers (ie “itinerant live aboards”) are protected under s.225 Housing Act 2004. It follows that Bargee Travellers are a Minority Group for the purposes of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In turn it follows that a policy that amounts to discrimination against said minority group is unlawful policy. Therefore a policy making body (of which BW is such in this instance) would be acting ultra vires (and very Wednesbury Unreasonable) to be pursuing such a route.
It was on this basis that I stated in the meeting of the Mooring Strategy Steering Group of 8th November 2010 that the composition of an unlawful policy would at the very least be judicially reviewable. I must also add that where there is a prima facie case of unlawful composition that is being undertaken on a wilful basis that this would be grounds to
(1) challenge the competence of BW in engaging in such an activity and
(2) seek appropriate interlocutory relief
From a legal perspective this is clear-cut.
From a political perspective (and remembering that policy making these days is a hybrid legal / political process) is this Collective confirming that it is seeking to ethnically cleanse? Taking the political footing in isolation that would be, I argue, material for the national press at the very least. Returning briefly to the legal footing, I also observe that the new arrival of the Equality Act 2010 makes for this behaviour to be deemed a criminal offence. The only missing component prior to making a complaint to the Police of such policy-making would be to identify BW as a public body bound by the Act.”
The NBTA was responding to the following complaint to the Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group:
“The deployment plan written by BW, which gives details the Canal Monitoring and Enforcement Officer post proposed to BANES Council by Councillor Ian Dewey of Bathampton. Written in March, this document shows that BANES was planning to patrol the canal 5 days a week between Bathampton and Bradford on Avon, and assumed it would gain Wiltshire’s support for patrolling the area within its boundary. However, Ken Oliver, Wiltshire Council’s Canal Officer stated at a meeting of the local mooring strategy steering group on 26 August that Wiltshire was not prepared to participate in this scheme.
The document states that the proposal arose in part from discussion with representatives of BANES Council “whose constituents have expressed unhappiness about the establishment of a residential boating community along the canal within the district”. It also justifies the plan by saying that boaters have challenged BW and BANES to make use of existing enforcement powers to deal with any problems. It is true that boaters have challenged BW’s new policies and the local mooring strategy by saying that any problems can be solved by enforcing the 14-day rule fairly and consistently, rather than attempting to enforce guidance and policy that is beyond what the law requires of boaters without moorings. However it is not true that boaters have challenged BANES to carry out enforcement on the canal – because this is the statutory duty of BW to carry out, and we do not believe it would be lawful for BANES or any other local authority to do this, nor would it be a good use of local authority money.
As far as I know, this staff member was never appointed by BANES and since the late summer there has been a recruitment freeze and the Council is not currently taking on any staff.
BW’s plan for these patrols proposed, among other things, measuring success by the amount of “tourist spend in local villages by boaters” and soliciting local residents to submit visitor incident reports of nuisance “clearly attributable to residential boaters” to BW. The deployment plan proposed these monitoring measures:
Ideally we would have baseline estimates of the following and put in place a means of estimating changes over the course of the pilot. In practice this may be impossible, but we need to discuss alternative basic measures.
1. Tourist spend in villages by boaters
2. Actual incidents of nuisance etc clearly attributable to residential boaters (nb – we should be encouraging neighbours to submit visitor incident reports via BW’s website)
3. Feedback from hire boat and marina/mooring operators – should we supply short pro forma questionnaires which they’d hand out to customers?”
All three of these monitoring points look like discrimination against liveaboard boaters to me, and are an indication of BW’s prejudiced attitude towards us. If this is an indication of BW’s thinking, then it confirms the view of liveaboard boaters that we have no confidence that the Local Mooring Strategy will be either fair or just. May I remind you of Cllr Fleur de Rhe Philippe’s comment at the Kennet and Avon Canal Partnership meeting on 28 July that rules must be “fair and just”.
I would like a personal assurance from each member of the Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group that they will not support or endorse any discriminatory treatment of boat dwellers.”
BW’s proposed move to become a charity means that it needs to be seen to be successful at working with outside bodies. So far, the local mooring strategy process is a very poor example of this, and it shows BW ignoring the law, pushing its own agenda and alienating or disregarding many of the other parties around the table. The next Local Mooring Strategy meeting is on 10 December at 11am at County Hall, Trowbridge.
Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group meeting 8 November 2010
BW: Mark Stephens, Sally Ash (Chair), Damian Kemp
K&A Trust: John Webb
IWA: Tim Wheeldon and Paul Roper
RBOA: Rich Burchill
NABO: Geoffrey Rogerson
AWCC: Pauline King
Wilts Council: Mayur Bhatt, Head of Equality and Elly Townsend, BoA Area Board Manager
Unaffiliated Boaters: Panda Smith and Kevin Humphries
Valley Parishes Alliance: Keith Rossiter and Dave Batho (Bathampton and Claverton)
National Bargee Travellers Association: Nick Brown
BaNES Council: Ann Robins
Wilts Council: Ken Oliver
APCO: John Froggatt
Sally, the Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting. She suggested that we go around the room again so that everyone could introduce themselves.
The notes of the meting that we circulated on the 21st of September – Is everyone content that that was a reasonable summary of what went on? Panda objected, and also mentioned that the agenda did not contain the terms of reference – the names of the delegates have been changed but nothing else,and even then even one of the delegates from unaffiliated boaters has been missed off. Panda also emailed Damian to ask to include an item on the agenda from a boater but has had no response – she emailed him on Saturday. Damian said he hadn’t checked his email yet. Panda said they needed to be included in the minutes. Panda also thought we should have AOB on the agenda too as there are other issues that ought to be discussed that aren’t and were in the minutes to be discussed a t this meeting that aren’t on the agenda. Sally asked for any other comments?
Panda – under item 9 it is quite confusing where whoever took the minutes uses the term ‘the KA partnership” – Does that mean the KA partnership board, or the K&A partnership? Same confusion under item 12 as well. Second point – Sally said that residential moorings should be on the agenda for the 8th of Nov but it isn’t. It should be because we are working with local authorities and we need to change local authority planning policy on this. Also item 12 – The law and guidance for continuous cruisers is mis-named. Panda stressed that it is guidance not the law. There are a few other points which Panda picked up on the minutes, which is why she asked Damian if Jess could take minutes. Under item 14 Sally accepted that the group needs to know what budget there is for the local mooring strategy. Panda would like to know what monitoring of the budget there has been so far. Could we see a breakdown of costs, future costs and where this budget has come from? We need to have this information as we can’t really work without knowing what the budget for this is. This needs to all be transparent as we don’t want fraudulent expenses claims or anything like that.
Sally asked if anyone else had any comments and thanked Panda for her comments. Sally said we have had two meetings with very detailed discussion on process and that in order to move on we need to give today’s agenda a chance. She asked Panda to give her comments in writing. Large round table discussions have not been fruitful in achieving our ultimate goal. Damian and she have put a lot of time in to looking at people’s views and discussing it. She apologised to Panda and said that she would like to just note Panda’s comments and put them to one side and stick to the Agenda. IF any particular item that you have made needs debate we will do so at the next meeting. Panda stated that these are things that Sally said would be on the agenda. She said that Ken Oliver’s promised briefing on the K&A Canal Conservation Plan is missing. Sally said that there are little details that will be overlooked, but we need to get on. Panda says that details need to be correct or we can’t come up with a finalised strategy. Sally asked if anyone else wants to talk about these things or is happy with her proposal to ignore them for now and continue with the agenda.
David Batho – Bathampton local plan is mentioned in the minutes item 6 and 7 but there is no such thing. He thinks that John Webb meant BaNES. Sally said that please submit the points for the minutes in writing for the next meeting and she’ll make some amendments. David Batho said that Sally just asked for comments? Sally said that she doesn’t want to take that into account right now. David Batho complained that Sally has turned up late, wasting time already. Sally just wants to get on. David Batho said that he was disappointed that BaNES is not in the meeting, and that Sally doesn’t seem to want the comments she just asked for. The canal is a cross-boundary thing and we really need to involve BaNES. There were regrets that BaNES were not represented as this is a classic cross-country boundary issue. Ken Oliver’s comment was that there was no discussion between BaNES and the others and it wasn’t minuted that way. It wasn’t as vague as it seems to be in the minutes.
Damian will make the changes to the minutes. Sally asked if there were any further substantive points on the minutes. Panda said there are quite a few, but Sally has told her not to include any further. Sally said that these points are fundamental points to do with local authorities, so they need to be put across. Panda said her points are also fairly fundamental being part of the discussions here. Sally said these themes will very readily come out during the discussion today. She doesn’t want to discuss each one as it will take too long. She wants them in writing to herself or Damian and she’ll raise them for discussion at the beginning at next meeting.
Nick Brown said this is obviously a regional activity but also being used as a proving ground for national policy. Because of the case of BW vs Davies, this is more than just a proving ground for policy it is also a starting point for making new legislation – democratic process must be observed. He has a problem with the whole thing being split out into discussion groups who won’t be discussing all topics. This would double the time, but it isn’t good enough as it is. Sally said that we have seen these discussion groups over two meetings and it is taking too long, so they’ve set it up the way they have. If you want more discussion opportunities it has to be done outside of the meeting. She is very happy for the discussions to continue by email or telephone or whatever outside of the group. David Batho said that with al due respect to the chair, it needs to be discussed here so that each group has had the opportunity to discuss each issue in detail. Sally wants to just let this take its course and try out the process. We’ll have time to review later on what other topics need discussion. Sally noted his objection but stated that we will have to move on.
Damian summarised the feedback results from the attitude survey. A list of 67 questions. The ten responses to those questions were from a variety of organisations. Damian has coded the answers as to whether people agree strongly or disagree strongly. Trying to get a feel for how each group responds to any particular statement. Only a few statements were agreed with by everyone. The other 52 some people agreed with, others disagreed with. Intended not as a decision making tool but to give us an idea of how people feel on these issues and give some trumps for discussion topics. He’ll circulate this later. Panda had trouble with the document and mentioned that she managed to answer some of the questions twice. Macros corrupted or something like that maybe? She would like to submit hers by paper so that there is no doubt as to what her answers were. She has brought it with her. Damian said he discounted the entire answer where there were multiple crosses.
Damian said he’ll just read through the statements on which there was near-unanimous agreement. No statement had total agreement. The 13 statements that they strongly agreed with were:
A small minority of inconsiderate boaters cause nuisance to neighbours.
Boats moored along the towpath add interest to the canal which most people enjoy
BW and some boaters disagree on the definition of ‘place’ in the context of mooring restrictions and the 1995 waterways act.
BW should enforce 14 day rule whether or not it generates income
Hire boats, long-term moorings and marinas all contribute valuable income additional to boat license fees which is needed for maintenance of the canal.
If BW enforce the 14 day rule consistently and fairly then there would be no need for any other restrictions.
No child should have to change schools as a result of mooring strategy.
Overstaying is an issue which BW should address by enforcing the 14 day rule consistently and fairly.
Reviewing existing mooring designations and restrictions is an important function of the mooring strategy
The overall length of mooring space for 14-day mooring should not be reduced
The provisions of the mooring strategy must be consistent with the 1995 British Waterways Act.
The strategy will not be enforceable if it sets restrictions in excess of what is required by the 1995 Waterways Act.
When you buy property you do not buy the view from that property or have a right to it.
There were two statements with unanimous disagreement:
Anglers and canal side residents risk becoming homeless as a result of the local mooring strategy.
Overstaying boaters should receive three warnings before daily charges are applied.
These were the 15 statements that were strongly agreed with near-unanimously or disagreed with. He’ll circulate these later to everyone. Panda asked if he will circulate all of the responses. Damian said sure. Sally pointed out that we didn’t have nearly as many submissions as there are people around the table. She read out a list of who responded. John said that his response at that time was on behalf of the IWA and not the K&A Trust.
Now that we have done that exercise and looked at the results. What is it useful for? Sally said background reference. Part of the process to get us from where we ended up at the end of last meeting. We had some good contributions but they were quite general and she and Damian wanted to pin some people down more on specific issues. It helped us to at least work up the discussion topics. It hasn’t changed the world but it is there as an exercise to help us move forward. Keith Rossiter said that he thought we were trying to establish a vision of the canal, but doesn’t think we have done this, or have we? He thought sending the documentation out on Friday meant that no one had time to prepare in any meaningful way for the subjects for discussion. He thinks that the break-out groups are unlikely to be that useful and he can’t see where they are leading. It is far too ambitious in time-scales. Breakout groups must report back in 2 weeks and then at the meeting in December, and then 2 weeks after they must report back again. We don’t have a consistent vision for the K&A. We don’t know what it looks like or where we are going. Sally thinks that we won’t reach a vision statement around this group just discussing things here. She talked over Panda – this is a process for informing BW for a process for a mooring strategy. We have to be pragmatic and we have to move on. I’m never going to meet everybody’s aspirations. I might as well give up than try that.
Kev Humphries asked who the responses were from? Was it a broad range? Sally read out the list. He agreed that it was a fairly broad range. About 2/3rds responded. He asked Damian to read out the nearly-unanimous agreed statements one more time. Kev highlighted that the majority agree that there is a minority that a few people like to take the mickey and are unlikely to take any notice of what we do here. The people on the canal add to the canal in a positive way. Agreed that income must be generated for the upkeep of the canal. Six of those statements that were agreed with basically said that BW have the law and the mechanism to solve the problem at the moment. I think what this meeting or this group should be doing is looking at the ways that BW can apply what they have got at the moment to solve the problem of people overstaying where they are not wanted to overstay. Like Sally says, we have had 2 meetings already. Everyone agrees that the 14 day rule works if it is enforced.
Sally said that agreeing or modifying the zoning arrangements is part of this and must be done to manage it effectively. Given the zones, this BW is how we suggest that you go ahead and to do monitoring, etc to enforce it. I don’t want to do this independent of the zones. Kev stated that the zones are being mismanaged so how can we know that it is going to work? Sally says 3 months on we haven’t even got as far as looking at a map. In a sense she is just responding to what the
Rich Burchill (?) would like it minuted that looking at re-zoning is fogging the issue. The issue is that there is a mechanism there for managing the canal and it isn’t really being used. Sally says if it were easy, wouldn’t they have done it by now? It is by no means as simple as those people who ticked the box. Panda suggested it was about income as BW had confirmed in August (when responding to BWAF’s suggestion that continuous cruisers should pay more by saying that the local mooring strategy was the start of this). Sally said it’s not about generating an income. Panda said it’s about removing liveaboard boaters from the waterways then? Sally said no it isn’t. She says it is about deciding how we get a fair system in deciding that a reasonable amount of residential use of the towpath. It is not about revenue or evicting people it is about preventing people from mooring in a residential manner continuously from Bradford on Avon to Devizes.
Keith (?) then asked that BW look at the enforcement survey of attitude statements and make it clear where they think that things are unenforceable. People are quite clear that they want the 14 day rule enforced. Is Sally saying that it is unrealistic at the moment? Sally said that she is not going to go on about this here. She confirmed that she is looking to this group to try to come up with suggestions and ways to enforce it as it is unrealistic at present. It was stressed by Nick Brown that it could be judicially reviewed if anything comes from this group that could be prejudicial towards liveaboard boaters. We cannot produce and deliver policy that is unlawful. Sally said we have a very strong legal team that knows very well what the legal policy is. He says that it is quite clear that BW has some question marks over it due to the way they have been enforcing the legislation recently.
David Batho wanted to pick up on what Keith said about a vision statement. He pointed out that Mark Stephens asked us to all go away to write vision statements on how we see the canal so that Damian and Sally could synthesise this into something we can all agree on. We spent a lot of time and effort doing this. We did our best to make sure it is achievable and not visionary, so it is understandable and realistic. He understood that we as a group would get a focus, a proper vision statement. If we embark on a project then we need a vision for this project. We need to write this down in terms of reference or something so that we all know what we are aiming for. We haven’t got a clear vision here. It didn’t happen and it should happen. It was minuted. There are about 5 actual visions as 3 of them are from synonymous positions. We need a combined vision of what we all want. Sally said that actually yes this is a really good point. She suggests that we modify the agenda from here. Instead of the agenda, we separate into the breakout groups and look at the compendium of vision statements and see if it is possible to come up with vision statements that are acceptable to all. How long do we want to spend on that, half an hour? David Batho said yes, but ultimately we need attendees from BaNES. Whatever vision statement comes out of this group should end up in the core strategy of both Wiltshire and BaNES. There is no mention of the canal at the moment in BaNES core strategy. Similarly there should be policy statements on it. Any vision statement coming out of this group should be signed up to by both councils. We are still trying to find out where BaNES stand on the canal as they seem to rather hands-off.
Panda pointed out that core strategy has to take account of housing and measures should not be written into the core strategy that result in people who live on their boats becoming homeless. It has to comply with the Human Rights Act and it has to be legal. David Batho said the core strategy is signed up to by many people from BaNES and they are also subject to legislation too and must comply with that. If the core strategy is going to include a vision statement about the canal it cannot be in conflict with other parts of the document. This is for them to do to make sure that the vision statement doesn’t conflict with other legislation and policies. That is their responsibility. Every statement that goes into the core strategy should be subject to scrutiny.
Sally interrupted now to ask Mayur Bhatt to make his contribution. He has another meeting to go to but he will be back. What he would like to see is that he doesn’t think we are getting anywhere. He doesn’t want to spend a third meeting not getting anywhere. There are so many myriad points of view here. He wants to get to a common statement of vision that he thinks should be made in smaller groups and then we can discuss it and he hopes that we can achieve a vision statement by the end of the day that we can then go to the respective authorities and say this is what we want to achieve.
Sally agreed that this is where we want to go. Other people also agreed that this is where we want to go now but it isn’t where Sally intended us to go. This is people’s time that we are wasting and many are unpaid volunteers. Sally said that there are two ways of getting there. One is going subtly in a round-about route, the other is to go straight there. We are all trying to go in the same direction I think. She and Damian are doing their best to herd a very difficult group. She thanked people for their patience and asked people to divide into the four groups that they were assigned to.
David Batho wanted to make another comment – Everyone here is expressing frustration. There are theories about this. This is the storm phase of the project. It is quite usual. It is quite classic. Don’t get frustrated or alarmed. It is not peculiar.
It was noted that a few people are missing but there is one extra person from the IWA this time. Damian has re-jigged the groups. It was asked that we have a really clear idea of what it is we are doing before we start!
Sally asked if Damian could be allowed to go through the new proposal for the groups. It was pointed out after he read them out that he’d substituted the one absentee for another. Sally suggested just three groups. Mark Stephens volunteered to sit with Tim and Panda. This would be four groups – Mark instead of John Froggatt in group three.
John from the K&A trust asked to emphasise that this is a mooring strategy group and we should stick within the parameters of that rather than a vision of the canal as it can go beyond a mooring strategy. He thinks really that the name of the document does not matter, but we must not lose our focus. Sally agreed. She said she has been through and itemised the statements in these vision statements and marked for discussion topics that have been mentioned but that we can’t change in this group. She wants to focus on those marked ‘objectives’. She is happy to give each group a completely free agenda, provided we come back with a vision of what we want the mooring strategy to achieve. She’s asking us to write a vision that we can collectively agree on. She doesn’t mind if it comes back the same as say the Valley Parishes Alliance statement, so long as we come back with something.
Sally decided agenda should be:
Look at the Valley Parishes Alliance statements.
Use this as the basis for the one you will all agree on.
Report backs from break out sessions –
David Batho started first:
Consensus of the group was that the upper limit of boats on the canal should be dropped. Bullets and points two and three were agreed with. Bullet point about provision being made for families who have children currently at local schools. They agreed on the next bullet point. They agreed on that structure of the waterways and the boats should be maintained to a recognised standard. They agreed on the next bullet point. Modified the parking bullet point – parking problems related to canal use to separate it from use of local parking for things like access to the river. Rest of the bullet points they agreed on.
Keith Rossiter went next:
Also started with the VPA statement. Rich, John and himself were in broad agreement with the statement, although they saw several things in there that went beyond mooring strategy. They thought that the statement should be used as a prompt for local authorities to motivate them to take into account many of the items that aren’t part of mooring strategy. They disagreed on the upper limit on boats. Rich and John both have a problem with this one, so he passed across to John. John questioned whether it was practical. He doesn’t know how you would limit the number of boats. He would be unhappy about that on a number of counts. It is pretty important to the boating fraternity to be are able to cruise where they want. He doesn’t like that people might try to impose limitations. Only the Montgomery Canal has a limit and that is for environmental reasons. He has a theory that if you maximise availability of moorings and that is assessing what we already have and tweaking and then enforcing it, he thinks it will be self-regulating as if there are too many boats people will go elsewhere. Everyone knows not to visit Llangollen during the school holidays for example as you can’t move for boats. He does have a problem with mooring strategy. He understands that people living on boats (on non-residential moorings) is a problem but he feels that this is a local authority problem and not our problem. We could endorse a policy as a matter of detail but it would all be down to the planning as it is a planning issue. They as a group would endorse the vision statement with the single change of removing a limit on boats. This could then be used as something for the working groups of the councils to look at. Panda asked him to clarify what he meant by people living on boats. John explained he meant on non-residential moorings. Panda said this is an ideal opportunity to discuss planning issues with local planning authorities as they are here round the same table. John said he doesn’t think it can be dealt with here. Sally said he thinks we could make some influence but ultimately it is the local authority’s remit. Panda said especially in response to the government’s localisation move – with the Regional Spatial Strategy being abolished and planning being devolved to local authority level, if one authority makes one decision that would motivate others to follow a model of good practice as it is common for them to copy one another. Rich Burchill agreed in principle but said that we don’t want to get too bogged down with the detail of the Local Planning Authority as we can’t influence particularly as at the end of the day they are the planning authority. David Batho agreed that it is important that the group have an idea of what the policy of their local authority is. He is familiar with BaNES policy on residential moorings.
Elly’s group also objected to the upper limit on boats. They also looked at the provision of facilities for families with children at schools. They also wanted to look at the provision of moorings locally at the moment. Nick said that actually this is the least contentious part of the list and that he thinks that we should break out into groups again and discuss the rest of the list (1-13 is the least contentious part of document number 4). Sally said it is good that we have some agreement on the VPA statement and that she thinks we could weave the rest in. She noted that she’s happy to move forward with the rest of the list. Elly explained that she didn’t think that the point about provision of families with children was necessary. Kev said he doesn’t like the idea of having a sticker on his boat to say that he has kids, therefore he can stay longer than other boaters without children. He thinks this is counter-productive and will alienate people. Any policy we come up with needs to include everyone, including those with children and those without. It needs to be unified and all-encompassing. In singling out people with children you are creating a minority. Nick said that he felt it couldn’t be included as it is already dealt with elsewhere.
Paul Roper said that he thought it needed to be separate. He likened it to people stopping with caravans on the hard-shoulder – you can’t do this because there are laws against it. Sally interrupted the argument. This is one of the real nubs of the whole problem that we face with this. Keith said that the original mentioning of it in the VPA statement was to point out to people that the extra requirements of those with children cannot be ignored. It’s an acknowledgement of the situation not an attempt to find solutions. It is significant from a communications and tactical point of view. David Batho agreed that this is an acknowledgement of how things are. It’s a vision statement from the heart. He didn’t intend it from the legal perspective. He wasn’t thinking about the human rights act when he wrote this. He just felt it needed highlighted. The statement about the children is a statement of what is right. Kev said that we all agree that no child should be forced to move school. There should already be legislation to prevent us here doing anything stupid. He as a parent is fairly happy that we will get around this at some point and he agrees with the sentiment but feels it isn’t necessary. He does take a little bit of exception to the wording of it as if it is used as a statement of fact it causes all sorts of equality issues.
Mark Stephens – group A:
Mark said that he’s encouraged by a lot of what the other groups are saying as we seem to be finding a fair amount of accordance and in some ways that is at odds with the first half of the meeting. He says that they didn’t go specifically through the VPA vision statement because like when he was at school they didn’t read the instructions. They had a general discussion about the canal as a community, as a specific environment (not wildlife) for people, communities, and also the birds and things living on it as well and what our vision of that is. We started to disagree to some degree because we are looking at a sustainable future for the canal but we disagreed for how this would be done. We all agreed that there should be free passage of boats, people living on the canal, provision of moorings, tailored so that people can have some reasonable expectation that they can stop for some time and then later move on again. The thing that we really got quite hung up on was the number of boats on the canal. All the groups have mentioned that one. This is where Mark disagrees really. He thinks there should in principle be some kind of limit on the number of boats. The reason is not that he is some kind of hard-headed BW nut. It is because he is looking at the sustainability of what that section of the canal is. Some of the 11 million visitors to the K&A were on boats this year. There is an environmental impact there too. If you can’t limit the number of them who are on boats then you can’t limit the impact that they make. If you had nose to tail boats on all the 14 day moorings without exception then that in his opinion is not what he envisions for the K&A. That is more a residential caravan/boat park rather than what it is at the moment. He won’t touch on what the limit should be. Right now is probably about right though. It needs some work. Kev says that he doesn’t think that the stretch between Bradford and Bath will ever get that blocked up as there is no work, no facilities, etc to support it. Mark said that that is what Panda pointed out and he did agree with that, and if he has his way and doesn’t dredge the areas anyway then it can’t happen. He just feels that there should be a breathing space, a section that can be left fallow if you will. He doesn’t feel it can sustain that number of people and he would like to see certain areas left without boats. There is a length of moorings that is acceptable and a length that isn’t. Providing rules are followed, not looking at which but maybe the 14-day rule, then as many boats as you can fit in that area is fine. Mark said they had quite a fundamental difference in opinion there. The best they could really offer at the end was that their vision was of a sustainable canal supporting everyone, cyclists, walkers, anglers, everyone, but that there should be some sort of limit. Just as a final point there are already areas on the K&A canal elsewhere where a limitation to boats is maybe not inevitable but chances are it will happen. The reasons will be environmental, area of SSI, water quality/level, etc. BW have a duty of care. Hire boats are high-impact, he factors that in, and isn’t going to get bogged into it, but he thinks it would be unrealistic or at best leaving to chance to have a strategy that says no limit to boats because there will be consequences outside of that that will limit it. He thought if you are leaving in the section about breathing spaces then you are limiting the number of boats, even if you aren’t setting a specific limit/cap. Everyone agreed that you can’t really do a one in, one out policy. Mark said yes, these things are difficult, but they go beyond BW. It is regrettable to restrict boat movement as what we want to do is encourage movement.
Panda had a different view in that group. If there is a limit set on the number of boats that should be set by BW centrally and it should be on the number of new boat licenses issued. She can’t see any fairer way of doing it. This would also require a change in the law as at the moment BW can’t refuse to license a boat if it has the BSC etc. The second thing is the conservation plan of 1995 estimated that there were 1600 boats on the canal in 1995 and projected an increaseof 800 boats to 2400 boats by 2005, whereas in 2010 there are around 2000 boats, that is 400 less than the projection for 2005. Mark confirmed that this number has gone down very recently but that isn’t a projection of the future. Panda interprets this as the canal being able to cope with another 400 boats on the canal. Mark said yes there is a forecast in the conservation plan, but what if we find that from revisiting it that the limit should be less than 2400 limits. The plan doesn’t set how many boats the canal can sustain, it’s just a forecast of what will happen. Their observations of impact and projections of that is going to take precedence. Panda said that the number of boats is self-limiting as if it is too busy, many people will not stay in an area. Sally says this is a fairness issue as it is about who should use a space. John says that the problem here is the conservation plan. It isn’t so much how many are on the K&A, it is where they are on the K&A. Sally says the conservation plan was written so long ago. Dave Batho pointed out that the vision statement from the VPA is about this end of the canal, not the whole canal. The numbers in the conservation plan are about the entire canal. It is more about what Mark Stephens thinks this part of the system can cope with. Panda pointed out that Mark was also talking about boat movements, not just numbers of boats. Mark said of course there is an economic impact too. If BW have less money down here then there will be less water as he won’t be able to run the pumps as much.
Mark says since its restoration, BW have kind of stood back in terms of actively thinking about where things are going to take us. 20 years on, someone needs to look at this and the consequences. Environmental impact, water quality, etc. He’s not going to argue that this should have been done sooner, he’s just saying it needs to be done. Rich says that one of the reasons he doesn’t like the numbers of boats cap is because at the last meeting Mark and Sally said that BW don’t have the means to limit the number of boats. Sally says she is struggling with this as it is such a huge issue and we almost can’t develop a mooring strategy until we know what the answer is. Kev said this is the same as the problem with the children. We can develop a mooring strategy and if we find that kids are adversely affected then there are other bits of legislation to fall back on. Similarly if we develop a strategy and find that water levels are in danger because Mark can’t afford to keep the pumps going for that many boats with so little money. Kev says then there are technical reasons that mean we say that we can only have so many boats in the area. Dave Batho said the statement just recognises that there are a finite number of boats that can be supported by the canal. Remember this is a vision statement not a policy statement. It’s a vision of a canal that isn’t from Bath to Thames full of back-to-back boats.
Paul wants it taken out because it isn’t worded properly. There is a limit set by technical and environmental things, he agrees, and some bits of the situation are already at saturation point. David Batho asked if we could re-word it? Kev says that he wanted it removed because he felt that it was (a) one of the first statements and it is already starting to limit people’s freedom of use of the canal. Discussing around this point we know that not many people like it. Mark recognises that there is a saturation point and Kev very much feels that it is self-limiting. Sally asked if there was a general consensus that there is a physical limit to the number of boats that the canal can accommodate. If we accept that then there has to be some debate about should there be some comment in the mooring strategy about who can use it? Visitors versus permanent moorers on the canal. That is what she feels is the crux of the problem. Mark says we’ve disucssed this for 30 minutes or so now and he feels that we should now move on.
Keith said he feels it is important that we have a statement we agree on. Maybe David could incorporate some of the amendments and circulate the vision statement around everybody. Sally says given where we are now, how should we move on with this? The process then. Dave would you be happy to be the compiler/drafter of the final thing, and what we do between now and when you start working on this, would it make sense for each group to document the real headline conclusions and the implications of agreement or not. Dave said that could we recap them now? There weren’t that many. Sally said she doesn’t think there is enough time. Dave says if everyone is happy to do that then he would be happy to do that, but it would help him if we could recap the key points.
Sally said each group has a set of notes – these could be sent to Dave and he could do the next part. Dave says he’ll do that and he fully expects a lot of feedback. Mark nominated Tim from his group to pass the comments back to Dave. Sally asked could we agree that everyone will get their list of points to Dave within the next week? Dave expressed concern that BaNES and Wiltshire are about to send out a new draft of their policy so he wants this to be done timely so we can lobby them.
Panda asked what we are going to do about the points in the attitude statements that we had a consensus on that Damian read out? Sally said she wants to know what the group would like us to do to move ahead. What should be the process at the meetings in the future? She thinks the process of discussion groups has worked quite well. Kev said he thought they worked well but they do need churning around so that everyone can hear the different points of view. Keith said he thinks the next meeting should agree the vision statement, then after that we can decide which issues we should study. We agree the key issues first and who is going to do what and what the deadline is. Kev asked that Damian could let them use the list of issues that was consensus on for the basis of this? Sally said she thought that we need an action plan. Panda said that we have this already though from the attitude statements. Sally thought that these are not detailed enough. Panda says we could use this as the basis though? Sally says there are a lot of topics there. Panda asked if Sally is proposing that we ignore the fact that there is an area of consensus? Keith suggested that that is background information that we can take into account later. Panda says they aren’t background issues! These are the fundamental issues because this process is about achieving consensus and they show where there is consensus. Keith thinks they should feed into the working group and can’t form the agenda. Sally says they were to stimulate discussion and thought. They won’t get used for the agenda as the issues will come up later anyway. Kev says that he has written them down and he thinks they really are the key issues. Keith says lets not let them dominate the procedures. Kev says he thought it would help to work off of agreement, but as there is so much resistance then maybe leave that. Panda says she doesn’t understand why we aren’t building on this consensus? Sally says that she wants to build on the approach suggested by Dave so that they can make progress.
Nick proposed a motion that we should include the 13 issues from which there are strong consensus should be in the drafting process. Panda seconds that. Rich says that those points will come up in subsequent talks. Kev agreed. He doesn’t think they are being ignored. Dave says that it may well be that amongst those there is some overlap with the vision statement and we have to use that as the framework. He can’t remember what the points were but he would be surprised if there was no overlap. Whatever happens should come from the vision statement or you can’t audit. It’s a starting point. Panda says that we could use the attitude statements as a basis? Sally says there is a clear consensus that we should start with a vision statement and at the next meeting we should all sign up to that and through a number of discussion groups we can then look at what is involved in coming up with an action plan; a majority of people agreed to this [[NB that does not amount to consensus]]. Elly says that we will have these in hand when we discuss later issues anyway, we won’t ignore them. Rich says they will come up in the discussions later. In context they are important and he doesn’t think they are being ignored.
Dave asked if we could meet in December without any side-agenda like 2 weeks working on other stuff as it is too much. Sally agreed. Date for the next meeting?
John said for the future workload for the group: Several things need to be tackled that haven’t been. People’s suggestions for any tweaking we can do with the existing mooring situation. It should be down as a discussion group. Sally says that is one of the actions she can see us coming out with later. John says it will need a lot of debating so the sooner it is started the better. It could be going on independent of the things raised in this room. Sally says this has to be hammered out in the discussion groups at the meeting. Keith says that apart from issuing an agenda and Dave circulating the vision statement, that it would be good if BW don’t hit us with further surveys, etc before the next meeting. Sally asked to clarify that Keith doesn’t want us to think about any precisely worded discussion topics. Rich pointed out that we had to re-write the agenda at the beginning anyway, and we’ll only end up doing the same next time. When we have a vision statement we can focus on the most important aspects of that.
Kev says in the next few weeks let’s just assist Dave with the vision statement. Next meeting we’ll agree it and break out into discussion groups and come up with some number of issues to pull together into a group discussion about what the issues are and then go back again. Sally said maybe we could build two cycles of that into the next meeting? Dave says we could feed back to Sally what we think are the key issues we may find that 6 people think the same things. Then we can at least start with a list. Panda said but then only one person knows what everyone else thinks? Sally said no, everything is circulated! Dave said he’ll copy the group in on any emails to Sally. Geoffrey said he’s worried that any issues they raise will be vetoed later by Sally as not relevant to the strategy group as happened at the first meeting. Panda expressed further frustration and confusion about ignoring the demonstration of where there is consensus and it not being used. Sally stopped Panda there as we have had several minutes now. Sally asked if we should stay in the same groups or shuffle it around? Consensus was to shuffle it up. Sally asked about the make up of the groups. Consensus was that a mixed interest group is best.
Panda asked what the procedure is in claiming out of pocket expenses in attending the group? This is why she was asking about the budget. Sally asked if everyone else was to claim it back from their representing authority? Sally said there would be no objection from them in people claiming back expenses incurred by attending where reasonable. She wants to have a separate discussion about what is a reasonable expense.