The sixth meeting of the Kennet and Avon Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group took place on 25 February. Damian Kemp confirmed that BW would be taking ongoing advice about carrying out an Equality Impact Assessment from the Equality Officers of Wiltshire and B&NES, Sharon Brookes and Samantha Jones. Plans were made at this meeting for the group to walk the towpath to consider possible mooring changes. The group established the definitions of some of the terms used by BW which had not been clarified, as follows:
Mooring Zone – an administrative classification of mooring restriction demarcated by signage; it is associated with mooring restriction. This is different to the use of the term ‘zone’ in BW’s ‘consultation’ on mooring on the Rivers Lea and Stort.
Place – a geographic context that differentiates one location from the next. For the time being, the definition of the word ‘place’ in the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers was accepted.
Breathing Space – a specific ‘no mooring’ zone to be established for clear navigational reasons, and potentially for ecological reasons on a pragmatic basis, but specifically not for reducing long lines of moored boats or as an arbitrary restriction.
This has provided a compromise over the contentious issue of ‘breathing spaces’, which were not supported by any of the boaters’ reps on the steering group. The group also decided that 7-day moorings were not useful. Both of these decisions reflect the near-consensus of earlier meetings that there should be no reduction in the amount of 14-day mooring space. It looks like a majority view may be emerging on the steering group that if BW enforced the 14-day rule fairly and consistently there would be no need for other restrictions. However, overstaying charges and refusal to renew a licence if these are not paid remain on the table despite the fact that they are unlawful. BW has no power to impose fines for overstaying, and if the level of a ‘charge’ is punitive then this amounts to a fine. Also, generally it is not lawful to take money paid for one purpose and apply it to another debt owed to the same creditor; the proper way to recover such debts is through the small claims court.
We have since discovered that in a meeting with boaters on the Lee and Stort, Sally Ash told them that BW envisaged changing the proposed 7-day mooring zones to 48 hours when they had enough enforcement staff to patrol every 2 days. BW appears to have accepted that the unlawful ‘progressive journey’ is unenforceable and that it is seeking to replace this with movement requirements for boat without moorings set by local mooring strategies. In other words, the local mooring strategy disproportionately targets boats without moorings. On the Lee and Stort BW has accepted that you can have a rivers-only licence and still ‘continuously cruise’, which is a cruising range of 26 linear miles. It is also worth remembering that Parliament did not define ‘place’ in the 1995 Act, and had good reasons not to.
The steering group also made plans for small groups to walk the towpath between Bath and Devizes to look at possible mooring changes. You may have seen boaters accompanied by Parish Councillors and others making notes. The boaters’ representatives have been doing their best to ensure that proposals do not reduce the amount of 14-day mooring space. The steering group has made it clear to BW that any new restrictions have to be enforceable (and of course lawful) but it was decided to involve Enforcement Supervisor Russell Bennett at a later date, rather than ask him to walk the entire Bath to Devizes length.
The meeting was again chaired by Damian Kemp, who has been a lot easier to work with than Sally Ash. The next meeting is on Friday 1st April at 10am at Devizes Wharf. The minutes of the February meeting are here. KA MSSG 25 Feb 2011 Meeting Minutes