Because B&NES council are the land owners for the banks of the river running from Bath flight bottom lock up to Pulteney, they have the legal right to control who moors on the banks. You do not need a licence to keep a boat on this quarter mile of river and there is still a Public Right of Navigation but, as with most rivers, the riparian rights reside in the land owners. In a panic attack and in collaboration with CRT last year the Bath and NE Somerset Council, upset by what they saw as undesirables using this public resource, have banned mooring to their land for everyone. Even apart from the judgemental aspect of this action it prevents hundreds of visiting boats each year from enjoying what is one of the joys of Bath, mooring on the river with a view of Pultney Weir and North Parade gardens.
Boater Charlie Dancey has been challenging this and will be in Bath County Court tomorrow, Thursday 21st May at 2pm in a last-ditch attempt to overturn the Council’s closure of the moorings.
B&NES Council won an action for trespass against boats moored at Pulteney Weir in March 2014 and since then have erected signs threatening legal action against any boats that tie up there, and also placed buoys to obstruct the landing place there. Injunctions were issued against various boaters preventing them from using the moorings and since then the quayside has been deserted and out of use.
Charlie says: “This is a great loss to the character and charm of the river, and B&NES’ actions in forcing a complete closure is preventing law-abiding boaters from visiting the city via this historic waterway. The Avon Navigation, of which this part of the river forms a part, was enabled by Act of Parliament in 1712 and the public have certain rights regarding the use of the river dating back to that time. While the Council may have a right to prohibit long-term mooring, they do not have the right to prevent vessels from mooring temporarily as an incident to navigation, perhaps to watch a game of rugby or rest overnight, or visit and explore the City. The actions of B&NES against boaters have been draconian and while they claimed that the river had to be closed because of imminent safety works, none have been carried out in nearly a year.
“I am not arguing for anything more than an immediate restoration of the public right to use and enjoy the waterway, which necessarily includes the right to moor for brief periods. I have been participating with B&NES’ Strategic River Group, which is a body set up with the noble intention of finding a roadmap for development and improvements to the River Avon, but I do not feel that the existence of this group justifies the effective closure of the river to boaters.”