When CRT established the Towpath Mooring Control project (which was quickly renamed the Towpath Mooring Management project) it declared its intention to write to all new continuous cruisers ‘welcoming’ them and setting out what CRT expected regarding boat movements. This was implemented from January 2014, according to the Towpath Mooring Management project report of the same month.
“From January 2014, everyone taking out a licence without a home mooring for the first time now receives a letter during the first month of their licence explaining how we monitor all boat movements, and that we will give them feedback regularly during their first year with early warnings if we believe they are not moving enough to qualify as a continuous cruiser.”
Those new boaters without home moorings whom CRT considered were not complying with its legal requirements after three months would get a first warning letter. If CRT considered they were still not complying after a further unspecified period they would get a second letter warning them that they would enter the enforcement process unless their boat movements changed. If CRT considered that their boat movements still did not comply with CRT’s legal requirements then it would refuse to renew their licence for the next year unless they took a permanent mooring.
The problem is, these letters are misleading new boaters about the law. CRT states in the first letter that the “definition of navigation implies a journey of some length” … “so you can’t shuffle to and fro in a small area just because that’s where your work or other commitments are”. This is just not true.
There is plenty of case law that defines navigation as “the action or practice of passing on water by vessels of all kinds” (Crown Estate Commissioners v Fairlie Yacht Slip  SC156) or “to make ordered progression over the water from one place to another” (R v Goodwin  1 WLR 546).
Section 17 (3) of the British Waterways Act 1995 defines the conditions under which boats are licensed:
3) Notwithstanding anything in any enactment but subject to subsection (7) below, the Board may refuse a relevant consent in respect of any vessel unless—
(a) the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel complies with the standards applicable to that vessel;
(b) an insurance policy is in force in respect of the vessel and a copy of the policy, or evidence that it exists and is in force, has been produced to the Board; and
(i) the Board are satisfied that a mooring or other place where the vessel can reasonably be kept and may lawfully be left will be available for the vessel, whether on an inland waterway or elsewhere; or
(ii) the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel to which the application relates will be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period for which the consent is valid without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.
Any so-called ‘legal requirements’ such as CRT’s Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring that require you to do more that what is stated in Section 17 3 c ii, are unlawful. Indeed, CRT’s Guidance does not state that “the definition of navigation implies a journey of some length”. When the Guidance was written in 2011 after the BW v Davies court case, the initial draft did include the phrase “a journey of some length” but this was removed from the final version. CRT took advice from its barrister Christopher Stoner QC before releasing the Guidance in October 2011.
After the BW v Davies judgement in 2011, BW was forced to amend its previous 2004 Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers because the Judge decided that the 2004 Guidance was too onerous, setting requirements that were beyond BW’s legal powers to enforce.
It is not a co-incidence that CRT’s Enforcement Team has until recently reported to the Marketing Director Simon Salem. It is well known in the world of marketing that one of the best ways to persuade people to buy something is to make them afraid (the Listerine adverts on TV are a classic example). The second letter contains a threat that is not even veiled: “this could leave you with the stark choice … of moving off our canals and rivers”. What better way to sell moorings than making boat dwellers fearful of losing their homes?
You can read the first two ‘un-welcome’ letters, CCNEW1 and CCNEW2 here