Called by Panda Rainbow as an information exchange about the recent letters and notices issued to boaters, Simon Robbins of NABO (National Association of Boat Owners) met with over 50 Kennet and Avon liveaboard boaters at the Bell on Monday to discuss the recent spate of letters and patrol notices from British Waterways.
Simon came to give us NABOs view and various people related their experiences. Others explained the law. And the meeting agreed a broad strategy to deal with the notices and letters. Other items on the agenda were a draft consultation on moorings recently re-issued by British Waterways and a recent letter from Simon Salem to ‘Ian’ of Bathampton, believed to be a parish council member.
The letters and patrol notices
Affectionately known as CC1 and CC2 a number of boaters have had letters requiring them to move further and faster than they are at the moment and attempting lay down parameters under which they should cruise. These letters are a mix of law, extracts from “mooring guidance for continuous cruisers” and vague legalese. It was apparent that issue of these notices was random and arbitrary. Some who moved would get letters where others who didn’t did not.
It was felt at the meeting, with some dissent, that in general moving within the 14 day limit was a good thing, that most boaters didn’t wish to obstruct visitor moorings and the general feeling of the meeting is that everybody should act in a manner that enabled all liveaboards to use the canals in harmony with hire boats and leisure users.
These letters are therefore universally felt to be a unwarrented threat. To deal with the letters and patrol notices received Simon and others at the meeting suggested the following strategies:
- Never ignore the notices, always respond in writing and if you feel they are unjust then make a complaint under the formal customer complaint process which BW are bound to follow by law. It was suggested that proof of posting was obtained and if communication is by email then cc’ing for instance your local MP. If response is not made within the stated length of time complaint should also be made about this.
- Keep a cruising log to back up any assertions of movements.
- Challenge BW’s assumptions about the law and requirements of being licenced.
- Complain whenever an obstruction to navigation or cruising is encountered.
- Contact BW whenever it is necessary to stay somewhere longer than 14 days.
- It was suggested that challenge should be made to BW assumptions that it is necessary to cruise further than Devizes or Semington, that anybody else’s interpretation of the law (Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995) is as valid as that stated by BW until such time as it is decided in court.
- It was considered best to avoid challenging the various laws in court wherever possible as the vagaries of judgement may well not be in boaters favour and cruising limits may well be set wider, Reading to Bath for instance.
- Good use should be made of the British Waterways Complaint Process and if satisfaction is not obtained then approach should be made to the Waterways Ombudsman.
- Even if boaters have agreed to move their boats in the way that BW wants following receipt of threatening CC1 and CC2 letters, it is still a good idea to make a complaint that the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers is not part of the law and that BW should not be trying to force boaters to follow this guidance by harassing and threatening them. Point out that you do move your boat every 14 days in accordance with the 1995 British Waterways Act. If you have already agreed to do what BW want, this means you have covered yourself against any further action against you by BW.If you are not satisfied with the response, take the complaint to level 2 and then to the Ombudsman if not satisfied with the response to a level 2 complaint.
- Even if BW has been harassing you because you have overstayed or have no licence, say that you are now moving your boat every 14 days and paying for a licence (if this is true) and complain about being threatened with Section 8 and about the generally threatening tone of the letters.
- Ask BW for their record of their sightings of your boat under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Ask for their record over whatever period is useful. Ask for the times, dates, locations and names of the BW employees who recorded each boat sighting.
Simon and Andrew will be publishing some how-to guides to enable all boaters to access the various methods listed above.
There is a paper in draft with British Waterways intended for public consultation about national moorings policy, the previous version of this introduced such concepts as ‘roving mooring permits’. It was recently re-issued a few weeks ago and can be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to BW.
It is still in draft and we will all notify as many people as possible to ensure we have a say that is in proportion to our numbers. Andrew Sunburst stated that at a previous consultation 8% of response came from local boaters as a result of a meeting in the Bell and that it is vital we put our point of view forward when this consultation is, finally, published.
BW policy in Bathampton
In this letter, apparently a synopsis of a meeting between Bathampton Parish council and Simon Salem of British Waterways, a number of moorings policies for Bathampton and then Claverton are laid out. These will result in draconian restrictions on rights to moor within a mile or more of Bathampton.
It is stated in the letter that consultation needs to be carried out before these policies can be implemented. It is in all our interests to participate as fully as possible in this process.
It was pointed out at the meeting that the majority of Bathampton residents like the boats and this was likely an initiative by a few influential people with canalside residences. It was also pointed out that the boaters bring money to the local shop and may well be partially responsible for keeping the Post Office open.
It was also pointed out that 10% of the reception intake at Bathampton Primary School was children from the boats and that Bathampton Nursery parents committee chair was a boater. Positive influence within Bathampton should be possible through some of these routes.
A suggestion was made that boaters in the area register to vote in the Bathampton ward and take seats on the Parish Council at the next local elections in May 2010.
It was recommended that boaters complain both to BW and to the Parish council and also ask BW that they are consulted on the proposals. BW has to consult people likely to be affected by the proposals to restrict mooring in Bathampton even more. When writing to the parish council, point out how much boaters spend in the Bathampton local economy at the Post Office and the George, and that we are helping to keep the Post Office open. Also point out that boaters pay to use the canal whereas Bathampton residents do not (unless they are anglers). The proposals regarding the permanent moorings are against BW’s own policy which says BW will reduce online moorings by 1 berth when 10 marina/ offline moorings are created. No offline moorings will be created in the area to compensate for the loss of online moorings in Bathampton.
The parish council’s address is:
Dr D P Smith, Clerk, Bathampton Parish Council, 215 Bloomfield Rd, Bath BA2 2AY.
It is possible that BW has appointed some volunteer mooring wardens around Bradford on Avon. Boaters are encouraged to make a Freedom of Information request asking whether this is the case and for their names, the instructions they have been given and how the public can recognise them.
Rumour about trial of mooring charges and zones in Bradford on Avon
There is a rumour that Sally Ash has proposed to run a trial of a zoning and charging system for visitor moorings in Bradford on Avon. The best way to find out what is proposed is to put a written question to the Kennet and Avon canal user group meeting. BW have to respond and also have to put it on the agenda of the next meeting.
Write to :
John Ward, Acting General Manager, BW South West, The Dock Office, Commercial Rd, Gloucester GL1 2EB.
You can also contact Sally Ash at BW head office in Watford.
Resources and Links
- Handout given at the meeting on responses to CC1 and CC2
- email for Andrew Sunburst, local NABO Kennet and Avon/ South Secretary
- Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers
- Don Foster email
- Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995
- Draft Consultation
- Freedom of Information Act – a rather patronising but nevertheless correct guide to making a FOI Act request.
- British Waterways complaints process
- the Waterways Ombudsman
- Letter from Simon Salem to Ian of Bathampton