A petition against CRT’s new policy of refusing to renew licences of boaters without a home mooring has reached almost 12,000 signatures in just 10 days. From 1st May CRT will refuse to re-license all boats that “don’t move … far enough or often enough” to meet its Guidance for Boaters without a Home Mooring unless they take a permanent mooring – without telling us how far we must travel to avoid having our licences taken away.
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CRT’s latest move is yet another attack on the right to use and live on a boat without a permanent mooring; a right that Parliament enshrined in law in 1995 when it passed Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995. Before 1995 British Waterways sought powers and criminal penalties to prevent people living on boats without a permanent mooring. Parliament refused British Waterways these powers. It is unlawful and unjust for CRT to try to achieve this objective by the back door.
Permanent residential moorings that boat dwellers can legally live on are in very short supply. Where they exist, they are very expensive (up to £13,000 per year in London). There are no residential moorings on the K&A. Over 90% of permanent moorings are non-residential, and CRT knows that if boat dwellers do live on these moorings they risk planning enforcement action, and that many marinas will turn you away if you live on your boat.
It is not within CRT’s legal powers to enforce its new policy, because it sets requirements that go beyond the British Waterways Act 1995. Boat dwellers are happy to comply with the clearly stated, lawful requirement not to remain continuously in any one place for more than 14 days.
However, the 1995 Act does not contain any requirement to travel a minimum distance or to follow any specific cruising pattern beyond the 14-day limit. CRT itself has not stated what distance it considers “far enough”. Indeed, in December 2012 CRT’s own Towpath Mooring Q and A conceded that CRT would be acting beyond its powers to set a minimum distance.
The new policy goes against one of the most fundamental principles of English law: that the law should be “clear, accessible and predictable, so that the citizen can tell when his actions would be unlawful” (Lord Bingham).
In addition, the new policy is likely to include the publication by CRT of maps which purport to define the places boats without home moorings must move to in order to be in a different place. In drawing these maps CRT has re-written centuries of history and geography by deleting many towns and villages and absorbing them into other places. “Place” is not defined in the 1995 Act. Boaters without a home mooring are simply required not to remain continuously in any one place for more 14 days.