CRT set minimum distance – without telling us what it is

Yesterday CRT announced that from 1st May 2015 that it is extending its “new continuous cruiser” enforcement process to all boats licensed without a home mooring. It declared that it would refuse to renew the licences of the boats that have moved the least over their licence year unless they obtain a home mooring, and that boats that travel further but whose movement falls short of the movement required by Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995 would only have their licences renewed for a short period and if their movement was still not considered adequate, they too would be forced to take a mooring or CRT would refuse to renew their licence. Yet CRT has not stated what it means by boats that move the least, and neither has it disclosed what distance it considers acceptable.

Section 17 3 c ii does not set a minimum distance that boats without a home mooring must travel in order to comply, and it does not specify any particular cruising pattern beyond the limit of remaining continuously for no more than 14 days in any one place under normal circumstances. Indeed, in December 2012 CRT’s Towpath Mooring Q and A conceded that it would be unlawful for CRT to set a minimum distance and it would be acting beyond its powers to do so. In any case, to set a minimum distance without disclosing what it is contravenes one of the fundamental principles of English law, that the law must be clear, accessible and predictable so that the citizen can tell when his actions would be unlawful (see the judgement in Moore v British Waterways [2013] EWCA Civ 73).

The new policy is likely to include the publication of CRT’s leaked and discredited “places” maps which purport to define the places boaters without home moorings must move between in order to be deemed to have moved to a new place. However, CRT does not have the legal power to define “place” and in drawing these maps it has deleted many places by amalgamating them into other places. Section 17 3 c ii does not define “place” at all. Boaters without a home mooring are simply required to travel to a different place after remaining continuously in one place for 14 days.

The problem CRT will encounter in trying to enforce this draconian new policy is that CRT does not have the legal power to prescribe and control boat movements in this way. For example, the judgement in CRT v Mayers of November 2013 states that repeated journeys between the same two places would be “bona fide navigation” if the boater had specific reason for making repeated journeys over the same stretch of canal. The Judge also stated that any requirement by CRT to use a substantial part of the canal network was not justified by Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 because the requirement to use the boat bona fide for navigation is “temporal not geographical”.

CRT’s latest move to against continuous cruisers reminds us of 2003 when British Waterways tried to introduce the Draft Moorings Code or Lock Miles Rules, which would have required continuous cruisers to travel at least 120 different lock-miles every three months without using the same stretch twice. It was dropped by British Waterways following the threat of legal action by a boating user group and in 2004 the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers was published instead.

The new policy will undoubtedly mean that boat dwellers will lose their homes. If you are worried about this, especially if you have children in school or cannot cruise very far because of disability, age, health needs or childcare needs, contact us at info@boatingcommunity.org.uk or 07928 078208. We can put you in touch with a Legal Aid lawyer if necessary. You can also contact CRT’s Welfare Officer Sean Williams, sean.williams@canalrivertrust.org.uk

Although CRT has given no information about what distance it considers acceptable, we can infer that its definition of boats that move the least means those that travel between two places less than 5km (3.2 miles) apart over their licence year. It is possible that boats whose movement is not considered adequate are those that travel less than 20km (12.5 miles) in their licence year, given that this is the distance that the K&A Plan advised boaters to travel. However, boaters have been told that when the K&A Plan ends they will be expected to follow national guidance and CRT has repeatedly stated that this is more onerous, so this distance could be more than 20km.

The number of boats licensed without a home mooring is now 5,400 (December 2014) compared to 4,400 in July 2012 and CRT now claims that 16% of these have travelled less than 5km in the past year and 50% are travelling between 5km and 20km over their licence year.

These statistics are likely to be unreliable because of the significant number of erroneous or incomplete boat sighting records. Given that so many boaters on the K&A have had the inconvenience and distress of having to challenge enforcement notices based on incomplete or wrong boat sightings, this is very likely. If boat sightings are usually taken every two weeks in a situation where boats can stay in one place up to two weeks, CRT’s system cannot possibly capture boat movements accurately. The new policy means that it is doubly important to make an exact, verifiable record of your boat movements, for example using GPS, dated photographs, evidence from third parties and receipts showing that the boat was in specific places for pumpouts or repairs.

Given that CRT receives considerable direct and indirect income from moorings, its policy is nothing less than extortion. We believe it has been driven by pressure on CRT by mooring operators, who have complained that they are finding it more difficult to make a profit. This is because CRT and BW encouraged the development of too many new marinas and the market is now oversupplied, and the number of leisure boaters with marina moorings has fallen in recent years because the recession has made such hobbies less affordable.

CRT has also not explained how it will address the chronic shortage of permanent moorings and the inflated prices of moorings in some areas, or what it will do about the fact that many mooring operators will turn you away if you live on your boat, if your boat looks a bit scruffy, or if you have a fibreglass boat. The new policy is clearly designed to force liveaboards off the waterways altogether in favour of lucrative waterside property developments and the leisure industry.

Yesterday’s announcement ties in with the end of the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan on 30th April 2015 and indeed explains why the Plan is called “interim”. It provides a partial explanation for why boaters who have complained that the K&A Plan sets requirements over and above CRT’s Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring have been told by CRT that the national guidance is more, not less, onerous when this has clearly not been the case up to now.

CRT has obviously been planning this move for some time. Indeed it had been trying to get the boating user groups to propose a minimum distance that continuous cruisers must travel in meetings on 3rd November and 19th January. NABO, RBOA and ACC stated that this was not the job of the user groups and that CRT should pick a distance and see what the courts decided in Section 8 cases against liveaboard boaters. The IWA and the AWCC, which are both opposed to the interests of itinerant liveaboard boaters, proposed a minimum annual distance of 500 miles. Unfortunately all the user groups who were present at these meetings support the new policy, implying that they no longer provide representation for boaters who are adversely affected by it. The NBTA was not present at these meetings and opposes the policy.

In a move to further underline the draconian nature of this policy, CRT has added an enforcement page to its website here https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/boating/licensing/enforcement

You can read CRT’s announcement here CRT_PRESS_RELEASE_Feb2015

See also

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/are-you-a-new-continuous-cruiser/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/minimum-distance-for-ccers-is-unlawful-according-to-section-8-judgement/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/crt-places-maps-were-leaked/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/boat-sighting-chaos-for-ka-local-plan/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/last-request-of-retiring-head-of-boating-our-analysis-of-the-ka-interim-12-month-local-plan/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/boater-writes-cruising-log-app/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/crt-concedes-that-a-minimum-distance-is-unlawful/

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