Sally Ash has posted a new article on CRT’s web site that seeks to discourage people from exercising the right to live on a boat without a home mooring that all CRT licence holders enjoy. “Spreading the word about the demands of living afloat” misinforms people, saying that the law does not allow them to “simply to move around within a small area” and blames continuous cruisers for spoiling everybody’s enjoyment of the waterways. In fact, Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act does not specify any particular cruising pattern or minimum distance to be travelled, it merely states that boats must be used bona fide for navigation throughout the licence period, without remaining for more than 14 days in any one place, unless a longer stay is reasonable in the circumstances.
Ms Ash does not think to assist people thinking of living on a boat by informing them what distance CRT might consider to be far enough to comply and avoid enforcement action. In fact in a 2012 document, Towpath Mooring Q and A, she had already stated that CRT would be exceeding its powers if it told boaters how far to travel in order to comply with Section 17 3 c ii. This has not stopped her from planning to publish “examples of movement patterns that we think demonstrate compliance and non-compliance”.
The photograph published with this latest piece of misinformation reveals the real reason why CRT want to discourage people from living on boats without home moorings. It is a picture of a hire boat. Sally Ash, Head of Boating at CRT, is also a Director of Drifters Leisure Ltd, a hire boat holiday booking company. On 9th September 2013 the CRT Navigation Advisory Group discussed the “worrying downward trends in the number of holiday, day hire and trip boat businesses”.
Ms Ash’s “awareness raising measures” to be aimed at new liveaboards without home moorings also include contacting every new boater without a home mooring to provide them with “clearer information” to ensure that they “fully understand the requirements”. Then if CRT doesn’t think they are travelling far enough they will be “invited” to contact an enforcement officer to discuss their cruising pattern and may be forced to take a mooring in order to renew their licence at the end of their first year. Ms Ash hopes that this will mean new liveaboards without moorings “won’t end up making a costly mistake”.
This latest effort to discourage people from living on their boats without a home mooring follows the November 2013 report on Towpath Mooring Control, a project also headed by Ms Ash. In this report she declares that a “community of residential boats started to become established along the towpath in Bath within a very short time of the canal’s reopening in 1990” and in one stroke accuses the entire community of not complying with the law, complaining that “successive generations of waterway management teams attempted (with varying degrees of vigour but without success) to persuade the boats’ owners to navigate in accordance with the requirements of the legislation”. Perhaps this is because the vast majority of these boats have always navigated in compliance with Section 17 3 c ii, travelling to a different place every 14 days and only staying longer in circumstances such as illness, injury or engine breakdown, and it is CRT’s unlawful interpretation of the law that they do not conform to.
Sally Ash signalled her displeasure with the K&A Local Waterway Partnership’s Towpath Mooring Plan (which has just been out to consultation), saying that she has “concerns to the extent to which these proposals will make any material alteration” and suggesting that even though the plan might be agreed and adopted on the K&A, CRT could still intervene as it has only agreed to the plan running for 12 months, and then it will be put under review. She accuses the Mooring Strategy Steering Group that started this work at BW’s behest in 2010 of failing to reach consensus, when in fact it was disbanded by BW before its work was finished. Finally she announces an unlawful attack on boaters who have home moorings but never use them. Section 17 3 c i of the 1995 British Waterways Act does not require boaters to actually use their moorings, it just requires that a mooring must be available for the boat and that it must be a place where the boat can lawfully be left.
You can read the CRT web page here
and CRT’s Towpath Mooring Q&A here http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/2305.pdf
You can download the Towpath Mooring Control report here CRT Report Nov 2013 Towpath Mooring Control