Equality officer advises Mooring Strategy Steering Group

Sharon Brookes, Wiltshire Council’s Equality Officer, gave a presentation to the local mooring strategy meeting on 1st April explaining the duties of statutory bodies such as BW to carry out equality impact assessments of their policies. Under the Public Sector Equality Duty in the 2010 Equality Act, BW is required to do an equality impact assessment of the local mooring strategy. This includes an obligation to analyse the impact of new policies on human rights. An equality impact assessment examines and analyses the impact of a new policy on all groups within the community. If an organisation does not carry out an equality impact assessment, it can be subject to legal challenge by the community. Thus it needs to provide evidence that it has done so. If an equality assessment shows that a new policy will have a disproportionate adverse impact on one group, the policy should be changed. If a policy goes ahead that is shown to have a disproportionate adverse impact on a particular group, it can be challenged; the advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission is to bring a Judicial Review.

The meeting also discussed the proposals for mooring restrictions resulting from the towpath walks. Not all of these were agreed within the small groups that surveyed each stretch of canal, so consensus has not been achieved. It was noted that if mooring restrictions forced significantly more boats to travel east of Hilperton, this would cause considerable extra stress on water levels and that at least 50% of the canal between Hilperton and Devizes has not been maintained well enough to allow boats to tie up as it is impossible to get close enough to the bank.

The group has asked BW to provide more detailed mapping data so that the exact impact of any proposals on the amount of mooring space available can be calculated. Damian Kemp of BW clarified that changes to mooring zones have to be approved by the BW Boating Team, headed by Sally Ash, and that the local waterway managers have no power to change mooring zones. BW has stated that it wants to start implementing the local mooring strategy by mid to late July 2011, in other words to have the new mooring restrictions in place.

The next meeting is expected to discuss how to define “place” for the purpose of deciding whether a boat without a home mooring is complying with the requirement not to remain in one place for more than 14 days unless the circumstances warrant a longer stay. However, the 1995 British Waterways Act did not define “place” or specify any minimum distance or cruising pattern, and so the mooring strategy steering group is being asked to set a standard which is beyond BW’s legal powers to enforce.

The minutes of the meeting will be available soon. The next local mooring strategy meeting is on Monday 9 May at 1pm at Devizes Wharf.

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