Honey Street boaters meeting minutes

Here are the minutes of the boaters’ meeting on 14 June 2011, held at The Barge Inn, Honey Street, and an outline of some information posters at the end, which can be copied and enlarged.Panda explained what’s been happening below Devizes. She mentioned the Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group, which is tasked with drawing up a strategy/restrictions. The members had initially been mostly antagonistic to live-aboard boaters. BW didn’t want any boaters on the committee. However, some boaters are now involved.

Bathampton Parish Council were particularly against live-aboards. Boaters have met with them and dispelled some of their prejudices.

Mooring restrictions may be extended east.

Even where boaters and Parish Councils agree on a mooring strategy BW can overrule them.

New policies by BW (and all public sector bodies) have to be subject to an Equality Impact Assessment – BW’s plans for new policies will have a disproportionate affect on live-aboards. A questionnaire has been developed by boaters that can go towards the assessment. This can be completed online (see kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk) or on paper and returned to the postal address or to Panda etc.

Question: It was asked how the new proposals differed from the current rules.

The current rule is that continuous cruisers can’t stay in the same place for more than 14 days. What constitutes ‘place’ isn’t defined. The original act, and therefore the intention of Parliament, was to prevent people staying in the same place for more than 14 days repeatedly without good reason. BW may therefore be attempting to introduce policies that are above and beyond the law. This may need to be tested in court. Currently NABO believe that the local mooring policy is non-enforceable.

Visitor mooring time limits may be changed and lengths increased, reducing 14-day space.

BW may attempt to define ‘place’, which was not thought necessary by Parliament and is therefore more than the law requires them to do.

Someone commented that BW don’t appear to do anything new and that most boaters move within the law. Why should we worry now? Others felt that BW now have an agenda to turn the canals into a money making business due to their possible new charitable status.

There were concerns that the Kennet & Avon Canal is becoming derelict and it was felt that BW were keen for the K&A Trust to disappear, along with live-aboard boaters.

There was a discussion about BW’s current use of the 14 days rule. It was felt that they don’t enforce the rule consistently and that some continuous cruisers don’t move their boats for several months, or at all, without reason. However, BW are now sending, what are felt to be, threatening letters even to those who do move their boats. They are therefore beginning to put pressure on people to travel long distances, find permanent moorings or to leave the canal. BW have not yet defined how far they expect people to move.

It was felt that BW should be encouraged to consistently enforce the current rules, rather than bringing in new ones. This is being done.

There was a discussion about the current bidding practice for permanent moorings.

We discussed the Licence Agreement, which is a contract that we all sign and agree to. However, this doesn’t make it legal or enforceable. Any changes can be challenged in court.

It was felt that the purpose of meetings such as this was to give people the information they need if the receive threatening letters etc…we should resist any moves by BW which are outside the spirit of the current act as individuals, as well as as a group.

We discussed whether we could choose to become members of the new BW charity in order to have voting rights. Panda said that the current plan is for the charity not to have this sort of membership. We also discussed the pros and cons of joining the K&A Trust.

It was queried whether BW reps should be invited to boaters’ meetings.

It was felt that BW have wanted everyone who hasn’t got a permanent mooring or a houseboat certificate off the canals for some time and that they were now testing this through the courts. The recent judgement against Paul Davies, who BW claimed wasn’t moving his boat far enough, may be used by them against other boaters. However, although BW won this case the court commented that BW’s expectations were too much. BW are trying to force people to move further and further and this will adversely affect those who need to get to work or whose children go to school locally, especially those without cars.

Charity status – BW have applied for an amendment which will allow them to petition for new rules to be passed as law without consultation/scrutiny by Parliament.

DEFRA currently oversee BW and they are holding a consultation into the new charitable status. We have until 30th June to respond. Navigation/boaters are not mentioned in the consultation document!

Panda and Kev are the two main representatives of local boaters (who are unaffiliated to other user groups) on the Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group. Kev had hoped to attend the meeting at Honey Street but was unable to, but sent the message below to the meeting.

Message from Kev:

1. By the diligence and perseverance of Rich Burchill (the local RBOA rep), Panda and NABO, we managed to get a voice on the Mooring Strategy Steering Group.

2. We have managed to make the MSSG into a balanced forum where everyone’s voices are heard and understood

3. We must accept that the canal is for everyone’s and whilst maintaining our right to live on it, we must also maintain other users interests.

4. Proposed changes to mooring zones/restrictions are intended to create a balanced policy that considers everyone’s best interests

5. In light of the changes and the effort made to get boaters’ interests heard and understood, I think it’s important that boaters start to abide by the letter of the law and to show a willingness to cooperate with other canal users and local communities.

6. I’m happy that we’ve established a strong line of communication with other stakeholders and that there will be ongoing communication and discussion with boaters involved at every level.

7. BW has failed to sweep liveaboard boaters from the canal so far.

The meeting included several advice/ information posters on the walls. They are copied below.

NABO

National Association of Boat Owners

Got Legal Opinion from Barristers – BW can’t enforce C.C. Guidelines

Opinion available to members if taken to court by BW

Costs 15 per year to join

Local rep Andy Colyer

www.nabo.org.uk

RBOA

Residential Boat Owners Association

Represents live-aboards

Very knowledgeable about moorings and planning permission

Local rep Richard Burchell

www.rboa.org.uk

NBTA

National Bargee Travellers Association

Campaigning and advice for itinerant boat dwellers

Legal Officer Nick Brown

www.bargee-traveller.org.uk

1995 British Waterways Act Section 17

Must have licence, BSS, insurance:

If no permanent mooring:

No more than 14 continuous days in one place unless good reason

“Place” not defined but probably not just 100 metres

Parliament intended 14 days as test for whether boats comply with the law

BW say must be on progressive journey over long distance to comply…

Not what Parliament intended!

Bristol Court Case BW v Paul Davies

Judge said Bath to Bradford on Avon not enough to comply with 1995 Act S 17

Judge also said boats cruising less than BW guidelines can comply

County Court so not binding case law

BW re-writing C.C. guidelines

Paul did not have info re intention of Parliament in time to use it

BW trying to make us think the judgement applies to all. It doesn’t.

Only applies to Paul, but judges may use it as guidance

Local Mooring Strategy

Bath to Devizes but may be extended East

Panda, Kev the Pipe, Nick, Andy and Richard on the Committee

Also Parish councils, IWA, the K&A Trust and BW

BW have the final say

Equality Assessment will show if adverse impact on live-aboards

BW must do equality assessment by law

Please do the questionnaire even if you don’t cruise between Bath and Devizes

The Public Bodies Bill

will give the Government power to make BW a charity

It will give BW greater powers to make law than now

No prizes for guessing what BW will do with those extra powers

Consultation on BW charity proposal ends 30 June 2011

Respond to the consultation now! and

Write to your MP!

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