The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) representative on the Mooring Strategy Steering Group has made it clear that his understanding of the local mooring strategy is to “reduce the numbers of those living on the canal” so that within 5 years “they would be able to plan for a different life-style”. In an email to BW’s Sally Ash, the IWA rep Tim Wheeldon also stated that “there will be no question of anyone being forced to give up home, school or job in the short term“. Mr Wheeldon describes this as “compassionate” and “fair”. We cannot think of anything compassionate or fair about people being forced to give up their home, school or job in any timescale, whether long-term, short-term or otherwise. Mr Wheeldon also claims it will be legal, an assertion obviously made in ignorance of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.
The (Acting) Chair of the IWA Leicestershire Branch, John Evans, responded to an email from a boater on the Steering Group objecting to Mr Wheeldon’s remarks by labelling liveaboard continuous cruisers on the K and A as “squatters” who BW should have “stamped on”. Unfortunately for Mr Evans, he intended his comments for the eyes of a friend only, but accidentally sent the email to all members of the Steering Group.
Thank you Mr Evans, we now have it confirmed from the top of the IWA that your policy is to stamp on us. Oh and by the way, didn’t Tom Rolt, one of the founders of the IWA, spend 1800 consecutive days living on his narrowboat moored at Tardebigge? Was he a “squatter” do you think?
We wish to remind the IWA that the intention of Parliament in passing Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act was to protect boat dwellers without permanent moorings from homelessness and enable them to continue living on their boats, keep their jobs and send their children to school. BW boat licence holders are entitled to cruise the canals without a mooring, subject to the 14-day rule. Itinerant iveaboard boaters have rights. Those rights include respect for home and a right not to be subjected to prejudice. We are a vulnerable group in that we have minimal legal rights (and what rights we do have are being systematically attacked) and as such deserve some basic protection from harassment. If Mr Wheeldon or Mr Evans had made their comments about a demographic group that was, for example, black or female they would be committing an offence. If the landlord of a house introduced rules that made it so difficult for their tenants to carry on living in the house that they were forced to move out, they would be committing an offence.
The next Local Mooring Strategy meeting is likely to be on 11 October in Wiltshire Council offices in Chippenham. In the absence of BW’s Damian Kemp Ken Oliver, Wiltshire’s Canal Officer, has been asked to chair the meeting. According to Sally Ash, the remaining task is to plan for monitoring and enforcement of time limits, and BW’s National Enforcement Operations Manager Paul Griffin will be present.
Ms Ash appears to have forgotten that there is another outstanding task, required by law, which is to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals. An analysis of the data from the liveaboard boaters’ questionnaire will form part of this. A boater spent at least 20 hours doing the data entry for this, so if you know who he is, please buy him a drink for his hard work.
NOTE: In the second volume of his autobiography, Landscape with Canals, Tom Rolt described spending 4 years and 11 months living on his boat Cressy at Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham canal in a chapter entitled ‘Eighteen hundred days in Tardebigge’.