Local Mooring Strategy: Hire boat companies and liveaboards agree on way forward while BW tries underhand tactics

The fourth meeting of the Local Mooring Strategy steering group took place on 10 December. It was notable for the comments of the APCO rep that “existing legislation, consistently applied, would solve the problem… if we get ‘place’ right, we’ve done our job”. APCO, the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators, is the hire boat companies’ trade body. Many hire boat firms rely on liveaboard boaters for much of their skilled and unskilled workforce, and would encounter problems if their staff had too far to travel to work. The rep also said that while zoning (the creation of mooring zones) was important to APCO, enforcement was not important. Wiltshire Council’s Head of Equalities said he would draft considerations for zoning such as ensuring accessibility to services.

One of the unaffiliated boaters on the steering group gave a short presentation on how BW could properly implement the 14-day rule, and thus achieve the aims of the local ooring strategy without the need for any additional, unlawful rules. He explained the benefits this would bring to BW, boaters and canalside residents. The full presentation is below. He managed to give the presentation despite his request for 10 minutes of the meeting’s time being refused by Chair Sally Ash. In a meeting between boaters and BW on 24 May 2010, Damian Kemp of BW stated in answer to a question that if the local mooring strategy steering group recommended using BW’s existing powers under section 17 (3) c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act (ie the 14-day rule) rather than any new rules or policies, then BW would accept this. However, it is clear that BW is intent on pushing through measures that go well beyond these statutory powers.

Underhand tactics

BW is determined not to let APCO, boaters or anyone else stop it from imposing the new policies and overstaying charges it wants. So after the last meeting, Sally Ash tried to get the Valley Parishes Alliance (parish councils such as Bathampton and Claverton) and the NABO rep to have a seperate meeting to bypass the steering group process. Both organisations refused to take part in this divisive action!

The Chair of NABO also attended the meeting on 10 December and commented afterwards in NABO news that “the real issue is that there is no agreement in defining the problem, so there can never be agreement on the solution”. This echoes a comment made by Wiltshire Councillor Toby Sturgis that “BW is trying to do X about a problem with Y” on 22 February 2010 at a meeting between boaters, BW and Wiltshire Council. Cllr Sturgis deals with Wiltshire’s policy on travellers. Finally, Damian said that BW would miss its 6 March 2011 deadline for completion of the draft local mooring strategy. The next meeting of the steering group is on 28 January at 10am at the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, Devizes Wharf.

Boater’s presentation

Here is the boater’s presentation on Implementing the 14-day rule and its benefits:

Steps for Implementing 14-day Rule” 1995 British Waterways Act Sec 17 3 c ii.

Step 1- Action by BW

Rescind the unlawful, unenforceable and discriminatory “Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers”.

Step 2- Action by BW

Redefine “Enforcement Officers” as “Cruising Liaison Officers”. Trained with communication skills and manual boat movement techniques, they are now able to approach non-movers, ask reasons for non-movement and advise on bow-hauling, poling, towing etc. They could also assist anyone ill or inexperienced to move a short distance.

Step 3- Action by BW

Officially log notification of non-movement in exceptional circumstances (pregnancy, illness, holiday, repair etc) and generate a “Cruising Dispensation Notice” to be displayed on the boat in question. This notice will also carry a date of expected movement eg “This boat “boat name” will be moved on or around date”.

Step 4- Action by MSSG

To discuss a sensible definition of “place” for the purposes of enforcing the “14 Day Rule”. This must take into consideration the practicalities of boat life, education, health. As a pointer, my personal view is that 1 mile is ample; Bathampton to Claverton is 2.5 miles; Claverton to Dundas is 1 mile; Dundas to Limpley Stoke is 1.5 miles

Step 5- Action by BW

To provide noticeboard space for displaying directory of local mechanical services (engineers, spares etc) and offers of tows to encourage cruising plus display of “help wanted” notices so that solutions can be found. To be administrated by Cruising Liaison Officer.

Outline Benefits

14-day Rule” 1995 British Waterways Act Sec 17 3 c ii

BW gain positive media and social image by efficiently using the tools available to tackle perceived problems of non-movement.

By dropping the unworkable “Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers” and the subsequent “big-stick’n’bailiff” approach, BW show a deepening, constructive understanding of the diverse community living on and around the waterways they manage.

By using the established legal powers of the 14 day rule in conjunction with a reasonable definition of ‘place’ and ‘bona fide navigation’ BW have the opportunity to manage boat movement in an enforceable way with the support of the vast majority of the boating community it affects. This provides a high potential for success.

By consistent and even-handed enforcement, BW create an ‘culture’ of movement, whereby existing, new and potential residential boaters know that they must comply and that if they are unwilling to do so then appropriate legal steps will be taken ie. steps to remove licence etc.

If there is an ongoing movement of boats visible to all stakeholders, then any further complaints of non-movement or anti-social behaviour will be easily identifiable to individual boats and BW will be in a better position to action solutions.

The majority of residential boaters will feel more comfortable that they are not being victimised by bad canal management or for the sake of ignorance and/or stubbornness exhibited by the non-moving minority.

The education, health and employment of residential boaters, protected by Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, ceases to be an issue as these aspects of life are workable under the “14 day Rule”.

After approximately 12 months, it will become apparent that further expenditure on consultations, research, collation of information and the associated resource use will be reduced and that more investment can be made in ‘on-the-ground’ personnel and maintenance.

Meeting minutes

Here are the notes of the 4th Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group Meeting

December 10th 2010


BW: Sally Ash (Chair), Damian Kemp

K&A Trust: John Webb

IWA: Tim Wheeldon

RBOA: Rich Burchill

NABO: Geoffrey Rogerson, Andrew Colyer and David Fletcher

AWCC: Pauline King

APCO: John Froggatt

WCC: Mayur Bhatt

Unaffiliated Boaters: Panda Smith and Kevin Humphries

BoA Area Board Manager: Elly Townsend

VPA: Keith Rossiter and Dave Batho

NBTA: Nick Brown


Sally welcomed everyone to the meeting, and the attendees introduced themselves. Sally went through the agenda, briefly explaining each of the items on it and reminding the group what they are aiming to produce at the end of this process.

The Vision Statement:

SA thanked DB and colleagues at the VPA for their hard work on the vision statement that they prepared after the last meeting.

The group briefly discussed the vision statement, sent out by email by DB on the 17th.

AC said he wasn’t really happy with the concept of ‘breathing space’. KH and PS agreed.

PS pointed out that she did quite a lot of work on the vision statement herself, and circulated it by email, and would appreciate it if people could consider what she has written as well, as the group is to discuss it. DB said he has already commented by email, and he would just reiterate it: As far as he is concerned, there are a myriad of points, and he doesn’t think that a little less than two pages of discussion is too much for such a complex issue. PS says lots of points in the vision statement are more than just visions. DB says you need to put things in a context if you are writing any sort of document. He thinks you need background here. He knows that what he is writing down is not necessarily visionary. Vision is not the same as ‘visionary’. He is actually quite interested to see that on the kanda website that the concept has been plagiarised in the form of the boater’s charter, so obviously someone likes the concept.

KR commented that a lot of thought and a lot of work went into it and it’s amended in light of the comments from the last meeting.

PS says there is nothing in this vision statement that reflects what the unaffiliated boaters said in their vision statement. KH says he would like some of the interests of boaters upheld as there is no acknowledgement of boaters specifically. DB disagreed and said that he tried to put that in the vision in the first bullet point of the vision. It’s a balance. There’s not just unaffiliated boaters there are a while mix of people using the canal and he was looking to create a balance between the different kinds of boaters. KH says that aside from that he’s happy with it.

RB says in broad terms he agrees with it, but he wishes to reserve the right to discuss further issues that concern him and that he would like to see discussed in further detail.

NB says that there are other issues that he would like to see mapped out in further detail – many of these issues related to the interests of live-aboard boaters. SA pointed out that this is not a legal document it is a vision not a strategy.

DB disagrees with NB, he felt he was including everyone. The group discussed in detail the vision statement last time, and he tried to see how this fitted with the attitude statements that were circulated by DK. Some of them didn’t really need discussion at all. In fact quite a few of the 13 statements relate to enforcement issues – a common theme but quite a different wording. He felt he needed to mention enforcement and how you would manage it.

KH says that we understand that this vision statement is just a step in getting consensus – it is not a strategy document it is not a policy document. There are some bits he doesn’t fully agree with and there are some bits that he would like to see added to it.

SA says she doesn’t sense the need for a formal vote on acceptance of the vision statement. She asked people to put their hands up if they don’t feel we can move forward with this.

MB would like to make an amendment. Re bullet point 3 – This is about legislative frameworks as well, so they should be mentioned. SA disagreed, saying that this is a level of detail that we don’t need. DB says the base full strategy was approved by full council on the 2nd of December, and anyway everything is subject to legislative frameworks.

SA asked people to vote on whether they are happy to proceed on the basis of this document that DB has circulated. 8 for, 1 against.


SA explained that we have a default list of questions. What we have is the background vision, and we have I hope some shared understanding of what this strategy is going to give us at the end. It will be a map showing the mooring zones between Bath and the bottom of Devizes. Given that we have tabled it, it is in the information library, there are template maps and lots of details about how often we check the boats and so on. So it is the mooring zones and the definition of neighbourhoods from the point of view of enforcing this strategy. We need a practical document that BW can then manage day to day. We need to be very clear about what these discussion topics are and what the questions are that need to be answered in order to identify these zones.

KH asked if we will discuss if the law as it stands – section 17 3c2 – is this sufficient enough to meet the current needs for enforcement, he says. JF says there is no point if they don’t know what they are enforcing yet. KH disagrees, saying that at the moment there is resistance to movement because of the mooring guidelines for continuous cruisers. There is a minority who are the ones everyone sees and who everyone complains about, and application of the 14 day rule as it stands consistently and with some slight changes to it that he has written down here would create a lot of movement on the canal and solve a lot of the problems.

JF says yes the existing legislation if applied now and consistently would work if enforced. GR asked if we could vote on that – we’ve had many meetings so far, we have been in this room for over 10 hours now, and consistently the question of enforcement comes up – there is a common recognition that enforcing the current framework that BW has would satisfy most people. SA says that this is a really good point for discussion and she doesn’t think that there is a need for a vote as it was an attitude statement question that everyone agreed with. Speaking as BW, she says this is where they struggle, in finding the practical rules to follow. A key question will be: What rules would you set down in my shoes to implement the act. She feels this would be really useful to discuss in groups.

KH has two sides of A4 – one is 5 steps and the other is a description of how he would see the 14 day rule (as it stands) enforced.

DB thinks the discussion should be wider than the 14 day rule. RB agreed. DB says it needs to include the whole enforcement structure. KR says including how it is funded! He thinks it is all very well having a mooring strategy with zones, but it has to be enforced. DB says that we also should have on the table how BW organise their enforcement teams and how they are funded. Should there be some local authority funding? He isn’t suggesting that he local authorities ought to police the whole towpath, but they should be involved and if there are funding issues then they have a vested interest anyway so should be involved here.

SA said large round table discussions do not give enough time for everyone to have their say. So within the small groups KH’s work will be a topic for discussion and there will be some time to have feedback after the discussion period.

KH reiterated that the 14 day 1995 act is sufficient at the moment and his document is about how best to enforce that.

Discussion topics:

KH’s document suggesting implementation of 14 day rule

The next one is about how the enforcement team should be organised.

GR’s proposal on ‘places.

SA thinks we have 3 quite meaty topics for discussion here.

KR says he’s not entirely clear on what is going on here – he thinks that yes, the 14 day issue will, if solved, mean that a lot of the other issues will go away, but if we are talking about mooring zones then we need to get people actually out on the towpath and walking a stretch of the canal. Sally says that getting people out and walking could be a suggestion.

SA wants the group to come back and say “This is how we should move forward”.

KR asked about our terms of reference? Sally says okay that is a fourth one.

JW says that the 1995 act is very weak, so we are here to define ‘place’ so that BW are in a position where there is a consensus on what ‘place’ is and are able to go to the courts with that. We are giving BW the definition of our ‘place’.

TW – 1995 act cannot be adequate or we would not be sitting around this table!

PS explained that it just has not been used by BW, who have a statutory power to apply it and have never applied it in some areas, but have in others. It is not consistent. In some areas a BW employee will check the canal once every 6 months, and in others every week. This should really be changed. KR says yes, this is something we can cover when talking about enforcement teams. PS emphasised that it is not correct to say it (the 1995 act) is inadequate.

MB feels that these discussions need to happen in the groups, not here. SA agrees.

SA wrote topics for discussion on the flip chart:

1.Develop guidance for BW to implement ’95 Act (in particular 14 day rule).

2.Include recommendations for organisation and deployment of enforcement team.

3.What does ‘place’ (and neighbourhood) mean in the context of the strategy area?

4.How will the zones be determined by the group?

SA thinks this is probably enough to be getting on with. An email was sent that allocated people into groups:

Everyone split off into their allocated groups for discussion on the 4 points above.

Feedback from discussion groups:

SA brought everyone back to the room.

SA asked people to bring back their comments as quickly as possible and to submit written summaries at the next meeting without too much discussion before then so that we can get through everyone.

KH’s group went first:

They didn’t really discuss point 1. It fell out in normal discussion. They said the old days when the BW enforcement blokes used to knock on the door and say “Oi, hop it” was good and should be brought back. Faceless stick-wielding is not productive.

Re point 3, they were happy with NABO’s map as a prototype for that. They looked at what a zone was and thought it was an area of restriction within those neighbourhoods. Any change in the zones would need people to actually walk up and down. They also thought that visitor moorings needed to be reviewed with the numbers of hire boats in mind. There are areas for mooring where you need a 20′ gang plank to get to the side, so maybe something could be done about that.

Also suggested the introduction of mile markers.

KH said he would write that up and send it through to DK.

NB’s group went next

They said the problem was due to a small number of boats misbehaving, so for enforcement they need to have BW staff to speak to them.

2 -they supported unanimously the introduction of lengthsmen and that the name ‘enforcement officers’ was inflammatory. Good training needs to be given to them to remove the use of inflammatory language, etc. Areas should be bounded by local authority boundaries. Budget for funding lengthsmen should be shared from BW budget and local authorities. Hence the use of local authority boundaries as they would need some jurisdiction.

As far as place is concerned, we can’t find that. They discussed what it might mean they considered returning to parish boundaries. It can only be resolved by actually walking the towpath and being pragmatic. Needs clear discussion. Maybe put in boundary posts so that people know where things are. Demarcation of what is a place. Conservation also an issue and should be taken into account.

Zoning – seems to be fine but needs review. No agreement on breathing spaces. No consensus at all. The zoning is really falling under the head of enforcement as well and needs to be done with two groups Bath to Bradford and Bradford to Devizes.

DB’s group:

1 – Decided that tighter enforcement procedures are needed across the board not just 14 day moorings. On a practical point they discussed the facilities on the canal and that they are perhaps insufficient and sporadic, which causes boats to ‘bunch up’ in certain areas where they exist.

2 – They think that there needs to be a hardening of the enforcement structure and that reporting to Watford is not ideal. Line management for enforcement should end at Mark Stephens as he is responsible for the canal. Functionally it may be someone else but in terms of line management this is how it would work. Enforcement wouldn’t just focus on licenses but all items of compliance. Secondly, staffing levels. Multi-skilled people with good communication skills are really needed.

In terms of place, they liked the idea of parish boundaries as a starting point. Might need more discussion.

How you determine zones, we think we need either a representative group that would make a recommendation to the greater group, or we could try to do something which would also involve looking at residential communities, local amenities, environmental considerations and commercial hot spots.

Thought that KH’s first point in his steps was a bit emotional. (KH admitted that this point was particularly close to his heart.) 3, 4 and 5 seemed good.

PS’s group:

Looked at KH’s proposals first and the first point was that they couldn’t agree on whether the mooring guidance for continuous cruisers should be rescinded or not. General feeling was that it was not a valuable document. At least one member of the group was not aware that the guidance only applied to a few of the boats on the system. So they thought that the guidance should be rescinded to help create trust as its introduction has been counter-productive in getting boats to move. Any enforcement action would need to be taken under the 1995 act and not under the mooring guidance for continuous cruisers. Replacement would be regular enforcement relying on this act instead.

Then discussed the other steps that KH had outlined. They were in effect guidelines for implementation of the 1995 act and that the detail of this was important.

Cruising liaison or enforcement officers – should be called patrol officers. Communication with boaters is important and official notices to put in boat windows would mitigate concerns from local residents as they would then know why boats had overstayed and when they would move. This should help them also to work out who is on the wrong side of the law and who has permission.

Defining place – needs to be a sensible and reasonable definition. It can’t be too large or too small. GR’s proposals seems reasonable, but doesn’t reflect navigational safety or reality.

It was admitted that the definition of place is the classic example of where the devil is in the detail. We don’t want to end up with the same group of boats staying in the Bath area. The Western end of the K and A should be a place where boaters can get to and would want to moor.

SA asked that the material be sent through to DK within the next week. Everyone said that this was achievable.

SA asked about the agenda for the next meeting – not enough time to discuss in any great detail. Do we want to leave this to DK to absorb and think about the thoughts and suggestions that you have had? Do we want to go and do a little zoning exercise? DK and SA will put out some ideas to everyone as to how the next meeting might be structured. They will pull together a brief. The consensus is that site visits to do some zoning are going to be needed. There needs to be some discussion for the brief for that group and what the parameters should be for guiding that. She and DK could do that or someone in the group could do it.

KH thought that any group doing this should be left to discuss their own strategy.

KR says that he thinks at the next meeting we would be looking at two groups looking at the two halves of this Western end of the K and A, and we should spend some time looking at their terms of reference. Another group could look at enforcement structure and flesh out things discussed here. A last group looking at mooring guidance based on KH’s document and taking into account points raised here. He feels we could do this and leave these groups to get on with it while we forge ahead.

SA asked if someone could draft a short paper in advance of this next meeting. We are really looking for 3 papers on these subjects so that we can all have a chance to think about it and have some properly considered debate.

KH said if DK could collate and collect the information then it would be useful once people have submitted their reports for their groups, we could then look for consensus and for contentions. Consensus could be used as a platform.

JF said that zoning is important where he concerned, but how it is enforced or funded, only BW knows and he isn’t interested. He felt SA needs to have a lot of input on this. Everyone has a vested interest in the guidance as it affects live-aboard boaters and other people cruising the waterways. He thinks that hot spots could easily be highlighted without walking the canal. He asks that we just agree that, and listed what he thinks several of them are.

KH says that everyone knows where the problem areas are, and he has an issue with Bathampton and Bath because of what happens there and the reasons why people overstay there and the reasons why they might overstay at Dundas.

SA said there is connection between enforcement and mooring strategy. Rules will be set in the mooring strategy and they will need to be consistent with the 1995 act. She is not quite sure the need to revisit the mooring guidance.

This caused quite a bit of discussion from JF and KH. JF says SA needs to note that it is being raised here as an issue so it can’t just be dispensed. SA says a lot of people have put a lot of thought in it and she hasn’t heard anything constructive with regard of what could be put in its place.

GR says that we have already discussed it and said that it needs revisiting. It is fundamental. It encompasses the relationship between BW and the boaters. Otherwise in the discussion all that has been talked about is where you can go and when you can come back. It comes up in the other areas that we have discussed. It is very fundamental.

PS pointed out that the mooring guidance for continuous cruisers only applies to continuous cruisers, not the other 90% of boats, which may also be contributing to the problem.

SA says that if you read the policy then you will see that the charges for overstaying will be applied to everybody, not just continuous cruisers. She asked everyone to read through the policy document and explanatory notes as she feels that we are going over the same ground again and that maybe a better understanding would be advantageous here. They are online on the BW website (www.britishwaterways.co.uk/mooringpolicies).

KR says it is appropriate for this group to comment on the funding and structure of the enforcement teams and other things relating to enforcement policy.

MB asked that we could be clear of the objectives of the next meeting before we get there. He would also like to really keep focus and stay on track with those. SA assured him that there will be a clear focus before we come to the next meeting.

MB said in relation to going out to the towpath, he would like to put down a few bullet points that he would like people to take into account, such as accessibility to services and the like.

PS says that if a group is going to go out along the towpath then someone who has experience of boating needs to be in that group so that important aspects of day to day boating are not missed.

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One Response to “Local Mooring Strategy: Hire boat companies and liveaboards agree on way forward while BW tries underhand tactics”

  1. Paul Biddy MonsterID Icon Paul Biddy says:

    Yes. A journey around the national canal network seems, to me, an unreasonable requirement restricting access to work, education and place, and the SAME TEST has to apply at a local level for any test to be fair. I do not believe that forced journeys are required in law – hence 14 days OR LONGER. Given the letter of law, it is clearly unreasonable for BW to punish boaters who refuse to make journeys that have, probably, never been required. Boat movement may be a personal preference to seeing rows of static boats, but this is not a point of law – it is an opinion – and enforced navigation cannot ever be bona fide. Double mooring permits towpath access for all and static boats are preferable to sections’ 8 and 13. Personal opinion is this /|\