Mooring under falling trees

Several boaters have asked whether there is a hidden agenda behind the recently imposed ‘no mooring’ restriction at between Murhill and Limpley Stoke. The ‘no mooring’ signs cite the danger of falling trees as the reason for the restriction. We don’t think there’s a hidden agenda in this case to implement the local mooring strategy before it has been agreed or of imposing mooring restrictions by the back door. However, CRT/ BW would no doubt prefer that some information about the standard of tree management was not in the public domain. BW began a large tree cutting programme after a hire boater was killed by a falling tree in 2010.

Just to be clear, if you moor in this stretch and a falling tree damages your boat or injures you, CRT is likely to escape liability for the damage or injury because you have moored there in contravention of the sign. This may also invalidate your insurance if your boat is comprehensively insured.

The Kennet and Avon Waterways bi-monthly report for January-February 2013 states that:

“The Waterway budget has been increased to deliver arising emergency works [many due to excessive rainfall in 2012]. The Waterway is working hard to deliver an additional £170k of work although success also rests on the actions of third parties.

Some works have been deferred to next year in order to address more immediate and significant risks. For examples, February B&T weed cut has been cancelled (this will result in localised complaints from the boaters that use the B&T) and some tree work has been deferred; appropriate signage has been put in place in the interim to close moorings and reduce risk to boaters.”

Following a Freedom of Information request, CRT has decided to post these bi-monthly reports on its web site here

CRT and BW have been attempting to catch up with tree cutting since hire boater Wendy Brennan was killed by a falling tree on the Grand Union canal in 2010. The Coroner who conducted the inquest into Mrs Brennan’s death issued a Rule 43 report requiring a review of BW’s tree management systems; the correspondence between Milton Keynes Coroner Tom Osborne and BW was obtained following a Freedom of Information request by Allan Richards. Waterways Minister Richard Benyon claimed after the Rule 43 report was issued that BW had already carried out a review of its tree management system, had set up a dangerous tree database and that the Health and Safety Executive had supported BW’s conclusion that its tree management system was thorough and robust.

However, Freedom of Information requests for the documentation to back up the Minister’s response; for the output from British Waterways’ internal review of it’s tree management system and for the output from the Health and Safety Executive supporting its ‘thorough and robust’ conclusion appeared to confirm that none of these documents existed. BW tried to persuade the Coroner to change his report but the Coroner refused to do so. In addition, it first claimed it did not respond to the Coroner’s Rule 43 report and later admitted that it did respond.

See the Freedom of Information request here

See Allan Richards’ articles here

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