In a meeting between CRT and the National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) on 14th January, NABO stated that “Putting the legal arguments to one side, NABO, as a policy decision, are happy for the pilot [roving mooring permit] operation to proceed and will monitor a) its success and b) its effect, if any, on other boaters and the availability of moorings. NABO feels that at least a roving mooring permit is a compassionate attempt to resolve a problem which has been allowed to get out of control. NABO will at this time raise no legal objections during this process but would suggest that the effectiveness of the roving mooring permits is monitored at 6 and 12 month intervals and NABO would like to be party to the findings”.
However, in an open meeting in Nottingham on 8th February between CRT Chief Executive Richard Parry and boaters, Mr Parry said “We may need a temporary arrangement to solve local issues but this will not define a new category of national licence”.
NABO had previously stated in a complaint to CRT that CRT cannot lawfully create a roving mooring permit. If it did so, it would be creating a third licensing category in between the two that were created by the British Waterways Act 1995. 17(3)(c) of the 1995 Act created two licence categories: (i) with a home mooring and (ii) without a home mooring. To create a third category would be beyond CRT’s existing legal powers because it would require change in the law, in other words an amendment to s.17(3)(c) of the British Waterways Act 1995.
At present, boaters without home moorings in the Uxbridge area on the Grand Union Canal and on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal are being offered roving mooring permits by CRT and the permits are expected to be sold from April this year. Boaters are being offered a way out of the enforcement process that means paying a substantial extra fee (£800 per year for a 60 foot boat) to do what s.17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 already permits them to do. This is tantamount to demanding money with menaces. CRT has stated in its second report on its £1.5 million Towpath Mooring Control project that “enforcement of ‘bona fide’ navigation will be stepped up in the area to support the [roving mooring] permit scheme”. Latest news is that there are now only about two boaters interested in roving mooring permits in the Uxbridge area, and these are people who are dissatisfied with the service they have been getting in a local marina and wish to leave the marina and moor as near as possible on the towpath.
Sally Ash, CRT’s Head of Boating, has been trying to establish roving mooring permits for the past 10 years. The idea was being developed as national policy within BW in 2003 and 2004 but was abandoned, following a meeting with user groups in February 2004, in favour of the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers that BW published in April 2004. This was reported in Case 48 of the Waterways Ombudsman report for 2005-2006. In 2003 BW was also developing the Trial Moorings Code or “lock miles rule” that would have forced boaters without home moorings to travel at least 120 different lock miles every 3 months.
We believe that BW dropped the “lock miles rule” because NABO threatened legal action against the Trial Moorings Code on the basis that it was beyond BW’s legal powers to enforce. The proposed roving mooring permit was, then as now, a way of charging boaters an extra fee to do what Section 17 (3) (c) (ii) already allows them to do. The question is, if BW considered that the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers made roving mooring permits unnecessary in 2004, why are they necessary now, given that the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring of 2011 is less strict than its 2004 predecessor, and given that the law hasn’t changed at all since 1995?
The Residential Boat Owners Association (RBOA) has not made any statement for or against roving mooring permits, but given that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CRT in 2013, and the RBOA is now being promoted by CRT on its web site, we believe that RBOA is not opposing the permits. The RBOA supports CRT’s current press campaign aimed at boat brokers and potential continuous cruisers to discourage people from living on a boat without a home mooring by highlighting the difficulties in complying with CRT’s unlawful Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring.
The Association of Continuous Cruisers (ACC) on the other hand has been closely involved in helping Sally Ash to establish roving mooring permits in the Uxbridge area. Roving mooring permits will increase CRT’s income by thousands of pounds each year. Founder members of ACC have been extremely active in designing and promoting the permit scheme, leading to accusations that they have bullied other boat dwellers and misinformed boaters that the roving mooring permits are compulsory. The ACC is also being strongly promoted by CRT on its web site, which is managed by Sally Ash. One unhappy member of the ACC has told us that they are dissatisfied with the closeness of the relationship between the ACC and Ms Ash, giving as an example the ACC’s publication in its newsletter of a summary by Sally Ash of a meeting between ACC and CRT in November 2013, rather than the ACC producing an independent report of the meeting.
This leaves the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) as the only boating organisation that is opposed to roving mooring permits on the basis that they are unlawful. Of course, the K&A Local Waterway Partnership also rejected a roving or community mooring permit in the Towpath Mooring Plan for the western K&A, a decision that CRT is fighting hard to reverse following the overwhelming opposition to these permits in the recent consultation.
You can read the report of the meeting between NABO and CRT here
You can download the second CRT Towpath Mooring Control report here Towpath Mooring control 2nd report Jan 14
You can download the Waterways Ombudsman annual reports here
For information about the abandoned “lock miles rule” see this document 2003 draft moorings code consultation V2A