We have received the message below from the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA).
There will be a public meeting to discuss the activities of District Enforcement in Reading on Tuesday 21st May 2019 at 7pm at The Jolly Anglers, Kennetside, Reading. Bring your District Enforcement issues.
Signs have been put up on the River Thames and on Environment Agency waters at the mouth of the River Kennet around Reading over the past two years by District Enforcement (DE) claiming to act for Reading Borough Council. Chestnut Walk is now a no-go area for boaters. Boaters at Tescos moorings have been systematically harassed. Intimidating signs have recently appeared at Blakes Wharf (Chocolate Island).
In the recent case bought by DE against eight boaters DE was ordered to prove that it actually had authority to bring the case and on 1st May 2019 the case was struck out because DE failed to prove that it had any authority at all.
Come to the meeting to discuss the outrageous behaviour of DE.
The activities of District Enforcement include:
- Claims that it can charge for mooring when in fact Section 79 of the Thames Conservancy Act 1932 (Public Right of Navigation) permits mooring (without charge)
- Claims that it can seize boats which do not pay when in fact it MUST engage in due process (Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) by issuing a claim form in the court, and serve the claim form using the procedure specified in Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules which means the documents must be served by being attached to the boat service on the boat; the boater has a right to defend against the claim.
- Claims that it can pursue for unpaid debt of the mooring fee when in fact there is no right to charge this fee at all.
- Claims that it can prevent mooring at some locations when in fact the PRN allows mooring at all locations (and riparians know this when they take title to riparian land) for a reasonable time and in any event in a navigation emergency.
- Bully-boy tactics patrolling the towpaths, intimidating and harassing boaters when in fact DE as the agent of Reading Borough Council must respect the homes of Bargee Travellers (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
- Boarding boats even though the Master of a vessel holds sovereign authority on the boat and can arrest someone who boards and/or does not leave immediately on the Master’s order.
- Seeking to enforce against boaters on the Wokingham side of Kennetmouth when in fact Wokingham Borough Council has informed the NBTA that it has not engaged the services of DE at all.
- So what to do? Come and discuss the next steps of action against DE….
Reading Borough Council, a Labour administration (Labour holds 30 of the 46 seats), instructed DE in 2017 to engage in towpath enforcement. Even though the Labour Party manifesto states “We will end … discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and protect the right to lead a nomadic way of life” (page 112), Reading Borough Council has consistently persecuted itinerant live-aboard boaters the Reading area for many years. In June 2009 the Council effectively purged Reading of Bargee Travellers although many members of the Bargee Traveller community have returned. The population of Bargee Travellers in Reading is over 50. In the Accommodation Needs Assessment conducted by Reading Borough Council in 2017, the Council claimed that there were fewer than 11 Bargee Travellers in Reading while simultaneously seeking to evict over 20 boaters from the Tescos moorings alone.