Here’s the precis of Panda’s presentation to the Area Board for Bradford-on-Avon on Thursday 21st January 2010. It will form the basis for a press release to present the positive role of the boat dwellers amongst the local community, show how the threat to the boater’s lifestyle is a cause for concern throughout the community and ask the council to exercise their duty of care towards boaters as travellers.
The Boating Community in Bradford on Avon
- In Bradford on Avon, the boating community is part of the character of the area. It is a tourist attraction, attracting visitors and so contributing to the local economy. Boat owners contribute to and work in the community in many ways, and we are a showcase community for a low carbon lifestyle.
- Every boat owner uses the canal in a different way. Many cruise from place to place without a mooring as they are allowed to do by the 1995 British Waterways Act, which says they can tie up on the towpath for 14 days in any one place.
- There are two issues that concern the boating community at present.
- First, British Waterways (BW) is threatening to terminate the licences of boaters who obey the law if they do not cruise according BW guidance. This can lead to BW seizing the boat.
- The National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) has obtained a Legal Opinion, which says that BW does not have the legal power to specify what distances boats should cruise.
- Second, BW has proposed a local mooring strategy for this area which will reduce the 14-day mooring space available for travelling boat dwellers and make it difficult for boaters to remain in work and maintain their children’s education.
- These mooring restrictions will directly affect boaters, but they will be established by a steering group in which boaters will be outnumbered by members who are not directly affected. NABO and the boating community will be excluded, even though we are the only group that is directly affected.
- BW’s proposals will have a disproportionate and adverse effect on the boating community’s quality of life in comparison to other canal users and yet we will not have a say in the decisions. Many of us will be forced to choose between keeping our homes and staying in our jobs or maintaining our children’s education.
- We want BW to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals for local moorings strategies to fully understand the implications for different communities.
- The DCLG has ruled that travelling boat dwellers are travellers and should be included in local authorities’ traveller provision. We would appreciate the support of Wiltshire Council and parish councils to work with BW to ensure the adequate provision of 14-day moorings.
- BW already has statutory powers to regulate mooring, the 1995 British Waterways Act. It does not need any more.
- Instead, BW should work with boaters to identify areas that need dredging and maintenance, which would expand mooring space, attract visitors and benefit the economies of canal side towns and villages.
- There has always been a very good relationship between Bradford on Avon and the boating community. Bradford on Avon could act as a model for a good relationship between a settled community and travelling boat dwellers.