It appears that the K&A Local Waterways Partnership has won the argument with CRT about the voluntary nature of the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan. In a recent email responding to a boater’s complaint about the legality of the Visitor Mooring extended stay charges of £25 per day, Matthew Symonds stated:
“If boaters follow the local plan guidance they will not attract the attention of enforcement officers. Boaters whose movement pattern is well below that set out in the local guidance (which as highlighted is more relaxed than our national guidance) will be contacted by enforcement officers and may enter the enforcement process.”
On 23rd April Rob Dean, a member of the Kennet and Avon Waterways Partnership, stated categorically that the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan is “a voluntary agreement”, in the course of discussion at the K&A User Group meeting in Devizes.
This is different from what is set out in the Plan, which uses words such as “comply” and “we expect you to” and that charges “will apply”. Specifically, the Plan states that:
“It’s important however that everyone understands how the plan is being monitored and knows how to comply so as to avoid the attention of our enforcement officers.”
“From 1st May 2014 boats between Bath and Foxhangers are expected to:”
“If you’ve been in the plan area for most of the time and we’ve seen you in at least 6 different neighbourhoods during the first three months, this is sufficient. Over the 12 months we expect you to have spread your mooring pattern evenly across at least 12 different neighbourhoods.”
“An extended stay charge of £25 per day will apply.”
“What if something happens to stop me complying with the guidance?”
The FAQs state that: “The Trust will collect monitoring information and publish a summary report every three months setting out how boaters are or are not complying with the plan.”
“Anyone exceeding the single visit or maximum days in a month stay time will be subject to a daily £25 extended stay charge .”
The K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan is subtitled “Guidance for boaters without a home mooring”. Guidance is advisory, not compulsory. You don’t “comply” with guidance, you use it to inform your decisions and you follow it at your own discretion. CRT does not have the legal power to enforce the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan.
In other words, CRT does not have the power to terminate your boat licence for not “complying” with it. This is probably why the Local Waterway Partnership’s view has prevailed. However, a number of boaters have already made complaints about letters, emails and texts from CRT alleging that they have overstayed in a “neighbourhood” or attempting to impose a £25 per day “extended stay” charge on a Visitor Mooring.
In the Towpath Mooring Plan for the K&A between Bath and Devizes, the Local Waterway Partnership proposed a voluntary code that if followed would guarantee boaters freedom from enforcement. It was not presented as a compulsory requirement. CRT ran the consultation in autumn 2013 on this basis, not on the basis that it would be compulsory. However following the consultation, CRT included further restrictions that boaters were not consulted on, including presenting the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan as something that boaters must follow in order to avoid enforcement.
For more information about the lawfulness of the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan see