If you were living on your boat on BW waterways on or before 25 October 1994, you may be protected from enforcement action by an Undertaking which BW made to Parliament during the passage of the 1995 British Waterways Act through Parliament.
The House of Commons Select Committee drafting the Act required BW to undertake not to take enforcement action against existing liveaboards on the grounds that they do not have a mooring. Breaching this undertaking would put BW in contempt of Parliament.
There are certain conditions that apply to this Undertaking. First, you must have been living on your boat on BW waterways on or before 25 October 1994 and your boat must not have changed ownership since then. Second, your boat must not at that date have been customarily used bona fide for navigation. Third, you must not have unreasonably refused the offer of a mooring. We believe that reasonable grounds for refusing to accept a mooring may include the lack of planning permission for residential use of that mooring. If BW has taken enforcement action against you for not complying with Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 Act, then you may be protected by this Undertaking. We have copied the text of this Undertaking below:
HOUSE OF COMMONS
BRITISH WATERWAYS BILL [HL]
UNDERTAKING AS TO
CERTAIN VESSELS WITHOUT PERMANENT MOORINGS
1 This undertaking shall have effect if the British
Waterways Bill becomes law containing the clause to which
the marginal note is “Conditions as to certificates and
licences” and shall apply to any vessel –
(a) which on the date of this undertaking (25th
October 1994) was on the inland waterways of the
Board without there being available for the vessel
(i) on those waterways, a long-term on-line
mooring for which the Board have issued or
are willing to issue a mooring permit; or
(ii) otherwise than on those waterways, a
permanent mooring or place where the
vessel could lawfully be kept; and
(b) which has not changed ownership since the date
of this undertaking.
not being a vessel which at that date was customarily
used bona fide for navigation without remaining in any
one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as
was reasonable in the circumstances.
2 Notwithstanding anything in the said clause the Board
shall not –
(a) refuse or withdraw a relevant consent in respect
of any vessel to which this undertaking applies on
the grounds that no mooring or other place where the
vessel can reasonably be kept and may lawfully be
left is available for the vessel; or
(b) serve a notice under the said clause in respect
of any vessel to which this undertaking applies
requiring the holder of the relevant consent in
respect of the vessel to secure the availability of
a mooring or place for the vessel, failing which the
consent will cease to have effect.
PROVIDED that nothing in this undertaking shall affect or
prejudice the right of the Board –
(i) to remove or require the removal of any vessel
which is causing any obstruction or danger to
navigation, or which is moored or left in
contravention of any private rights, or of any
statutory provision other than the said clause; or
(ii) t o refuse or withdraw a relevant consent or
serve any notice or take any other action in respect
of any vessel on any grounds, other than that no
mooring or place is available for the vessel.
3 This undertaking shall cease to apply to any vessel for
which a mooring or other place where the vessel. can
reasonably be kept and may lawfully be left has been
offered, whether by the board or others, if the holder of
the relevant consent has accepted or has unreasonably
refused such offer.
4 The Board will refer to the waterways ombudsman any
dispute as to, whether the holder of a relevant consent
has unreasonably refused any such offer of a mooring or
place, and will abide by the decision of the waterways
You can read or download a copy of all the Undertakings BW made to Parliament here. Most of the undertakings relating to “unauthorised houseboats” were made earlier and became less necessary after Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 Act was passed. The Undertaking As To Certain Vessels Without Permanent Moorings can be found on pages 69 to 71 of Volume 2.