Letters to Robin

We thought it would be useful to have the whole of this sorry tale, told in installments on this site in one place.
if you want to know what causes congestion along the Kennet and Avon, read on, if you want to know how dismissively the chief executive treats genuine concerns from a large portion of his customers, read on….

To: robinevans@britishwatersways.co.uk; Robin Evans
Subject: FAO Robin Evans: Is there a genuine problem with mooring in the Bath to Bradford-on-Avon area

Dear Robin,

I am writing regarding the latest round of consultations and in particular the proposed new arrangements for mooring in the Bath to Bradford-on-Avon areas.

As a boater who has cruised this stretch of canal for many years (longer than your tenure at British Waterways), I am at a loss to see what these arrangements are hoping to achieve.

As far as I can see, this stretch of canal is working very well and has a rich and vibrant mix of moored, cruising and holiday boaters. Yes, from time to time, they may rub up against eachother causing minor frictions but this is only to be expected from such a well-used part of the canal.

It would appear that the proposals in your consultation are intended to remove the cruising boats from this stretch of canal. Why so? They provide the heart and soul of this canal and will be sorely missed by the vistors to the towpath who take pleasure in them on a daily basis.

My concern is that you and your organization are being influenced by a small and vocal section of the community around the canal who have a dislike of lifestyles which are dissimilar to their own. As such their views are not representative of the majority of canal visitors/nearby residents (a massive and silent majority) and should be viewed with caution.

Additionally, I wonder if the ever-growing hire boat sector has an axe to grind here. I wonder if these companies are talking up problems in this area in order to secure greater and inordinate space for their craft at the expense of legitimately licensed private boaters.

I think it is crucial that BW proceed very carefully regarding the situation is in Bath area. Is there a genuine problem here or is there something which is actually very, very good. Something that BW should be proud of and protect from self-interested groups who seek to harm it. I would suggest that this stretch of canal represents a great working model of how canal use should be.

Please can you write to me to detail point by point what you are intending to achieve by these new proposals outlined for mooring in the Bath to Bradford area.

Yours sincerely, Batman

From: Robin.Evans@britishwaterways.co.uk
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 2009 17:56:55 +0000
Subject: RE: FAO Robin Evans: Is there a genuine problem with mooring in the Bath to Bradford-on-Avon area?

Dear Batman,

Thank you for your e-mail of the 3 November.

We have launched a moorings consultation that we hope will result in a consensus on a fair set of rates and regulations for managing moorings on our waterways. If there was universal contentment with the existing arrangements, we would not be seeking a change. The reality is that a lot of people – boaters, neighbours, councils – have all expressed concern about different aspects of the current system on different parts of the network.

It will be important for you to contribute to the consultation and ensure that your view that the current arrangements in Bradford-on-Avon work well. We will also learn whether others agree or disagree.

I assure you, and the consultation document is very clear, that we welcome and encourage cruising boats. I agree boats that are moving are one of the great attractions of the waterways.

I should point out that the hire boat fleet is not growing. There are 40% fewer hire boats than there were 20 years ago. Hire boats play an important role in attracting new people to the waterways and they make a substantial contribution through their licence fees which are much higher than individual licences.

The whole point of our proposed mooring strategies is to establish evidence and create a plan that proves the best balance between differing legitimate interests. I hope you will support this and contribute to the consultation.

Yours sincerely, Robin.

Robin Evans, Chief Executive
ABC | 64 Clarendon Road | Watford | Herts | WD17 1DA | Tel: 01923 201286 | Fax: 01923 201455 |

To: robin.evans@britishwaterways.co.uk
Subject: RE: FAO Robin Evans: Is there a genuine problem with mooring in the Bath to Bradford-on-Avon area?
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 2009 23:31:50 +0000

Dear Robin,

thank you so much for your prompt reply to my previous email.

I would also like to thank you for your invitation to take part in the consultation. One can only hope that it will result in the preservation of the culture of cruising boats both in the Bath area and nationally. I am sure that the legal framework that is so clearly set out in the 1995 Waterways Act 17 (3) protects those who have chosen to undertake this way of life and that BW have a responsibility to ensure that adequate mooring is accessible to such boaters and their vessels. At the risk of repeating points in my previous e-mail, I think that the vibrant culture you have helped maintain amongst cruising boats is to be commended and will form part of your personal legacy from your tenure at British Waterways.

I am confident you would share my concern that some of the proposals to limit mooring (in the Bath and other trial areas) represent an impractical and immoral attempt to limit legitimately licensed cruising boat’s access to vital services that they have come to rely on over many years.

On your point of the reduction of the hire boat fleet by 40%, I must admit this comes as a surprise to me. The general perception in the Devizes to Bath area is that the fleet has expanded vastly over the last decade.

Amongst those who boat the stretch regularly it is felt that each summer there is a glut of hire boats which are, on occasion crewed by inexperienced and inept parties who cause congestion at locks, are rowdy, speed and leave litter. Experienced cruisers have become tolerant of this phenomena and will even come to the aid of such parties when they get themselves into difficulties.

Can you confirm that the 40% figure you use reflects this area? Is the 40% a national figure? If it does not reflect the growth/decline of the hire boat fleet in the Devizes to Bath area, please could you let me know a figure that does.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warmest Regards Batman

From: Robin.Evans@britishwaterways.co.uk
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2009 16:10:24 +0000
Subject: RE: FAO Robin Evans: Is there a genuine problem with mooring in the Bath to Bradford-on-Avon area?


Apologies for the delay in replying to your previous e-mail.

The 40% statistic is a national one.  The K&A has gone against this trend and you are correct that there has been a significant increase here – a doubling in fact in the number of hireboats based between the bottom of Devizes locks and Bristol from 36 in 2003 to 78 this year.  Reasons for this?  Probably because it is close to the biggest domestic market for boating holidays, i.e. London & SE, and the fact that people can visit Bath adds particular appeal for overseas visitors.  Plus of course its reputation as a particularly attractive waterway that has had more than average media coverage over the past decade.

I apologise if my original e-mail was mis-leading and I hope this clarifies the point.


To: robin.evans@britishwaterways.co.uk
Subject: RE: FAO Robin Evans: Is there a genuine problem with mooring in the Bath to Bradford-on-Avon area?
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2009 17:42:15 +0000

Dear Robin,

thank you so much for your illuminating reply.

I think that the fact that BW have presided over a more than 100% increase in hire-boating between Devizes and Bath in 6 years goes a long way to explaining congestion at locks, and other perceived problems on our otherwise tranquil and beautiful canal. As much as I welcome visitors to this canal from the wider community, this seems like a poorly managed expansion of it’s use by inexperienced hire-boaters who have no investment in it other than as play-thing. The flow of drunken ‘stags’ and ‘hens’ zigzagging their way down the navigation in the last few years is a sorry sight to see, unattractive and often dangerous. Surely BW should be encouraging the maintaining of a more balanced spread of the hire-boat fleet nationally and attempting to arrest the 40% decline of hire boats countrywide. This would go a long way to achieving their own goals in terms of reducing boating in the western K & A. It would support employment on the network generally and would demonstrate responsible and successful business practice. Please can you assure me that the current level of hire-boat fleet in this area represents a high watermark and will not be exceeded. Indeed perhaps even a reduction should be considered if any local outfit should move or cease trading?

Robin, I have to say there is general dismay about the letting of wharf at Bradford-on-Avon to yet another hire-boat firm. It is understood that they will operate the most trying of all hire-boats, the dreaded day-hire. More weekly or bi-weekly hires would be bad enough (particularly in the light of the figures you have provided) but the day-hire means crews who in general have never had the time to learn to manage their vessels safely or with consideration to other boaters.

It is also widely believed by both boaters and trust members that the new tenants do not intend to operate the historic dry-dock associated with the wharf at Bradford. At the most recent user-group meeting in Devizes, the issue of the lack of docking facilities was raised with particular reference to this dry-dock being lost. Your staff assured the meeting that the dock was to continue to be operated as a resource for boaters but I have recently heard from a senior trust member that this is not the case. Can you shed any light on this?

Warmest Regards, Batman



We don’t share your views on hire boats and I am not prepared to give my assurance on future numbers.


I am advised the new tenants at Bradford on Avon will offer the dry dock for serviced repairs.  We are not aware of any assurances given in respect of it being available for ‘day hire’.



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