Author Archive

Bathampton, the plot thickens.

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Well, boaties and other interested parties, we have another pile of stuff to sift through and publish, a series of email exchanges between Keith Rossiter of Bathampton Parish Council and Sally Ash of British Waterways.

Mr Rossiter really does have some thistles in delicate places as his frothing at the mouth rantings include such gems as;

[liveaboard boaters] freely dispose of human waste and every other manner of trash in whatever location they choose

I have put the whole exchange here;
Correspondence between Sally Ash and Keith Rossiter

and the minutes of another meeting, this time on 10th September, follow up to the meetings and plans in our earlier report on thr Outer Zone.

It’s a bit of a mess this document so for your edification and amusement here’s a choice snippet or two from Keith, our guardian of propriety;

“Mooring situation is OK apart from Bathampton Bridge to Swing Bridge where it is a real mess of hardcore offenders

outbreak of chickens being kept by canal boats, Latest offender has set-up camp just west of Candy’s bridge – but there are several spots along the canal where this is now taking place. They keep them under nets pinned on to the towpath grass verge”

“reported vagrants using a disused brick building adjacent to Folly Foot Bridge”

“observed Saturday evening – 1700 approx. – family/ies with picnic tables, drink & fire (?) + scrambling bike using the field as a race track”

“I think it is important we stay focussed on the immediate problems of Claverton and Bathampton…. …At our last meeting, we gave a few words of encouragement to your enforcement team… …When we look at the mooring situation between the Swing Bridge and Candy’s Bridge, too many of the hard-core offenders are creeping back in. We really do need to get control of the situation properly and as you know the local representatives are eager to play their part

My italics

I really like that ‘family with picnic tables’ Keith, can’t have that in old blighty, what, families with picnic tables, whatever next? Maybe vagrants in a disused building – love the language Keith, I haven’t heard the term vagrant in many a year, doesn’t it have a precise definition, did you check whether they had 12 pence in their pockets or offer them a train ticket?  an “outbreak of chickens” – priceless, is that like measles?

And on the other side, we finally have an out-in-the-open, tellit how she sees it polemic from Sally Ash, glamorous sidekick of Simon ‘Satan’ Salem.

Sally Ash to Keith Rossiter

“The short term [element]* is to address the Parish Council’s immediate concerns on overstaying. On this we appear to be making good progress” *in the Outer Zone plans

“Living afloat is being perceived as an attractive and economical choice by increasing numbers of people, particularly on the edge of our towns and cities. Bath is no exception and we have been concerned for some time at the number of boats that have simply ‘put down roots’ without our permission along the towpath between Bath and Bradford-on-Avon.

My colleagues in our regional offices in Gloucester responsible for this length have been trying within their available resources to take effective enforcement action against these boats.”

And finally, unable to control himself, our Keith really goes to town in the minutes of the meeting;

minutes of the meeting between British Waterways and Bathampton, Claverton and Ian Dewey

Extract from the minutes written up  by Keith Rossiter

“Parish councils’ perspective on canal issues.

The popular western end of the the canal form Bath to Bradford-on-Avon has suffered ‘ neglect, abuse and inappropriate development‘ , principally from a minority of liveaboard’ boaters who by default, have come to believe that they have the right to:-

  • ‘liveaboard’ without a residential license, planning permission or the payment of local council tax
  • moor long-term in one location or ‘bridge hop’ in an attempt to masquerade as continuous cruisers.
  • treat the towpath and adjacent land as their own back garden, workshop or farmyard.
  • freely dispose of human waste and every other manner of trash in whatever location they choose
  • threaten anyone who chooses to call attention to the situation.

There is particular concern about the the untidy and ever expanding development on the western bank of the canal near Claverton – Watership Farm (“Digger Smith’s“ property)

Now come along Keith, there’s some pretty strong accusations in there.

freely dispose of human waste” is a fairly heinous crime in anyone’s book and a criminal offence of great interest to the Environment Agency. Strange – you are prepared to make this kind of statement in a cosy coterie of your buddies – why haven’t you taken this to the Environment Agency, who have very strong powers to act? Is is perhaps because this accusation is unfounded? “

Threaten anyone who choose to call attention to the situation” – Last time I heard, threatening behaviour was a criminal offence, why have you made no complaint to the police about this?

Again because it is an unfounded slur, slung out in the hope of painting a picture that might be believable to a couple of officers from British Waterways fresh from the corporate towers of Watford but bearing little reality to the real world.

Now we know a little of how Keith feels – in public mind, in the face of warnings from Sally Ash that “The information contained in this email may be subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000”

So how does he respond to a concerned letter from a former member of the Bathampton Parish Council?

Quote from the letter;

I was asking xxxxxxx recently about issues which I believe have arisen
with canal dwellers, the local community and the BWB and she said that
you may be the person to communicate with. I have no direct knowledge
of the issues but over the years, I have come to know some of the
canal dwellers well, particularly in connection with issues such as
the resurrection of the Link Road a few years ago where they have been
very supportive.

The reason for my contacting you is to suggest that in finding a way
forward in resolving these issues, it may be helpful to have an avenue
open for a dialogue with responsible members amongst the canal
dwellers.

Keith’s response;

Regarding canal issues, I am not sure that I am the person to
give you a full picture, as really this is very much a matter between
British Waterways and the boat owners
, but I can give you information which
may help yourself and Peter.   I guess there are two issues – one of mooring
zones and the other of parking – and I have separated these in my reply.

BRITISH WATERWAYS

Bathampton Parish Council is aware that British Waterways is about to
publish a national consultation document on future mooring policy. We
understand that all interested parties, including boat owners, will have the
opportunity to comment on any proposed changes. Until we see the document,
we are not clear how this proposed new policy will affect canal moorings in
Bathampton Parish, but we do support British Waterways in their efforts to
bring clarity to mooring policy.

We know that many boaters have long-standing ties with Bathampton and can
understand their concern
. The Parish Council has no control over British
Waterways licence conditions, but if changes are being proposed by British
Waterways, we will do our best to ensure that there is adequate
consultation.

If there are to be changes in mooring policy, licence conditions or stricter
enforcement, we will urge British Waterways to consider individual cases and
allow an adequate period of transition before the new policy is fully
implemented.

We expect the proposed national mooring policy to be published in November.
Once boat owners have had an opportunity to study this document, they should
make their views known to British Waterways and if they think it would be
useful, copy the Parish Council so that we can be aware of specific
concerns.

Again my italics

Now this man could go far, with dissembling skills of this magnitude there must be a place for him in more rarified political halls than Bathampton Parish Council.

Demanding money with menaces

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Thought demanding money with menaces was a criminal offence? Well, not if perpetrated by British Waterways apparently.

It is not so long since the recent reception of 200 threatening letters to boaters from British Waterways and now the winter mooring shop is open.

How much you ask?

£218 per month …why £218? £200? 210?.. anyway… £218 per month for a 58 foot boat so the total for 6 months of not being hassled by the Enforcement Team (we need a theme tune) £1300.

That is nearly twice as much as the cost of a licence – a licence which includes the right to moor anywhere for 14 days including the now ‘pay for’ Dundas and Darlington Wharf, now imaginatively called ‘Walcot’ by BW.

Bradford Wharf let

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

We received this this morning from one of our correspondents;

Just wanted to pass on the news that the Bradford on Avon Wharf has been sold/leased to another hire boat company “Oxford Boats”, at least that the latest update that BW gave Granny Mo. It certainly demonstrates BW’s bias towards marketing the canal as a tourist industry, and goes some way to undermine their argument in evicting local liveaboards that this end of the K&A is congested and overcrowded. Although it also explains why they’re evicting us.

Which gives a lie to Sally Ash’s statement that BW wanted to keep it as a boatyard, pisses all over B-o-A town’s council desire to keep a working presence, ‘working town’ – yeh? In your dreams.

And the last publicly available dry dock bites the dust.

I, for one, would like to say a big Thank You to Ben and Granny Mo and Richard before them for their wonderful efforts to keep this going for the community and a big Boo Hiss to BW for putting them out of business.

And if Oxfordshire Boats think they can make a profit with BW’s current policies…..

Or can we smell the sweet smell of corruption, backhanders and sweeteners?

What’s happened to the £250,000 estimate for repairs to the wharf walls, reputed to be in any lease offered to Ben?

Latest reports reveal that Oxfordshire Boats have no interest in keeping the dry dock open and are intending to moor 14 mostly day boats at the wharf, preventing winding and generally causing chaos and visually detracting from this much loved traditional location. They are also intending to open a chandlery. Though why anyone would buy anything other than emergency supplies from a canalside chandlery when the internet provides many alternative sources at much better prices.

O well, at the moment i find it difficult to find much sympathy for this company, likely to be the latest business driven out of business by British Waterways mis-management.

£152,500 – The cost of Enforcement

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Recently one of our correspondents, Dave Thomas, sent the following FOI Act request to BW;

I would like please, figures for the yearly cost of the BW enforcement team for the south west region, to include;

the cost of executive management of the team
salaries of permanent staff (as a total),
the number of such permanent enforcement officers in the south west region
salaries or wages of people employed to cycle taking boat numbers (as a total),
the cost of administration and back office support and
expenses directly attributable to the team, such as tyvek envelopes, cost of cycles, lifejackets, hand held computers and maintenance of the database.

I would like the figures for the most recent year available and I would also like, please, the budgetary allowances for the year 2009-2010.

and received the following reply from Sarina Young, Sarina.Young@britishwaterways.co.uk who deals with all FOI requests;

I am writing further to my acknowledgement to you below and your request for information on 23 September 2009.
I am now able to answer your request for information and will do so in the order you have requested the information for clarity:
Cost of the Executive management of the team
I am not clear on what you consider to be ‘executive management’. However, in order to answer this request we have made calculations based on the percentage of time spent by the direct line managers of the South West enforcement team. This equates to £14,000 for 2008/09.
the total combined salary of permanent staff
The total combined salary of permanent staff in the South West enforcement team was £132,000 for 2008/09.
the number of permanent Enforcement Officers in the South West
There are four permanent staff in the South West enforcement team who are employed as ‘Enforcement Officers’.
the total combined salary of people employed to cycle and take boat numbers
The total combined salary of people employed to cycle and take boat numbers is £30,000 (these salaries are also included in the figure given to point 2 above)
the cost of administration and back office support
The answer to this request is based on an approximate calculation of time currently spent on enforcement administration support by the waterway office administration staff. There are no staff directly dedicated to the enforcement team and the time that is spent by these staff varies from day to day and week to week. However, we have calculated an approximate figure would have been in the region of £5,000 for 2008/09.
cost of expenses directly attributable to the team, such as tyvek envelopes, cost of cycles, lifejackets, hand held computers and maintenance of the database
We are unable to give exact figures for this request as certain items such as the hand held computers and cycles we are unable to obtain exact value of for the year. However, we have calculated that the cost of directly attributable expenses would have been in the region of £1,500 for 2008/09. The database you refer to is a centrally maintained business database and is not specific to enforcement procedures; I am unable to include this figure in my response as the cost of maintaining the enforcement processes within the database is minimal but not separate.

Thus the cost of the enforcement team to the boaters for the year 2009-9 is a whopping £152,500. Or, to put it another way, with the average boat license costing £600 the same as 255 boat licences.

From the horses mouth

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Our friends at Hush-Hush have sent these documents because they care;

Look out for the Fox.

REVIEW OF BW’S ONLINE MOORING POLICY (England & Wales) 2009

BW RESIDENTIAL MOORING POLICY – DRAFT 11 August 2009

Kinda takes your breath away, no? Our lords and masters are really out of control now.

Interesting line in the Online Mooring Policy document, about ‘complaints from local residents’ (near the end – stay awake there). We need to find out more about this, we also need to get some ‘affirmations from local residents’ such as the 900 word petition recently collected from the towpath in Bath.

We expect these documents to be the subject of BW copyright action so copy and survive – get them out there as fast as possible.