On 11th November CRT published the second of four planned three-monthly reports on the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan. The report states that “Between 1 May and 31 October 2014 169 boats have attracted the attention of enforcement officer for not complying with the Kennet & Avon Local Plan”. What the report fails to mention is that the K&A Local Plan is a voluntary agreement between boaters and CRT, and therefore does not require compliance. The Plan sets requirements that go beyond what is stated in Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995. Rob Dean, a member of the Local Waterway Partnership which drafted the Towpath Mooring Plan that was consulted on in 2013, stated categorically at the K&A Users Forum on 23rd April 2014 that the Local Plan is a “voluntary agreement”.
The report also shows that two-thirds of the boats seen between Bath and Foxhangers have home moorings or are kept out of the water, and that boat sightings have been carried out at intervals of greater than 14 days. To record accurately the movements of boats that cruise every 14 days or less requires a sighting frequency of at least twice that rate, that is, at least every 7 days. This is further evidence that CRT’s boat sighting system is not fit for purpose.
As even more boaters report receiving enforcement letters with unfounded allegations based on inaccurate records of their boat movements, CRT enforcement staff are re-writing the Local Plan on the hoof. One boater received a letter from Rachel Hayward, Boating Co-ordinator, demonstrating that CRT had clearly failed to record many of the places the boat had been moored in or travelled through.
Not only was the threatening letter sent because of inaccurate boat sightings, but Ms Hayward had unilaterally re-written the Local Plan, claiming that the Plan “does explain that we expect you to travel equally through the neighbourhoods in a linear way”. This is not the case. The Local Plan states that boats must “Spread their mooring pattern evenly across 14 different ‘neighbourhoods’ (see map) covering a range of at least 20km”. The FAQs state “The range does not mean that boats only need to travel 20km, but rather that they can restrict their journey to travelling evenly between ‘neighbourhoods’ within a 20km section of the local plan area”. There is no reference to a requirement to travel in a “linear way” and there is no restriction on boats turning round. Nonetheless, Ms Hayward’s letter went on to state that “We would expect you now to move on to Hilperton and steadily east to Foxhangers”.
There is no requirement in Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act to travel in a “linear way” or indeed to follow any specific cruising pattern beyond the 14-day limit, or to travel any minimum distance in order to comply with the law. Indeed, in 2011 when BW published the revised Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring following the judgement in BW v Davies, it removed the words “progressive journey”.
The report includes the threatening footnote “For boats already in the enforcement process that take a winter mooring, further enforcement action on these boats is suspended at this time but may be continued at the end of the winter mooring period”. This is unlawful. Once a boater has remedied any alleged non-compliance with the law, the enforcement action should be dropped because the matter has been disposed of by the boater’s compliance. Section 17(4) of the British Waterways Act 1995 gives the boater 28 days to remedy any defect in compliance. If the boater later fails to comply with the law again, enforcement action should to be opened as a new case.
If you receive any communication from CRT accusing you of overstaying or not travelling through enough neighbourhoods, we also recommend making a formal complaint to CRT. This includes making a complaint if you have moved to a different place within the same “neighbourhood”, because CRT does not have the legal power to define “place” or to extend the definition of “place” to imply a wider area such as a “neighbourhood”. See http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/what-to-do-if-crt-tell-you-your-boat-has-not-been-sighted-in-enough-neighbourhoods-in-three-months/
If CRT imposes an unlawful “extended stay charge” or threatens to do so, we recommend that you make a formal complaint. See http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/what-to-do-if-crt-tell-you-that-you-have-incurred-a-25-extended-stay-charge/
If you have received a phone call, text or email from CRT and you consider this to be harassment, we recommend that you ask CRT to take your number or email address off their database.
The report stated that only 6 boaters have requested CRT’s records of its sightings of their boat; to request these without making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your boat name and number, or ring the main switchboard on 0303 303 0404. Or write to Sheila Shaw, Enforcement Supervisor, Canal & River Trust, The Dock Office, Commercial Rd, Gloucester GL1 2EB.
You can read the report here 7707-k-and-a-local-plan-aug-oct-summary-report