Information release throws light on changes to enforcement process for boats without a home mooring

In a response to a Freedom of Information request CRT has released information about the changes to the enforcement process against boats without a home mooring which it has announced will be applied to all continuous cruisers from 1st May 2015. Since November 2013 these changes have so far only applied to boaters taking out their first licence without a home mooring.

CRT announced on February 13th that from 1st May it will refuse to re-license all boats without a home mooring that “don’t move … far enough or often enough” to meet its Guidance for Boaters without a Home Mooring – unless they take a permanent mooring. The information released gives us some idea of how these changes to the enforcement process will work.

The renewal notice for boats whose licence renewal has been refused unless they take a mooring will be coded “home mooring required” and the code HMR will be added to their account to prevent their renewal from being processed without a mooring and prevent them from taking a winter mooring.

The standard letters sent to new continuous cruisers are the CCNEW1 “welcome” letter (which makes you feel very unwelcome); the amber letter which we assume is the CCNEW2; the amber plus letter and the red letter which we assume are the CCNEW3 and CCNEW4. The amber letter puts a boater in the enforcement process; this is reviewed 2 months before the licence is due to expire and on review, extenuating circumstances are considered. We know of a number of boaters who have received a CCNEW4 preventing the renewal of their licence for 12 months without a mooring and only approving renewal for 6 months while CRT continues “to monitor your cruising pattern to give you a further opportunity to meet your obligations under the legislation and the terms and conditions of your licence”. We do not yet know of anyone who has had their licence renewal refused outright unless they take a mooring.

Distance travelled over the past year appears to be the criteria used to decide whether to renew or to refuse a licence without a home mooring. If a boat has travelled less than 5km (3.1 miles) then renewal will be refused, but it is not clear over what time period (three months, six months or 12 months). It looks like 20km (12.5 miles) is the point at which CRT will not refuse to renew a licence without a home mooring, but again it is not clear whether this applies to boats that have travelled between two points at least 20km apart over the previous 12 months or whether CRT is targeting boats that travel less than 20km every 3 months or every 6 months. Page 52 of the document below refers to boats that have cruised more than 20km in the past 6 months being subject to review as to whether they are still required to be in the enforcement process.

For example, the information released shows that a boat licensed from 1st October 2013 that travelled 20km up to 13th November 2013 but only travelled 1km and back between 14th November 2013 and 27th February 2014 was being monitored with a note to review the case in a month’s time, presumably to see how far the boat had travelled and whether there were enough sightings to make a decision to escalate or drop the enforcement action or to keep monitoring the boat. It is clear that in some cases CRT considers that it has insufficient sightings of the boat to decide whether to escalate enforcement or to remove the boat from the enforcement process. This makes it even more important for boaters to challenge any errors or gaps in CRT’s sightings of your boat.

It looks as though CRT has been carrying out daily boat sightings in some parts of London, presumably with the use of enforcement volunteers. The template for overstaying reminder emails to boaters in London suggests that CRT has dropped the use of the word “place” which is the word used in the 1995 British Waterways Act, and is not using the word “neighbourhood” either. The standard email refers to exceeding 14 days in “an area” while the standard text message says “in the same locality for over 14 days”. The use of the words neighbourhood, area and locality all unlawfully widen the definition of “place” to mean a wider area than a town, village, hamlet, suburb of a city or geographical feature. The implication of this is that CRT is arbitrarily setting an unlawful minimum distance between “places” and boaters who comply with the law by travelling to a different town, village or hamlet after 14 days are being considered by CRT to have overstayed in one place.

CRT has changed the wording of its enforcement letters to warn boaters that even if their licence is renewed, the boat will continue to be in the enforcement process: see page 77. It is doing the same to boaters who are in the enforcement process who take winter moorings. This is so that CRT does not have to close the enforcement case when the licence is renewed or when the boater takes a winter mooring. If an enforcement case is closed and the boat comes to the attention of the enforcement team again, a new enforcement case has to be opened and the process has to start from the beginning. This change will mean that boaters will reach the end of the enforcement process faster and there is more likelihood that a Section 8 notice will be served on the boat. It is unlawful for CRT to keep a boat in the enforcement process when it has renewed the licence, because Section 17(3) (c) (ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 states that” the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel to which the application relates will be used bona fide for navigation…etc”. In other words, the issue or renewal of a licence means that CRT is satisfied that the boater will comply with the law and there is no reason for the boat to be in the enforcement process.

Page 57 of the information states that for boats in the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan area, once a boat that has received three 14-day reminders it will enter the enforcement process and a CC1 will be served. However on page 81 this is contradicted by a statement that boats that have had three 14-day reminders will be served with a Pre-CC1. This demonstrates that, contrary to the repeated denials of CRT’s Matthew Symonds, the K&A Interim 12-month Local Plan sets requirements that are more stringent than the national Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring.

Page 71 refers to changes to the enforcement process for unlicensed liveaboard boats. All unlicensed boats will now be served with an UNLIC1 if they can be identified, rather than an LA1. CRT’s explanation to its staff for this is that it is not possible to tell whether an unlicensed boat is someone’s home unless the boater contacts them. If there is no contact with the boater after 14 days the boat will be served with an LA1&2. The flow chart on page 73 gives a partial explanation of the enforcement process for unlicensed liveaboard boats. This shows that the later part of the enforcement process has been subcontracted out to Shoosmiths, CRT’s solicitors, who now appear to serve all enforcement letters after CRT has served the CC3 or LA3 which contain the Section 8 and 13 notices. It appears that these recent changes have also made the enforcement process faster.

The information provided also refers to a list of boats on the K&A with special requirements including “long-term approved extended overstays over 3 months”. Also provided is information about the CRT’s recently established process for agreeing “reasonable adjustments” under the Equality Act 2010 to the enforcement process, for boaters with disabilities. CRT has also released a copy of a recently developed checklist used by enforcement officers to be completed before instructing Shoosmiths to take enforcement action against any boat which is someone’s home, to demonstrate “that our actions are proportionate, lawful, accountable and necessary”. This checklist includes questions about whether CRT has provided all the information that a boater would need in order to comply with the law; whether the personal circumstances of the boater have been taken into account before proceeding to court action; whether the issue can be resolved without recourse to legal action, and whether there is evidence that the boater is taking steps to remedy the situation. This checklist requires the enforcement officer to record whether the boater has any disabilities, or ongoing health problems requiring treatment at a specific place, and whether there are exceptional circumstances that would make it unreasonable for CRT to continue with enforcement action at the present time.

You can read the information provided here FOI response changes to CC enforcement process Feb 2015

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One Response to “Information release throws light on changes to enforcement process for boats without a home mooring”

  1. j smyth MonsterID Icon j smyth says:

    I used to be a member of the ‘Canal and River Trust’ but withdrew my subscription a while ago as i was hearing things about the Management Structure and some decisions that were being taken.after seeing a Documentary about what is happening to some of the people who live on the waterways i now know i was justified.I would just say to the people who run the trust and especially Mathew Symonds..who do you think you are! the arrogance is laughable.who are you to make rules up as you please without any are a joke