What to do if CRT refuses to renew your boat licence for 12 months

CRT’s new policy on boaters without home moorings effective from 1st May 2015 has already meant that many boaters have had renewal of their licence for 12 months refused and a six-month or three -month licence offered instead. We recommend that boaters in this position purchase the six or three month licence in time to get the prompt payment discount (if not paying by direct debit) and also make a formal complaint about the lack of warning, the lack of opportunity given to remedy the situation, and the retrospective application of this policy. Especially if you do not know what CRT’s sightings of your boat are before the date that the prompt payment discount ceases to apply (or you risk being forced to pay an unlawful late payment charge if paying by direct debit) we recommend taking the shorter licence and complaining.

We recommend making a Level 1 complaint using the example letter below. You will need to go through the letter carefully to fill in or change things that are left blank or marked X. You may need to change some of it if you haven’t already asked CRT for their sightings of your boat. You may still be able to get your boat sightings without making a Subject Access Request with about a 2-day turnaround from CRT by email to
kamooring@canalrivertrust.org.uk or customer.services@canalrivertrust.org.uk or the K&A enforcement supervisor sheila.shaw@canalrivertrust.org.uk or by ringing 0303 404 4040. We have had recent reports that CRT will now only provide boat sightings in response to a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 1998. This entitles you to have all the information any organisation holds about you and to have this corrected if there are errors. If you make a Subject Access Request we recommend you ask for all the information that CRT holds about you. CRT can lawfully charge you up to £10 for this. The time limit for CRT to respond to a Subject Access Request is 40 days.

We believe that if you take the 3 or 6 months licence, during that time CRT will expect you to travel in excess of a range of 15 to 20 miles otherwise they won’t renew it without a home mooring. This is of course unlawful, as the 1995 Act does not specify a minimum distance that must be travelled to comply.

In other words, what CRT will be looking for is that your boat has been sighted in two places during the 6 months that are more than at least 15 to 20 miles apart by water. CRT’s statement about this is below. If you have any doubt during that time about whether CRT has logged your boat, we would recommend sending evidence to CRT about your boat movements, ie a log plus evidence such as geo-tagged (or not) photos, 12-digit grid references, witness statements, or receipts for things like blacking where it’s clear the boat was there as well as you. If you dispute their sightings that you have requested now, you will need to send evidence to back up your own log.

CRT stated on 6th March that: “Following our recent communication, a number of boaters have asked for clarification of the legal requirement to cruise throughout the period of their licence and, in particular, what is the minimum distance that should be covered in order to comply with the Trust’s Guidance for Boaters without a Home Mooring.

We recognise that boaters want clarity over this. However the BW Act 1995 does not stipulate a minimum distance. It does set out the requirement to use the boat bona fide for navigation, and the Trust’s Guidance is our interpretation of this requirement.

Whilst this means that we cannot set a universal minimum distance for compliance, we can advise that it is very unlikely that someone would be able to satisfy us that they have been genuinely cruising if their range of movement is less than 15-20 miles over the period of their licence. In most cases we would expect it to be greater than this.

We will be advising those boaters without a home mooring whose range of movement falls short of this distance that their movement needs to increase or we may refuse to renew their licence.  Our statutory right to refuse to renew a licence arises from section 17 of the BW Act 1995 which states that we can refuse to issue a licence if we are not satisfied that a boat either has a home mooring or intends to continuously cruise.”

Below is the text of an example complaint. You can download it here Example complaint refusal to renew licence for 12 months

Denise Yelland
Head of Enforcement and Licensing
Canal & River Trust,
First Floor North,
Station House,
500 Elder Gate,
Milton Keynes MK9 1BB


Your Refs:

Sent by email to
denise.yelland@canalrivertrust.co.uk    paul.griffin@canalrivertrust.org.uk    ian.rogers@canalrivertrust.org.uk

Dear Ms Yelland


This is a Level 1 complaint in line with CRT’s complaints procedure. I am not satisfied with your letter of XX XX 2015, reference above.

CRT gave me absolutely no warning at all that you considered my cruising pattern was not meeting your requirements until XX XX 2015. My boat licence ends on XX XX 2015. This is less that X weeks notice. It is not acceptable that I was not informed sooner that you considered that my travel pattern was not meeting your requirements. To give me less than X weeks notice of this has deprived me of the opportunity to remedy this alleged defect in time to be able to renew my boat licence for 12 months. This has violated my rights under Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights because CRT has unfairly deprived me of the opportunity to renew my licence for 12 months without a fair trial and has failed to respect my home in threatening that my home will potentially be unlicensed after 6 months and therefore at risk of being seized under Section 8 of the British Waterways Act 1983. CRT’s normal practice is to send boaters without home moorings a series of warning letters over a period of time (Pre-CC1, CC1, CC2 and CC3) before refusing to renew or terminating the licence. In failing to do this, CRT has breached my legitimate expectations.

CRT has further breached my legitimate expectations in that the range of movement of my boat during the 2014-2015 licence is exactly the same as it was during the 2013-2014 licence. You also renewed my boat licence on the same basis in previous years between 20XX and 2014. You renewed my licence in 2014 and in previous years, which confirmed that you were satisfied that my boat would be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period of the licence in compliance with Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. Therefore I had a legitimate expectation that CRT would renew my licence in 2015 on the same basis.

You did not warn me that I was at risk of refusal to renew my licence. The only communication that I have received from you about this issue was a letter dated 2nd March 2015. This letter stated that “from 1 May 2015, when the licence for a boat that doesn’t have a home mooring comes up for renewal, we’ll look back at its cruising pattern to determine whether it’s appropriate to re-licence the boat again as a continuous cruiser”. The letter did not give any indication of whether CRT considered my cruising pattern to fall into either of the categories that would lead to the non-renewal of my licence. In addition, this letter stated that “the majority of boaters who declare that they will continuously cruise do what is required without any problem”. In addition the letter did not make it clear that the movements of my boat before 1st May 2015 would be taken into account when applying the new policy which the letter stated would be effective from 1st May 2015. To apply this policy to me retrospectively, when it is obviously not possible to remedy any past defect, is unjust. If you had informed me with adequate notice, that is, at the beginning of my licence period in XX 2014, that you required my boat movements to change in order for my licence to be renewed in XX 2015, I would have been able to remedy any defect in order to avoid a refusal to renew my boat licence for 12 months now.

Given that CRT and BW had renewed my boat licence every year since 20XX I had a legitimate expectation that the movements of my boat would not be deemed to fall into categories one or two detailed in your letter dated 2nd March 2015 as being non-compliant and I had every reason to assume that the movements of my boat would be considered to “do what is required without any problem” as the letter stated.

In addition I have not overstayed the 14 day limit in any one place during the year to XX XX 2015 and nor had I received any enforcement letters or patrol notices, which further confirms that you have breached my legitimate expectations that CRT will renew my boat licence for the full 12 months in 2015 as you and BW have done in the XX years since 20XX.

Given that I have not contravened the 14-day limit, I am further aggrieved because neither your letter of 2nd March nor your letter refusing to renew my licence for 12 months from XX 2015 have given me any indication of why you consider my boat movements do not meet your requirements. Further, you have not provided me with any information regarding what cruising pattern you consider is sufficient to meet your requirements. Your failure to do either of these things is contrary to one of the fundamental principles of English law that the law must be accessible, intelligible, clear and predictable, so that the citizen knows when his actions would be unlawful (see Moore v British Waterways [2013] EWCA Civ 73 paragraph 39 and Lord Bingham: The Rule of Law [2010]).

In addition, the letter draws conclusions about the movements of my boat that are incorrect because they are the result of errors and omissions in your boat sighting records. My cruising range over my licence year from 1st XX 2014 is not XX miles, it is XX miles. I travelled from XX, to XX. Please see the attached log, evidence and witness statements. I am therefore complying with both Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 and the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring.

The Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring states:

“What the law requires is that, if 14 days ago the boat was in neighbourhood A, by day 15 it must be in neighbourhood B or further afield. Thereafter, the next movement must be at least to neighbourhood C, and not back to neighbourhood A (with obvious exceptions such as reaching the end of a terminal waterway or reversing the direction of travel in the course of a genuine cruise).”

Since 1st XX 2014 I have travelled to XX places. The movements of my boat since 1st XX 2014 have been from A, to ?, to ?, to ? etc etc to N. (A being ________ and N being _________).

Therefore the movements of my boat have complied with and in fact have exceeded the requirements set out in the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring. I have not returned to place A from place B and I have travelled further afield than places B and C. The boat has not remained in any of these places for longer than 14 days, except when it was reasonable in the circumstances to stay longer. On the one occasion that I stayed longer than 14 days in one place, I emailed CRT informing you of my reasons for needing to do so. I did not receive a response from you to my email and therefore I assumed that it had been agreed that it was reasonable for me to stay longer on that occasion. Neither the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring nor Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 specifies that a particular distance is required to be travelled in order to comply. Therefore the boat is being used bona fide for navigation in compliance with Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995.

In the attached log I have corrected the errors in your sightings of my boat and I have added my own log.

You have failed to record the following journeys:

My journey to  _________ on XX XX XX
My journey to __________ on XX XX XX
My journey to  _________ on XX XX XX
My journey to __________ on XX XX XX

You have wrongly recorded my boat as being in ___________ on XXXXXX and XXXXXX when your recording of your sightings shows the boat at __________. This location is ____________. It is a different suburb/ town/ village from ____________.

You have wrongly recorded____________________

I am enclosing the following evidence ________________________

I am enclosing the following witness statements __________________________________

I have been very careful to comply with both the British Waterways Act 1995 and your own Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring, and your sudden and unexpected accusation that I am not complying and refusal to renew my licence for 12 months leaves me feeling targeted and harassed.

To remedy my complaint please do the following:

1. Renew the boat licence for my boat XXXX for a full 12 months starting on 1st XX 2015 and apply the Prompt Payment Discount.

2. Provide me with an explanation of why you did not give me adequate notice that you considered my cruising pattern was not meeting your requirements in time to remedy the alleged defect.

3. Correct your records of your sightings of my boat to include the information that I have provided in the attached log.

4. Withdraw your letter XXXX and mark it as created in error.

5. Cease and desist from your harassment of me.

6. Provide me with an apology in writing.

7. Provide me with a copy of all the information that CRT holds about me and my boat, including your records of your sightings of my boat and all associated SAP notepad notes including those recording your contact with me. For the avoidance of doubt, this is a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Thank you. I look forward to your reply to items 1-6 within 15 working days and item 7 within 40 days.

Yours sincerely

A. N. Boater
Paul Griffin, Enforcement Operations Manager
Ian Rogers, Head of Customer Service
MY LOCAL MP (See www.writetothem.com or http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ You don’t need to be registered to vote to contact an MP. If you don’t have an address, contact the MP for the place you are moored now. If you need a postcode, use the nearest Post office or pub).

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