The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) is a volunteer organisation founded in Reading in 2009 that campaigns and provides advice for itinerant boat dwellers – “Bargee Travellers” – on Britain’s inland and coastal waterways. This includes anyone whose home is a boat and who does not have a permanent mooring for their boat with planning permission for residential use.
The NBTA is an organisation open to all and is run by and extends a welcome to those who live on their boats and travel, 12 months a year as their way of life. NBTA members have made a choice to live on a boat as opposed to bricks and mortar but this choice is regularly made for them by the ever increasing cost of housing.
Our contact details are on the Contacts page.
The NBTA is not a law firm and we do not purport to be lawyers. Our legal resources are provided “as-is” and without warranty or liability.
What we do
The NBTA campaigns and provides advice and casework support, including onward referral to specialist agencies, by and for itinerant boat dwellers on the UK’s inland and coastal waterways.
The NBTA seeks to represent the interests of all itinerant boat dwellers in respect of upholding our chosen way of life. The NBTA welcomes participants irrespective of location and also welcomes contact from other boating interest groups.
The NBTA seeks to uphold the rights of all Bargee Travellers including recognition as a protected minority group both in law and in society. Following from recognition in law grows a range of rights all too regularly trodden underfoot by local and central Government. The NBTA engages in lobbying central and local Government to improve conditions for Bargee Travellers.
The NBTA has a small team of Volunteer Caseworkers who assist individuals to deal with enforcement action by navigation and other authorities, including Court action to remove their homes, or denial of services like GP registration, welfare benefits or school enrolment.
Anything discussed with Volunteer Caseworkers is kept confidential unless agreed by the Client. The Volunteer Caseworker group may discuss individual cases, but only anonymously, without using names, to inform Caseworkers about general trends and to highlight what navigation and other authorities are doing .
If you need assistance to deal with waterway enforcement or denial of services, please contact the NBTA.
Some examples of what the NBTA has achieved
The NBTA has successfully influenced the policies of navigation and other authorities, especially regarding rights under the Equality Act 2010. In 2013, NBTA members with disabilities pioneered the exercise of their right to reasonable adjustments to Canal & River Trust’s (CRT) enforcement policy regarding boaters without a permanent mooring: they secured an agreement to moor for 14 days on 48-hour visitor moorings, which are purpose-built and therefore have better access for mobility scooter users. In 2014 the NBTA started a campaign to stop CRT evicting elderly, disabled and ill boaters. This was widely taken up and resulted in CRT employing a Welfare Officer. We helped to write the job description: the remit includes ensuring that CRT complies with the Equality Act.
After a seven-year campaign by the NBTA, boat dwellers were included for the first time in local authority accommodation needs assessments in the Housing and Planning Act 2016; in 2019 we published the Best Practice Guide for Boat Dweller Accommodation Needs Assessments. We also secured amendments and Undertakings to the Environment Agency (EA) Inland Waterways Order 2010 and the Middle Level Act 2018 in favour of boat dwellers, and contributed to the pioneering recognition by Oxford City Council in 2021 of boats as affordable housing. Also in 2021, a complaint by the NBTA led to the ending of the EA’s contract with a private company to enforce £150 daily mooring charges.
In 2012 the NBTA secured an undertaking from the Waterways Minister that the transfer of British Waterways to CRT in 2012 would include a seat for an itinerant liveaboard boater on the CRT’s Navigation Advisory Group. In 2015 and 2019 NBTA complaints ensured that boaters sanctioned by restricted 6-month licences could vote in the CRT Council elections; in 2020 an NBTA activist was elected to one of the Private Boating seats on the CRT governing Council.
From 2016 to 2018, we campaigned for less onerous travel requirements for itinerant boat dwellers with school age children on CRT waterways, with partial success. In 2020 a boat dweller won their appeal in the Upper Tribunal against the refusal of Housing Benefit for the boat licence fee. The NBTA assisted the appellant and handled the referral to Advocate for representation by a barrister. The decision has since been applied to Housing Costs in Universal Credit.
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