An Open Letter to General Election Candidates

Dear General Election Candidates,

If you are elected on June 8th, please would you commit to improving the way boat dwellers without permanent moorings are treated? It is vitally important that boat dwellers without permanent moorings who abide by the law should not lose their homes.

On Canal & River Trust’s waterways, since 2015 the Trust has been carrying out a punitive enforcement drive against boat dwellers without permanent moorings that forces them to travel distances that make access to their jobs and their children’s education extremely difficult and puts their homes at risk of being seized and removed by the charity. The British Waterways Act 1995 entitles people to use and live on boats without a permanent mooring, provided that they use their boats ‘bona fide for navigation’ without staying continuously for more than 14 days in the same place. There is no requirement in the Act to travel a specified distance or not to return to a place. Boat dwellers are happy to comply with these genuine legal requirements.

The effect of the charity’s change in policy is that boat dwellers who have had the same travel pattern for many years and whose licences had been renewed without any issues going back up to 20 years, are now being told that their annual travel patterns no longer comply with the law, even though the law has not changed since 1995. Canal & River Trust’s destructive enforcement policy needs to be stopped and this unaccountable charity needs to be reined in by whoever forms the new Government.

On rivers under the control of other navigation authorities such as the Environment Agency and the Cam Conservancy, boat dwellers without permanent moorings are also being threatened with eviction. This is happening despite the Public Right of Navigation and the long-established legitimate expectation to moor on river banks where custom has allowed for public mooring.

Some local authorities that own riparian land or moorings have also adopted punitive and draconian methods to drive boat dwellers out, such as byelaws restricting mooring to one hour, while the Middle Level Commissioners have tabled a Private Bill that proposes to remove historic rights of free navigation that have existed for nearly four centuries.

If you are elected, please would you commit to stopping Canal & River Trust’s unlawful and punitive enforcement against boat dwellers without permanent moorings, and to working to get better treatment for all boat dwellers on our waterways?

For more information, please see

Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to read this.

Yours sincerely,

Pamela Smith, Chair, National Bargee Travellers Association
Finlay Margrie Jones
Gregg Milligan
John Ridd
Eleanor Lad (boat dweller on River Cam)
Simeon Leeke (boat dweller on River Cam)
Ikeda Golding (boat dweller on River Cam)
Amazon Golding (boat dweller on River Cam)
Mani Lad (boat dweller on River Cam)
Allan Cazaly
John Bellis
David Miller
Kevin Stannard
Frances Myles
Ludovic Pujol
David Watkinson, Barrister (non-practising), Garden Court Chambers
Gerry Coleman
Stuart Grist
Helen Brice
Lionel Vida NBTA (River Cam)
Paul Davies
Dean Plant
E W Burnand
Charlotte Jordan
Deborah Hull
Nick Brown
Ann Skelton
William Keily
Dwight Wood, boat Gaelic Mist
Dave Moss
Professor David Burnand
Mrs Diana Burnand
Sarah Holtom
Craig Holtom
Brenda Price
John Bird
Paula Diment
Lee Culley
Rory Thomson
Miss Sky
Mr Harvey
Cheryl Perry (East Oxford Ward)
Jamie Hosegood
Caren Hartley
Mr Baz Carey
Miss Heidi Siggers
Mr Alex Harvey
Sarah McGowan
Jim Ross, Resident of the River Cam
Richard Green
Graham Holmes
Ronald Repka
Colin Gibson
Kris Nadin
Paul Lewin
Ruth Okine
Jack Cox