Boaters with ‘restricted licences’ can vote, sponsor candidates and stand for election to the Canal & River Trust (CRT) Council following the intervention of the National Bargee Travellers Association. The rules of the election state that “to be eligible to stand for election, sponsor an election candidate and vote in the election in [the private boating] constituency, you must hold a 12-month canal or river boat licence on 30 September 2015”.
Chief Executive Richard Parry told the NBTA that CRT had no idea that preventing boaters without home moorings from renewing their licences for 12 months would disenfranchise them from the CRT Council election this November, and that this was not an intended consequence of the new enforcement policy. The NBTA raised the issue at the CRT User Forum in September. Mr Parry confirmed to the NBTA later last month that the standard invitation to take part in the election had been sent to those boaters who have been stopped from renewing their licences for 12 months. The deadline to nominate candidates is 14th October 2015.
CRT’s new policy, effective from 1st May 2015, unlawfully imposes a minimum range of movement contrary to Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995. The Act does not set a minimum distance, range or specific travel pattern that is required for compliance, beyond the limit of 14 continuous days in any one place. Yet CRT has stated that unless boaters without home moorings travel in a range of at least 15 to 20 miles, and CRT would expect the range to be greater than this, their licences will not be renewed for the full 12 months unless they take a home mooring. When CRT’s predecessor British Waterways (BW) tried to impose a similar regime, the ‘Lock Miles Rules’, in 2003, the threat of legal action forced BW to drop the proposal. In December 2012 CRT’s own Towpath Mooring Q and A conceded that CRT would be acting beyond its powers if it set a minimum distance.
An estimated 350 to 400 boaters without home moorings have had their licence renewal refused for the full 12 months due to CRT’s new policy. Extrapolated over a full year, this figure shows that around 25% of boaters without home moorings are at risk of being evicted from CRT waterways and having their homes seized and destroyed. The NBTA will take whatever steps are necessary to defend bargee travellers against this attack on the right to use and live on a boat without a home mooring.