CRT Boat Licence terms and Conditions – Judicial Review pre-action letter sent to Canal & River Trust

Although no final decision has yet been made by CRT on the proposed new Boat Licence Terms and Conditions, the NBTA’s lawyers have sent a pre-action protocol letter to CRT regarding the consultation process itself, specifically the method of consultation used in this case.

This is an extract from the pre-action protocol letter:

“The consultation itself was presented so that it could only be completed online. We note that a letter sent to all Licence holders dated 30 September 2020 CRT states in bold: ‘Please note that only surveys completed via the online survey will be considered’.

We would refer to the Government Code of Practice on Consultations which states inter alia, with regard to Criterion 4 (Accessibility of Consultation Exercises): ‘Consultation exercises should be designed to be accessible to, and clearly targeted at, those people the exercise is intended to reach’ (see page 10 of the Guidance).

It is well known that a large number of the boating community are digitally excluded either in that they do not have any online access or that they have grave difficulties in dealing with anything online. Our clients were contacted by several liveaboard boaters who were having grave difficulties in dealing with the consultation, some of whom were simply unable to respond to the consultation. Indeed, two of those who contacted our clients had only just become aware of the consultation at all (after the deadline for submitting responses to the consultation).

In restricting this consultation to online responses, clearly a large number of liveaboard boaters and other boaters will have been excluded from the possibility of responding to the consultation or will have suffered grave difficulties in responding to the consultation. In these circumstances this consultation is clearly in breach of the Government guidance, is unfair, unreasonable and, given that it deals with a way of life and thus involves Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, is disproportionate.”

The letter details the action that CRT is expected to take in remedy, as follows:

“By confirming that the consultation process will be re-opened and that the Defendant will ensure that the process is made fully inclusive and takes account of those who would wish to respond to this consultation but are either not able to respond online or find it extremely difficult to respond online.

CRT has responded claiming, among other things, that it is not bound by the Government Code of Practice on Consultations.

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