CRT has declared its intention to crush itinerant boaters

NBTA members who are on Canal & River Trust (CRT) waterways are likely to be subjected to even more threats against their homes this year. Late last year CRT announced changes to its enforcement procedure against boats without a home mooring, mostly taking effect from June 2024.

The changes are as follows:

From June 2024, for boaters whose cruising patterns CRT claims do not meet its unlawful movement requirements, CRT will only offer one six-month restricted licence, and a second 6 month restricted licence will only be offered “in the most exceptional of cases”.

From June 2024, CRT will also stop sending a midpoint reminder telling boaters whether or not their cruising patterns are on track to meet its unlawful requirements. CRT claims rather disingenuously that these reminders “often have limited impact, can cause confusion, and are costly to administer”. We assume that cost is the main reason for discontinuing these useful reminders.

From June 2024 CRT will send an advisory letter with every renewed licence instead of only sending this letter with new licence applications. CRT aims to send this letter by email where possible, presumably to minimise the cost of its unlawful, unnecessary enforcement policy. The letter will include what CRT refers to as “important information about the licence requirements; CRT’s Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring; the welfare support available to boaters; answers to frequently asked questions; and guidance on maintaining a cruising log”.

In January 2024 CRT reduced the number of letters it sends to boats on restricted licences, saying that it is now “incorporating the information into its existing processes”.

CRT claims that there are no changes to what boaters are required to do to meet the terms of their boat licence. However, the denial of a second or third 6-month licence will have a substantial negative impact on the lives and community of Bargee Travellers.

The NBTA believes that the way CRT interprets the legal requirement in Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 to use the boat ‘bona fide’ for navigation is unlawful.

CRT claims that there is no change to what boaters are required to do to meet the terms of their boat licence and that the changes will provide boaters with “more clarity and advice around cruising expectations and highlight the help available to boaters who are struggling” and that it is “committed to helping boats stay on the water”.

As usual this is doublespeak, misrepresenting the real aim to get us off the water. These changes are undoubtedly designed make our lives harder, as was the unlawful enforcement policy introduced in 2015 of requiring a travel range of at least 20 miles in a year. Since then, CRT has become increasingly picky about the number of times boaters turn round, how many times they return to a particular place, and whether their boat movement is spread evenly over the licence period.

CRT’s announcement ends by saying the number of boats without a home mooring has increased since 2012 from 4,300 to 7,000. Alongside the surcharge for boats without a home mooring, the subtext is that CRT doesn’t want rising numbers of itinerant boaters on its waterways. However, the British Waterways Act 1995 enshrines the right to use and live on a boat without a home mooring, and it doesn’t matter how many boaters exercise that right, it still applies to every boater.

If you need assistance to deal with CRT enforcement, please contact the NBTA on 0118 321 4128 or or contact us online here