In 2010, before the Environment Agency (EA) Inland Waterways Order 2010 became law, the NBTA made a legal challenge regarding the proposed power in Article 16 of the Order to remove boats if they are used as homes. In response to this, the EA made an Undertaking not to remove an unregistered residential vessel without consulting on appropriate procedures, which includes obtaining a court order, to safeguard the rights of those affected.
The EA stated in the Undertaking to the NBTA on 11th May 2010 that it would:
“write Guidance on how Article 16 of the 2010 Order will be exercised, particularly with regard to residential boats, and such Guidance will then be consulted on…Until this process has been completed, the powers contained in the Order which you have drawn attention to, will not be implemented”.
For 13 years the EA has not exercised its powers to remove boats under Article 16 the 2010 Order, and it has only now begun the process of drafting and consulting on Guidance on the exercise of vessel removal powers. The 2010 Order gave the EA powers to bring criminal prosecutions against owners of unregistered boats, who are fined and get a criminal record if they are found guilty. To our knowledge, no unregistered boats have been removed since 2010. If the EA has not exercised these powers for 13 years, that suggests the powers to remove boats are not necessary.
However, the EA has now sent its draft proposed procedure for removal of unregistered vessels on Environment Agency waterways to boating associations including the NBTA. The EA has said that the consultation responses will inform any final procedure for the removal of vessels, including those used for residential purposes. It also states that the EA is “under no obligation to consult formally, and our power to remove any unregistered vessel is set in law”. The EA is only consulting with user groups, not with the wider boating community or the public.
The EA’s proposed procedure for removal of unregistered vessels is downloadable here Proposed EA unregistered vessel removal procedure – July_23_FINAL DRAFT
Please send your views on the draft procedure to firstname.lastname@example.org or 0118 321 4128 by Friday 8th September 2023; the consultation closes on 13th September. Thank you.