Please write to your MP about the Middle Level Bill

Please write to your MP NOW!! and ask him or her to vote against the motion to carry over the Middle Level Bill to the new Parliamentary session that started after the June 2017 General Election. Better still, please find the time to make an appointment to see your MP, as this has a much greater impact in getting the MP to understand your concerns.

Please ask your family and friends to write to their MPs as well, and circulate this message to anyone who you think should see it.

If you have no address, your MP is the MP for the place where you are now. You can find out who your MP is from or

You will need to enter a postcode. It doesn’t matter if you are not registered to vote. If you have a postal address, you can contact the MP for that postcode area. Otherwise you can contact the MP for the place where you are currently moored. Use the postcode of a nearby Post Office or pub, say you live on a boat with no fixed address and give your address in the format “nb Pegasus, Grand Union Canal, Watford WD1 1AA”. You can ask the MP to reply by email only.

It’s always better to use your own words but here is an example letter – this is also downloadable here Sept 2017 Sample letter to MP re Middle Level Bill

Dear Jo Bloggs MP

Revival of Middle Level Bill, September/October 2017

I am writing to you because there is a motion to carry the private Middle Level Bill over into the new Parliament and there is likely to be a debate on the revival of the Bill in October 2017. I would be very grateful if you would vote against the revival of the Bill and raise my concerns in the debate.

I live on a boat and the Middle Level Bill will directly affect me. Please could I make an appointment to see you urgently to discuss this.

The Middle Level Commissioners are trying to overturn ancient public rights of navigation which allow non-commercial boats access to the Middle Level free from any charge or toll. These rights were specifically given by the Earl of Bedford in 1753, as a gift to local people for dropping their opposition to the drainage of the Fens, which destroyed both their way of life and the hundreds of islands that made up the Fens. These rights were conferred by the Nene Navigation Act of 1753. Furthermore, there has been a Public Right of Navigation along the the Old River Nene, which forms a large section of the Middle Level, since the 4th century, which was first codified in the Magna Carta of 1215. The draining of the Fens to provide agricultural land destroyed a way of life for local people who relied on boats as their only form of transportation between the hundreds of small islands.

These rights were bequeathed to us, the people of Britain, hundreds of years ago and under no circumstances should they be extinguished. Because use of the Middle Level is currently free, they are used by many boaters on low incomes, some of whom live on their boats, who cannot afford to use waterways where registration or licence fees are levied. Those who live aboard would be forced out of their homes due to an inability to pay.

The 485 local people who signed an online petition – – and other groups like the March Cruising Club and the National Bargee Travellers Association would dearly like MPs to stand up against this Bill and help to protect our rights and freedoms.

It is important to note that the Middle Level is a series of drains constructed to drain the land and provide water for irrigation. It is an essential service and farmers pay annually for this service. The Middle Level is unlike every other navigation as it is for farmers, not boaters. There are no services for boaters, no moorings, no water taps, toilets or showers, and no rubbish or sewage disposal facilities. Nor have the Middle Level Commissioners promised any facilities in the Bill.

The drains were and are still funded by land owners who collectively pay a total of over £3 million each year for drainage and irrigation. Without these drains their land would be swamp and their crops destroyed. This is some of the most productive farmland in the UK. The six locks are needed to prevent tidal seawater from flooding the land and to maintain the water level for drainage purposes. Dredging is necessary to maintain the drainage function. Land owners also extract water from the drains for irrigation.

DEFRA also fund the area with taxpayers’ money as part of the UK’s flood strategy. No other waterway in the UK has this kind of funding, but equally the Middle Level is not a navigation in the sense that other waterways are; it is a network of navigable drains. There are only six locks to maintain, no boaters’ facilities, no moorings and no towpaths for the Commissioners to fund, so apart from the locks and some dredging, the Commissioners’ navigation role is very limited.

The Commissioners are not undertaking to provide any extra facilities, moorings, towpaths, guaranteed navigable depth of water or dredging in return for navigation charges, as are normally provided on waterways where fees are payable. The Commissioners also appear to have over-estimated the number of boats that they propose to receive charges from.

The Commissioners already have Bye-laws and powers to remove and seize sunken boats and recover the costs of doing so. The Bill seeks to provide the Commissioners with draconian powers to seize boats; to criminalise boat owners; to impose terms and conditions; to prohibit residential use of boats and to evict boats from moorings that have existed for decades. The Bill also seeks to extend the Commissioners’ powers to all adjacent waters including private waters over which the Commissioners do not have jurisdiction.

All boaters, but especially those who live on their boats, will be severely disadvantaged by the Bill. At present, the Middle Level is the one waterway system where boaters are not required to pay a fee or forced to agree to terms and conditions in return for the ability to navigate. Boaters will lose a safe haven where they can go if they are unable, through no fault of their own, to pay for a boat licence or to comply with the terms and conditions imposed by other navigation authorities.

This is a link to the Bill page including the Petitions against the Bill if you need to know more:

I hope I can count on your support. Thank you.