Boater wins Article 8 case

Bargee Traveller, Matthew Jones yesterday won his appeal against Canal & River Trust’s (CRT) attempt to strike out the Article 8 elements of his defence against eviction from CRT’s waterways under Section 8 of the British Waterways Act 1983. The case will now be remitted back to Bristol County Court where Mr Jones will be able to put his Article 8 arguments in full. Mr Jones’s solicitor Community Law Partnership writes:

The claim by Canal & River Trust (CRT) in this action is for a declaration and injunction that it is entitled to remove the Appellant’s boat, “The Mrs T”, from its waterways (covering over 2,000 miles) under s.8 of the British Waterways Act 1983 and s.13 of the British Waterways Act 1971.

The Appellant lodged a defence which raised a number of points in resistance to the claim, including a defence based upon Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights(right to respect for private and family life and home).

If a person wishes to get a licence on a CRT waterway s/he (subject to having insurance and a boat safety certificate) will either require a ‘home mooring’ or will need to use his/her vessel ‘bona fide for navigation’ : see British Waterways Act 1995 section 17(3). CRT have produced guidance which attempts to interpret the above phrase – this guidance is commonly known as the ‘continuous cruising guidance’. The Appellant also seeks to challenge the lawfulness of this guidance in his defence.

In 2014 CRT asked for an order dismissing summarily the Appellant’s Article 8 part of his defence. The basis of the application was that the present case should be judged according to the same broad criteria applicable to public housing authorities who apply for possession of residential premises and are met by Article 8 defences, as considered in three cases: Manchester City Council v Pinnock [2010] UKSC 45 (“Pinnock”); Hounslow LBC v Powell [2011] UKSC 8 (“Powell”) and Thurrock BC v West [2012] EWCA Civ 1435. In those cases, due to the housing management functions of local housing authorities, it was held that, to be successful, any Article 8 defence would need to be ‘exceptional’. The county court judge struck out the Article 8 part of the Appellant’s defence and a high court judge dismissed his appeal. He appealed to the Court of Appeal.

It was argued on behalf of the Appellant that this reasoning was confined to housing cases. The Court of Appeal, in allowing the appeal, agreed with the Appellant.

McCombe LJ (giving the leading judgment) stated:

“It does not seem to me that the Pinnock line of cases demonstrate a true exception to the requirement of a structured approach to the proportionality assessment. Rather, I think, the position is that in public authority housing cases the Article 8 issues are more amenable to a pre-trial summary assessment and determination in the authority’s favour than in other cases in which such issues of proportionality arise. In the Pinnock-type of case, the court is capable of deciding on such a summary application whether or not the Article 8 considerations afford seriously arguable grounds for resisting the authority’s claims in whole or in part…..”

“It is possible that in some waterways cases the court will be able similarly to take a robust approach to claims to assert the public interest considerations in the exercise of the Respondent’s powers over rights arising under Article 8”. …….

“In the circumstances facing the learned County Court judge in this case, however, I do not consider that the overall context of the proceedings allowed the judge summarily to dismiss the Article 8 defences as he did. ……However, I will shortly summarise why I have reached this conclusion here”.

“First, while I agree that the Respondent’s property rights in the canal and the public interest in the management functions exercised by the Respondent can usually be taken as read, I am not satisfied that the judge could properly dispose of the Article 8 considerations before deciding whether the licence conditions had truly been broken and that property rights and management rights under s.8 of the 1983 Act, therefore, could be invoked unquestioningly, subject only to Convention rights. Second, it was not sought to argue that the Appellant’s defence under the Equality Act 2010 could be summarily determined; it survives on the pleadings. Third, the Respondent seeks extensive relief, including injunctions restraining any mooring of any duration on the K & A [Kennet & Avon] canal, restraining navigation upon any of the extensive waterways controlled by it and an order for immediate removal of the Appellant’s home, viz. the boat, from the K & A canal. With regard to this third consideration, I do not quite see how the judge could properly say, as he did in paragraph 21 of his judgment, that Article 8 was not “cast from [the court’s] mind” on questions of relief when the relevant paragraphs of the Defence had already been struck out”.

“I do not accept Mr Stoner’s submission… that the extent of the relief to be granted at the end of a trial could be re-visited in the context of Article 8. That was no doubt an intentionally helpful concession, but a difficult one to maintain in the face of the extensive relief sought by his client after all Article 8 considerations had been struck out of the Defence”.

“Ground 3 is directed to the County Court judge’s view that it would “impose a quite significant burden” on the respondent by requiring it to deal in every enforcement case with any possible Article 8 points raised on behalf of a defendant. The judge doubted whether it was reasonable to impose that burden on the Respondent”.

“….In my view… the burden of dealing with an Article 8 defence is one that will from time to time, however, have to be shouldered by the court in assessing a defendant’s personal circumstances and in the balancing exercise in weighing those circumstances against the “given” represented by the Respondent’s aims in the proceedings. I have made suggestions as to areas in which summary disposal of such defences may be possible. However, I do not consider that the judge was correct in identifying the “burden” of dealing with Article 8 defences as a reason for striking them out summarily ( paras 52-59)”.

This is an extremely important judgment for boatdwellers. If they raise an arguable Article 8 defence (e.g. due to health problems, need to be near work, needs of children etc) then that should be dealt with at the trial of the matter and not summarily dismissed. The judgment will also have significance to others e.g. potentially Gypsies and Travellers on unauthorised encampments or unauthorised developments.

The barrister for Mr Jones was James Stark of Garden Court North chambers and the solicitor was Chris Johnson of Community Law Partnership.

You can view the court hearing here

NBTA Joins women’s demo

As part of the Women’s Marches across the world, London Boat Women and the NBTA joined the London Women’s March.

Sexism only serves to divide us. When community is under threat, we must be opposed anything which divides us.

Sexism most certainly doesn’t float our boats!






Neighbours not neighbourhoods! The last London Mooring Strategy…

The Canal & River Trust (CRT) is currently in the process of drafting a Local Mooring Strategy for the London area. Some of you may remember that 5 years ago British Waterways (BW), CRTs predecessor, initiated a series of local mooring strategies including parts of the London waterways and the Kennet & Avon (K&A).

In late 2010 noises started emerging that BW was looking to place significant restrictions on the Rivers Lee and Stort as well as the Hertford Union Canal. According to internal documents, BW felt that there were “more boats moored along the Lee than are desirable” (sound familiar?). Despite the plans still being in their early stages the documents show that BW already had a clear view of what the strategy would look like and that it would involve ‘neighbourhoods’. There was no consultation with liveaboard boaters.

By law, boaters cannot spend more than 14 days moored in one ‘place’ unless there is a good reason. BW wanted to give an interpretation of ‘place’ by splitting the waterways into 6 neighbourhoods with boaters not being allowed to spend more than 14 days continuously in a single neighbourhood.

The Stort was to be split into two neighbourhoods, all waterways south of the North circular were a single neighbourhood (including the Limehouse cut and the Hertford Union) and the Lee to the north was split into three neighbourhoods separated at Fielde’s Weir and the M25. On top of this, BW also planned to designate long stretches (including the whole of the Stort!) as 7 day mooring zones.

BW also wanted to enforce patterns of movement expecting boaters not only to spend time in all of the neighbourhoods but for that to be evenly distributed. Over the course of a year, boaters were expected to spend no more than 61 days in any one neighbourhood unless a £20 a day fee was paid. This increased to £40 a day if not paid in advance or on the day. There was also a minimum cruising range of 20km.

When this strategy was shared with the boating community there was widespread anger. Many thought the proposals were draconian and had been developed without liveaboard boaters having a chance to voice their opinion.

In February 2011 BW launched a consultation but tried to rush it through, giving boaters little time to respond. Of course, our community wasn’t going to stand for that.

Turnout at public meetings organised by BW was dominated by hundreds of boaters who expressed their concern at the impact the new rules would have on their lives and the lack of research BW had done. The community rallied and local groups, including London Boaters, worked to debunk the assumptions which BW had made by talking to local residents and waterway users including rowers, canoers and cyclists. The London Boaters group also conducted surveys of boaters and towpath users. This work showed that the assumptions made by BW were wrong and made clear the damaging impact the proposals would have on the liveaboard community. They also highlighted that boaters were seen by many to have a positive impact on the waterways.

In September 2011, against a wave of opposition, BW realised the game was up and announced that it was dropping its plans.

While neighbourhoods were never put into place in London, they were implemented as part of a 12 month trial in 2014 on the K&A. Seeing how BW backed down in London but pressed on with the K&A should remind us that threats to our community spread beyond London. We must work together for all boaters, wherever they may be.

At the end of the K&A trial the strategy was dropped but it was replaced by the current enforcement policy. A policy which has created uncertainty, stress and difficulty in the lives of many boaters.

Many of the arguments used against the Lee and Stort mooring policy (which led to it being successfully rejected by London’s boaters) are just as true in the context of the current enforcement policy which applies to us all. The NBTA opposes this policy. By organising and pulling together as a community, as well as building working relationships with other waterway and towpath users, groups such as London Boaters showed that we can make our voice heard and successfully challenge policies where they are unfounded and unfair. So when CRT publishes the plans for the new London Mooring Strategy, let us remember the strength of our community and the power of our voice.

CRT meeting to involve local authorities

Canal and River Trust (CRT) put a on meeting to involve local authorities in the waterways in London.

The National Bargee Travellers Association London (NBTA London) made sure we were invited. CRT allowed two delegates from the NBTA London.

We send two of us to join the 23 councillors from 13 Local Authorities; 2 representatives from the Old Oak Park Royal Development Trust; the Chair and Deputy from the IWA; 1 from the Residential Boat Owners Association (RBOA); and 11 from CRT including Richard Parry, Jon Guest, Sorwar Ahmed and Matthew Symonds.

The format was – presentation by CRT, Questions/Comments form the floor.

Their presentation was mainly about how ‘good’ property developments are to the waterways in London and the ‘greatness’ of social enterprise in bringing ‘valve’ to the waterways.

The Kings Cross development was held up as a ‘model example’ of property developers ‘working in partnership with the waterways’. This was despite the fact that the Kings Cross development meant lost of more than half the mooring spaces there, the lost of a water point and no new facilities.
One of the NBTA London delegate stated that the Kings Cross development should not be use as a model example, a model example would included no lost to mooring spaces and the introduction of new facilities. CRT didn’t voice any disagreements over what NBTA London delegate said.

For the example of social enterprise, CRT talked about the adoption of the Limehouse Cut lead by Poplar Harca Housing. Which until we talked to them had no knowledge of people that live on the canal without home mooring. They had thought that the only people that live on the canal live in home moorings.

CRT also talked briefly about that Housing and Planning Act 2016 means councils must assess the needs of boat dwellers using waterways which go through their area. CRT stated that the all their results of their survey will be out soon. We included that the NBTA London has a survey which asks more about the needs of boat dwellers.

Which we are still running. If you haven’t filled it out yet please fill it out. Here it is;

CRT also put out the idea that they might make a mooring place at Little Venice one of those chargeable bookable moorings they have been talking about. But they are not sure where exactly if they will put them there, it probably depends on the resistant to it.

The main reason for the NBTA London went to this meeting was to collect Local Authorities contacts so we can meet with them to discuss their assessment of boat dwellers in future meetings between us and them. We got a reasonable amount of council contacts from this meeting. Our plan is to get Local Authorities and CRT to work together to give us more facilities and mooring rings etc.

Second Half was organised into discussion groups. NBTA London delegates were in two different groups.

Most non-boaters – particularly residents and local councillors were thinking that “residential moorings” meant any moorings where live-aboard itinerant boaters stop or that they didn’t know that boat dwellers exist. So some educating on boat dwellers without a home mooring was called for. Evidently, the Local Authorities members which both delegates talked to were supportive of the NBTA London cause. Afterwards they voiced a much better understanding of our lifestyle and needs – and what we mean by “facilities”.

Overall, we thought it was a worthwhile meeting for us.

Great Winter Warmer!

This years NBTA London Winter Warmer collected together 35 London bargee travellers. We were served good food, a great film followed by warm discussion.

The spirit of the do it yourself culture had not escaped bargee travellers as we sat around tables built that very day out of pallets. After eating food freshly prepared by the bargee travellers cooked at the venue, we watch the short film ‘Off the Cut’. The film showed us that the kind of attacks we are under in London from CRT are much the same as the stresses and strains placed on the boat dweller community on the Kennet and Avon canal in the West Country. Inspired by the documentary and the introduction from the director herself (Wendy Zakiewicz), we then broke out into discussion on a great amount of issues we face as boat dwellers. There was great enthusiasm by people that are not presently members of the NBTA for us to fight the CRTs policy of threating people with eviction. There was a real feeling that something has to be done for boat dwellers and support for the boat dweller demo next year (on the Saturday 8th April) was high.

So overall it was a good mix of food, working together, socialising, a good film and discussion about what we should do to defending our homes and fight for better conditions such as more facilities such as water points, elsans and rubbish bins!

Winter Warmer 2016

National Bargee Travellers Association London (NBTA L) is hosting a warm winter meal with a selection of freshly cooked food and film showing of ‘OFF the CUT’ followed by a discussion. Off the Cut film provides unique insight into a community of boaters living on the Kennet and Avon canal. The film follows a family on their pedal powered boat as they embark on a journey in which their way of life, and that of the whole community, comes under threat. At the event there will be someone from the making of the film to talk about issues in the film.


All boaters are welcome to come and cook with us, as well as bring their own dishes. We will start cooking at 5pm. This will be a great event for itinerant boaters to eat together, socialise and openly talk about defending our homes in a warm and friendly environment.

Thursday 1 December at 7pm at London Action Resource Centre 62 Fieldgate St, London E1 1ES

The venus is off a road on Whitechapel Road, between Aldgate East tube and Whitechapel tube.

Get a ticket here:

London Survey- For boaters by boaters

This survey differs from CRT’s survey as we wish to see what improvements can be made on the waterways, specifically for boaters without a home mooring. This survey may be completed by anyone who is using, has used or is intending to use the following waterways for navigation: Limehouse Cut, Hertford Union Canal, Lee Navigation, River Stort; Regent’s
Canal and Grand Union Paddington Arm; Grand Union up to Rickmansworth, Slough Arm.
The results will be used to campaign for improvement of London boat dwellers’ needs.
A big thanks to all those who take the time to complete our survey

Vulnerable boater hospitalised after Canal & River Trust evict her

On 14th September 2016 Canal & River Trust (CRT), together with police, bailiffs and a CRT enforcement officer, seized a boat without a home mooring that was a vulnerable woman’s home while she was asleep inside it. The woman, who suffers from epilepsy, was later rushed to hospital in an ambulance as the stress of the eviction had caused her condition to become critical.

Boat dweller Peter John Wells, who was an eyewitness, filmed the eviction. It is on YouTube here and

Mr Wells said: “On the morning of September 14th Corrine Rotherham, CRT Enforcement Officer, and a team of seven private contractors set off in a vessel from Bradford on Avon on the Kennet and Avon Canal. They were on a mission to evict a lone woman living on a boat in Bath due to a licence dispute. They arrived as she was still asleep in bed, boarded the boat and proceeded to attach their boat to hers and tow it away. A number of nearby boaters were alerted to the situation and a blockade was formed preventing the removal. The boaters offered to pay any outstanding money due on the spot. This was not accepted”.

“Ms Rotherham decided her plan had gone seriously wrong and called for back-up, in this case four police officers and a police van with an unknown number of officers inside. By this time the woman, who suffers from epilepsy, was so distraught that she was reduced to tears. At one point she was surrounded by CRT, bailiffs and police officers against the railway wall. Despite support from the other boaters she felt she had to escape the situation and she agreed to leave her boat. Her boat was taken to Bradford on Avon, lifted on a lorry and driven away. Two days later she was admitted to hospital as the stress o the eviction had caused her epilepsy to become critical”.

Before being taken to hospital the woman wandered around Bath in a confused and distressed state. According to staff at a drop-in centre for homeless people, she was so ill that she was incoherent and could not explain what had happened. The following day she was found by police and an ambulance was called.

The eviction of this vulnerable boater and its drastic effect on her health raise some very serious questions about CRT’s compliance with the law regarding the safeguarding of vulnerable adults. For example, why was there no welfare officer present? Why were the police called? Why did Enforcement Officer Corrine Rotherham not want to be filmed?

Canal & River Trust evict a vulnerable women

CRT’s Relationship Manager Matthew Symonds claimed on 22nd September that the Waterways Chaplaincy had been supporting the woman, but the Chaplaincy has confirmed that they were not involved at all prior to the eviction. CRT did refer the case to their Welfare Officer Sean Williams, but unlike social housing, CRT has no measures in place to safeguard vulnerable people in cases where health issues mean that the person at risk of eviction does not engage with the authorities. We have been informed that the boater attempted to claim Housing Benefit.

According to Mr Wells, it was apparent from his conversation with them that the bailiffs, police and Ms Rotherham all wanted to avoid any responsibility for the eviction. He said that one bailiff was clearly uncomfortable and another said that it was ridiculous and tried to distance himself from his job.

CRT currently uses bailiffs from a private company called The Sheriffs Office when they believe that a boat dweller will be resident on a boat at an eviction. Kevin George Thomas of The Sheriffs Office appears to be one of the bailiffs in the first photo. The second photo shows Mr Thomas serving court papers on a boater in 2014. Kevin Thomas used to work for Sherlock, a trading division of Shergroup Limited, which also included Sherforce bailiffs that CRT used until about 2014.

We have unconfirmed reports that the woman was renting the boat but the “landlord” failed to licence it. Anyone in this situation should make sure that the boat is licensed and should also be aware that they have very few rights.

Kevin Thomas serves court papers on a boater


Keep the towpath Public

The Canal and River Trust has got a survey on bookable moorings.
National Bargee Travellers Association London (NBTA London) believes that bookable moorings on the towpath are another way to take away the common land that IS the towpath from everyone. Towpath should be shared with all and not reduced to only people that can book a mooring.

Bookable moorings are one step to chargeable moorings. This is shown in their question in the survey where they ask if people are willing to pay for bookable moorings.

We should not let the towpath be turned into a business.

NBTA London are willing to work with CRT to explore the possibility of making bookable moorings on the offside but the towpath is for everyone.
Keep the towpath public!

Please fill in CRT’s questionnaire. The closing date is Friday 26 August, so please get it done as soon as you can.
Here are our suggested answers to some of their questions.

Q6 asks if there’s anything else you think CRT could do to improve boating in London- we suggest people include the following demands: more facilities, more mooring rings, stop reducing mooring times to less than 14 days.
Q7 asks if you go to london, how long do you think you would moor your boat but it only gives you options up to 7nights- we suggest people do not choose the max of 7 nights or anything less and to write in the ‘other’ box, ‘no longer than 14 days as specified in law.’
Q8 asks if there’s anything else that is important to boaters for cruising round london- we suggest people reiterate the following demands: more facilities, more mooring rings, stop reducing mooring times to less than 14 days.

Q9 asks if people want to pay for short-stay mooring spaces in london. We suggest you tick ‘no’.

Towpath Gathering 2016

The Canal and River Trust (CRT), which manages about 80% of the inland waterways, is continuing its policy of threatening to evict and evicting travelling boat dwellers.
In response to this, the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) organised an event in East London called the Towpath Gathering to celebrate the community of travelling boaters. We converted one of the larger boats into a floating stage for the day and there was a wide range of music acts, speeches from the boater community and other housing activists, as well as street performers. Along with trade boats, we demonstrated that our community is worth celebrating and protecting. About 200 people attended the event despite the wet weather.
Housing activists from the local area came to the Towpath Gathering to support the campaign to stop the evictions of boat dwellers.
Towpath 2016 7
Pat Turnbull the chair of a local residents association, the Victoria Community Association said at the event;
‘You are also victims, like us and our families, of the housing crisis.
The housing crisis has been brought about by years of reliance on the market and cuts in government funding for housing provisions.’
‘The Canal and River Trust was turned into a charity starved of government funding, making it need more money from mainly private business.’
NBTA spokesperson, said,
‘The push to get more money from private business, means the Canal and River Trust is more interested in commercial needs rather than the needs of people that live on the waterways. This is where their policy comes from. They [CRT] want to please commercial needs.’
‘Many travelling boat dwellers are feeling the negative impact of Canal and River Trust policy, a policy which only makes sense if you believe they wish to get rid of our way of life and our community.
The Towpath Gathering was a celebration of the strength of our community and an opportunity to bring boaters together to fight to protect it.’

Towpath 2016 2 (1)

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A volunteer organisation formed in 2009 campaigning and providing advice for itinerant boat dwellers on Britain’s inland and coastal waterways