RBOA calls for waterways authorities to break the law

After RBOA press release; http://www.rboa.org.uk/continuous-cruising-a-new-approach-from-the-rboa/

NBTA London’s response;

Residential Boat Owners’ Association (RBOA) seems to want all waterway authorities to act beyond the British Waterways Act 1995. Their online statement states that the ‘RBOA is well aware of the inadequacy of the British Waterways Act 1995 in providing a legal framework covering continuous cruising’. We can see why RBOA thinks this from their online statement; they want to redefine navigation in the same way the Canal and River Trust (CRT) want to include an element of distance for boats without a home mooring as a gauge of navigation. RBOA states an example of using distance as a gauge of navigation by saying they would be in favour of boats without a home mooring completing a ‘progressive journey’ ‘that would equate to 200 and 300 miles per year’. This is why RBOA thinks that the 1995 Act isn’t good enough.

The RBOA’s preference for a 200-300 mile distance comes from a place of prejudice. Prejudice against working people who are travelling boaters; against bargee traveller families; and boaters who are physically or mentally ill, as opposed to those boaters who use the waterways as a place for their hobbies or leisure who may have a boat as a second home. The waterways are a place for a range of people and they are not just for a certain kind of person.

The RBOA’s statement talks of London (and Bath) having too many boats; and a dislike of boats without home moorings ‘with having lifestyle connections with one place – for example: education of children, employment or health needs’. This is very telling of the intentions for their envisioned rules. Their intentions are to get rid of a sizeable part of the boaters without home mooring community.

RBOA seems to have no interest in the law, not just the 1995 Act but the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act 2010 states that equality adjustment should be made by bodies as such as CRT for people with health needs in order to address unequal opportunity. To demand that all waterway authorities should act against people without home moorings that need to be in a certain area because of health needs is a demand that waterway authorities should break the law under the Equality Act 2010.

The NBTA is against demands for more rules on boats without a home mooring and if these demands are left unchallenged, it would encourage waterway authorities to push off a sizeable part of our community off the waterways. We will need to keep a watchful eye on CRT and other waterways authorities who want to use this as an excuse for any changes to enforcement which puts more pressure on boat dwellers without home moorings. NBTA will act against any increase in enforcement.

Boat Dwellers refuse to be kicked off the waterways

The national Boats Are Homes; demonstration on Saturday 8th April 2017 was organised in defence of the boat dweller community in face of Canal and River Trust (CRT) threatening or actually evicting boat dwellers for their distance or pattern of movement.

Saturday’s march had a strong and diverse turnout of 150- 200 boat dwellers including families, couples, individual boaters and their drums, chants, whistles and loud-halers from all over the waterways. The demonstration was lively and angry with a strong sense of solidarity and feeling like we can make a change.

We handed in the petition against CRT’s intensified enforcement to Number 10, Downing Street. Nearly 35,000 signed the petition. We then marched on further to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to hand in a letter demanding that the Government takes responsibility in stopping CRT enacting what we believe is an unlawful CRT enforcement policy. People spoke from different parts of the waterways, and we were unified not only by a sense of countrywide boat dweller community, but also by the general threat to rid the waterways of boat dwellers. Oxford boat dwellers spoke about their successful campaign to stop the Council’s plan to effectively make our way of life a criminal offence in Oxford. The demonstration was mainly focused on the CRT actions to threaten or actually evict boat dwellers from their CRT managed waterways. One of the most virulent campaigns against the intensification of the CRT enforcement policy is the easing off of the effects on boat families and to allow their children equal access to school. This is a key reason why so many boat dweller families came to the demonstration.

Many believe that the heightened enforcement from CRT has a direct correlation with CRT’s continuing gentrification and privatisation of the waterways.

The coming together of boat dwellers from all over the country for a common purpose gave confidence and enthusiasm to many of the people attending to take further actions in defence of our community.

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More public towpath set to be taken in Paddington

In Paddington (London) CRT is planning to turn 140ft of the public towpath
moorings into private business moorings that would be run by multi-billion
real estate investment company, British Land. This is just the latest
example of the gentrification of our waterways.

British Land made a profit of £1331 million last year. Its property
portfolio was valued at £14.66 billion according to its most recent annual
report(2).

Protesters have tied up their boats to the moorings where British
Land plans to take 140ft of the public towpath with its two new 70ft
business boats. British Land already has an 80ft business boat near to
where they plan to put the new boats.

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Protest continues at the east London’s gasworks

In Tower Hamlets in East London, CRT wants to take away the public
moorings at the Gasworks (Corbridge Crescent) near Broadway Market as part
of its ongoing gentrification.

The Gasworks moorings have been used as public moorings by all boaters for
many years. However, CRT is set to turn them into private moorings for so
called ‘affordable’ moorings. Which for many boat dwellers, isn’t
affordable.

The Gasworks moorings are on a historic wharf and if privatised, many
boaters will never have the opportunity to use them.

For the last 5 weeks protesters have had their boats on the Gasworks
moorings, keeping them public on a rota of no more than 14 days each.

One protester boat dweller Graham Ryder, said:

“Our heritage is being taken away and sold off by stealth everywhere. It
makes me angry and I feel like we have to do something before our
community is broken up and sold off. The community that is already here is
well loved by the public and an integral part of the landscape. I won’t
stand by and watch whilst they sell off what we all already own.”

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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 https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/court-on-camera/court-battle-over-waterways-licence/5059845.article

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!

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Boats are Homes: March 10 Downing Street

This is a demonstration to demand that Canal & River Trust (CRT) stops evicting or threatening to evict boat dwellers without permanent moorings based on their distance or pattern of travel. The right to use and live on a boat without a permanent mooring on CRT waterways is enshrined in the British Waterways Act 1995. CRT’s ‘rules’ are not supported by the law, which does not state a minimum distance that must be travelled to prevent CRT seizing your home.

In 2016 we handed a petition to Number 10 Downing Street, signed by almost 30,000 people, opposing CRT’s punitive and unlawful ‘rules’. The Government has not done anything to stop CRT; the Prime Minister passed the petition to DEFRA which in turn referred us back to CRT, which refuses to change its policy. Let’s keep up the pressure! Join us on the march to Number 10 with an even bigger petition and then to DEFRA to tell them we will not be fobbed off! The Government must take responsibility for keeping CRT in check.

We also demand that CRT stops the imposition of mooring time limits of less than 14 days; abandons its plan for chargeable bookable moorings and stops selling off our waterways. We want proper maintenance of locks, bridges and waterway banks; more mooring rings; more water taps and more sanitary facilities. Join us in defending the boat dweller community!

The demonstration starts on Saturday 8th April 2017 at 12 noon. Assemble at Victoria Embankment Gardens, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NS for a march to Downing Street and on to DEFRA in Smith Square.

Please sign and encourage others to sign, share and tweet this petition;
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/boats-are-homes-prevent-the-eviction-of-boat-dwellers

Contact 07710160340 or secretariat@bargee-traveller.org.uk for more information

Facebook event:

https://m.facebook.com/events/608556772678442

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; https://marcus122.typeform.com/to/SrAhJi

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.

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