THE CONTINUOUS CRUISING CASE CRT COULDN’T WIN

NATIONAL BARGEE TRAVELLERS ASSOCIATION

 PRESS RELEASE                                                                                            22nd February 2015

                              THE CONTINUOUS CRUISING CASE CRT COULDN’T WIN

 The Canal and River Trust settled with a boater on a section eight case focusing on distance and kept the outcome confidential in a continuous cruising case last year, reports the NBTA.

The case of CRT v Wingfield (3NG01237) was heard by HHJ Pugsley in Chesterfield County Court on 3rd and 4th March 2014. The resulting court order included a confidentiality clause preventing anyone from disclosing the terms of the settlement.

boats ladbroke grove

 Mr Wingfield normally travelled between Loughborough and Newark, two places 36 miles apart by water. On Christmas Eve 2012 he travelled to Nottingham and got trapped in floods on the River Trent for two months. This meant he was targeted by an enforcement officer, who terminated his boat licence, even though Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 allows stays of longer than 14 days when it is “reasonable in the circumstances”.

 Nick Brown, Legal Officer of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) said “We believe that CRT settled with Mr Wingfield because they knew they could not win, given Mr Wingfield’s cruising distance and the fact his licence was terminated when he was trapped in floods”. He added “It is significant that the case was heard in full before CRT decided to settle. The Judge must have given a strong indication that CRT did not have a good case for terminating Mr Wingfield’s boat licence”.

 Mr Wingfield discussed his past cruises, the 2012-2013 floods and the enforcement action on Facebook and other forums in early 2013. Boaters advised him to contact the NBTA, who referred him to a solicitor.

 A letter from Nottingham County Court to the NBTA on 18th June 2014 stated “The Order of 4th March does specifically say that settlement was reached by the parties and that a copy of the settlement shall not be released to anyone other than the solicitors for the parties”. Normally CRT publishes the court orders it obtains in Section 8 cases on its web site here https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/publication-scheme/publication-scheme/court-action-to-remove-boats-from-our-waterways

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. For more information contact the NBTA, press@bargee-traveller.org.uk or 0118 321 4128

  1. The NBTA is a volunteer organisation that campaigns and provides advice for itinerant boat dwellers on the UK’s inland and coastal waters.

  1. Boats can be licensed to use Canal & River Trust’s waterways without a permanent mooring under Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. This section states:

(ii) the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel to which the application relates will be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period for which the consent is valid without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.

  1. The case was transferred from Nottingham County Court to Chesterfield County Court due to pressures on Court time.

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STATEMENT ON CRT’S NEW POLICY FOR BOATERS WITHOUT A HOME MOORING

NATIONAL BARGEE TRAVELLERS ASSOCIATION

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                       15th February 2015

STATEMENT ON CRT’S NEW POLICY FOR BOATERS WITHOUT A HOME MOORING

The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) opposes Canal & River Trust’s new policy for boaters without a home mooring. Canal & River Trust (CRT) declared last week that from 1st May 2015 it will refuse to re-license all boats that “don’t move … far enough or often enough” to meet its Guidance for Boaters without a Home Mooring – unless they take a permanent mooring.

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The NBTA will take whatever steps are necessary to defend bargee travellers against this new attack on the right to use and live on a boat without a home mooring. CRT is effectively proposing to evict thousands of live-aboard boaters without home moorings from its waterways. We invite anyone who is worried or concerned about this threat of mass homelessness to join us.

CRT receives significant income from moorings and this move highlights how the marina lobby has been pressurising CRT and complaining about boaters without home moorings. British Waterways Marinas Ltd (BWML), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CRT, has put a great deal of effort into gaining residential planning permission for berths which it can sell at a premium. In 2013-14 BWML generated over 1.7 million in income for CRT. The NBTA believes CRT’s new policy is designed to maximise BWML’s income by forcing boaters who can afford it into moorings. Marina operators have put considerable pressure on CRT including complaints about the number of boats without home moorings. Marinas are finding it harder to make a profit because the market is now oversupplied with leisure moorings due to CRT and [previously] British Waterways’ greed in encouraging the development of new marinas.

CRT claims that there is congestion in certain waterway areas which it implies is caused by overstaying boats without home moorings. However, there are long stretches of waterway around the country where boats cannot moor because of collapsed banks, shallow water and concreted towpaths. If there is a genuine problem with congestion, all CRT has to do is carry out basic maintenance so that moored boats can spread out. If boats are overstaying, CRT already has sufficient enforcement powers to deal with this.

It is not within CRT’s legal powers to enforce its draconian new policy. It sets requirements that go beyond what is stated in the British Waterways Act 1995. How often boats should move is clearly stated in the 1995 Act, but the law contains no requirement to travel a minimum distance or to follow any specific cruising pattern beyond the 14-day limit. CRT itself has not stated what distance it considers “far enough”. Indeed, in December 2012 CRT’s own Towpath Mooring Q and A conceded that CRT would be acting beyond its powers to set a minimum distance.

The 2013 judgement in the case of CRT v Mayers confirms that it would be unlawful for CRT to set a minimum distance that continuous cruisers must travel to comply with the law. HHJ Halbert stated that repeated journeys between the same two places would be “bona fide navigation” if the boater had specific reason for making repeated journeys over the same stretch of canal, and that any requirement by CRT to use a substantial part of the canal network was not justified by the 1995 Act because the requirement to use the boat bona fide for navigation is “temporal not geographical”.

The new policy is likely to include the publication by CRT of maps which purport to define the places boats without home moorings must move between in order to be in a different place. In drawing these maps CRT has interfered with centuries of history and geography by deleting the names of many towns and villages and absorbing them into other places. “Place” is not defined in the 1995 Act. Boaters without a home mooring are simply required not to remain continuously in any one place for more 14 days.

If you are subject to CRT enforcement, if you disagree with this policy or if you have had enough of CRT’s harassment of itinerant live-aboard boaters, join the NBTA in challenging CRT’s unlawful actions.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. For more information contact the National Bargee Travellers Association, press@bargee-traveller.org.uk or 0118 321 4128
  1. The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) is a volunteer organisation that campaigns and provides advice for itinerant boat dwellers on the UK’s inland and coastal waters.
  1. Boats can be licensed to use Canal & River Trust’s waterways without a permanent mooring under Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. This section states:

(ii) the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel to which the application relates will be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period for which the consent is valid without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.

  1. The judgement in the case of CRT v Mayers is online here http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/?page_id=23

National Bargee Travellers Association

30, Silver St, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 2ST

0118 321 4128

secretariat@bargee-traveller.org.uk

http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk

Why localised agreements on distance and place are dangerous

Voluntary agreements between boating groups and  the Canal and River Trust can be legally significant to the detriment of all boaters, says London NBTA.

There have been cases in the past where the Canal and River Trust has put pressure on local boater community organisations and boaters representative meetings to ‘fix’ the definition of ‘place’ in the 14 day limit legislation and to define the amount of distance a boat needs to move to avoid enforcement. logo Currently the 14 day limit in the 1995 British Waterways Act should be the legal underpinning of any enforcement that CRT take against boats without a home mooring. The main legal powers available to CRT amount to Section 17 (ii) of the BW Act, which states that CRT must licence boaters with no home mooring as long  as they use it  “bona fide for navigation (for the period of the license) without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.” In other words, boats without a home mooring have to move to a new place at least every 14 days.

However, CRT often act to undercut this basic rule. One of the ways they have done it in the past is by supplementing ‘guidance’ to the rule, by agreeing definitions of distance and place with both individual boaters and groups of boaters and, it appears, more recently by adding terms and conditions to the boat licence that are potentially beyond what the law says is required. Currently, in the London area, we have had the trial ‘place’ maps proposed and rejected by Boaters groups involved in CRT ‘Better Relationships Meetings’, and – more recently – by agreeing individual bespoke ‘cruising plans’ with boaters who are threatened with enforcement and having their license terminated. The problem is that such agreements and possibly long standing and unchallenged licence terms and conditions, – even though they may be localized and agreed by both parties – can have an knock on effect on legal cases and could affect all boaters.

The following hypothetical case study could illustrate why: Boaters on the river Ooze and CRT have a nice cup of tea together and a local voluntary agreement is made that boaters need to clock up at least 24 miles a year with no return to any given place more than twice a year. Places are voluntarily defined, marked on a map and are roughly about a mile long.

However, Boater A, on narrowboat ‘Kropotkin’, does not agree with voluntary agreements about distance, 24 miles is too far for her because she has no car, just a bicycle, and has to get her child to primary school and hold down a part time job anyway. she decides to ignore the voluntary agreement, she wasn’t invited to the meeting anyway, and follows her usual pattern. In one year, she moves 12 miles, moving at least every 14 days, logs her movements and returns to one place three times.  

Unfortunately, she gets enforced, and CRT applies to the County Court for confirmation that their section 8 powers to remove the boat may be exercised in the circumstances, to allow them to haul her boat out of the canal. Boater A (or their lawyer) argues that the guidance is voluntary and she chose to ignore it as she didn’t consider it to be a fair interpretation of the 1995 BW Act and would also have found it hard to get her kids to school. CRT’s lawyer argues to the judge that their interpretation of the BW 1995 Act Section 17 (3)(c)(ii), – AKA ‘the 14 day rule’ –  in this particular case, is an extremely reasonable one, is actually less than the act requires and is based on the voluntary agreement made between themselves and “reasonable” boaters on the River Ooze. Other “reasonable” boaters, they say, some of whom have kids, are abiding by this voluntary agreement with no problems, but boater A is a troublemaker and is abusing both the law and the goodwill of the other boaters, they say. If the judge does not grant the order, they say, he will be disregarding the wishes of the “reasonable” boaters and endangering CRT’s ability to manage the canal. (yes I know claimant goes first – but give me a narrative break!)

The judge considers the arguments and grants the order. Boater A can either appeal or loses her home. She may even be chased by CRT for costs. If she appeals and loses, then, depending on the wording of the judgement and the rank and self-importance of the judge, the guidance may even set legal precedent. This legal precedence can then ‘fix’ the interpretation of the legislation for County courts and be used by CRT lawyers as a very very strong steer in other appeal cases, and not just on the river Ooze, but nationally.

According to a senior lawyer experienced in boaty legal cases, this case study “illustrates the danger of the knock on effects of local voluntary agreements.” He added that: “A county court or high court decision is strictly speaking, not a precedent, albeit it may be ‘persuasive’. CRT like to try and rely on BWB v Davies (a previous court case that explored distance and place) even though that is only County Court and the judge specifically refused to pass comment on the continuous cruising guidance. ”

London NBTA is compiling research on bespoke individual agreements made with individual boaters under threat of non-licence renewal or other penalties. Please get in touch with us in confidence at NBTA London  nbtalondon@gmail.com if you are in this situation.

Legal Rights Meeting

Following the success of the last Legal Meeting held late 2014. There will be further opportunity to know your legal rights on:

Thursday 26th February 2015

Unsure about your legal rights as a boater? Want to find out what the recent introduction of neighbourhood maps and minimum travelling distances could mean for you?

Boaters without a home mooring, especially those new to the water, need to understand their legal rights, and how these may differ from Canal and River Trust (CRT) guidance. At a time when CRT is increasing enforcement – and pushing new guidance in terms of maps and minimum travel distances – we all need to get knowledgable about what we should do if we receive a warning letter or are threatened with legal action.

The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) has a wealth of knowledge to share on these issues, built up over many years advising boat dwellers and working directly with legal representatives. Click below to join us for a briefing in London on Thursday 6th November where you can learn about your legal rights and what to do if you encounter CRT enforcement, and put your questions direct to NBTA’s experts.

Legal & General Meeting (Mark 2) is here, book free here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/meeting-legal-general-ii-tickets-15425159066