BOATERS WITH RESTRICTED LICENCES CAN VOTE IN CRT COUNCIL ELECTIONS FOLLOWING NBTA INTERVENTION

Boaters with restricted licences are no longer barred from voting in CRT Council elections following a U-turn from CEO Richard Parry after National Bargee Traveller Association members raised their concerns at the September public user group meeting in London.

Boaters with ‘restricted licences’ can vote, sponsor candidates and stand for election to the Canal & River Trust (CRT) Council following the intervention of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA). The rules of the election state that “to be eligible to stand for election, sponsor an election candidate and vote in the election in [the private boating] constituency, you must hold a 12-month canal or river boat licence on 30 September 2015”.

Camden Locks

Chief Executive Richard Parry told the NBTA that CRT had no idea that preventing boaters without home moorings from renewing their licences for 12 months would disenfranchise them from the forthcoming CRT Council election, and that this was not an intended consequence of the new enforcement policy. The NBTA raised the issue at the CRT User Forum in September 2015. Mr Parry confirmed to the NBTA later last month that the standard invitation to take part in the election had been sent to those boaters who have been stopped from renewing their licences for 12 months. The deadline to nominate candidates is 14th October 2015.

CRT’s new policy, effective from 1st May 2015, unlawfully imposes a minimum range of movement contrary to Section 17 (3) (c) (ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. The Act does not specify a minimum distance or range that is required for compliance, beyond the limit of 14 continuous days in any one place. Yet CRT has stated that unless boaters without home moorings travel in a range of at least 15 to 20 miles, and CRT would expect the range to be greater than this, their licences will not be renewed for the full 12 months unless they take a home mooring. When CRT’s predecessor British Waterways (BW) tried to impose a similar regime (the ‘Lock Miles Rules’ in 2003), the threat of legal action forced BW to drop the proposal. In December 2012 CRT’s own Towpath Mooring Q and A conceded that the Trust would be acting beyond its powers if it set a minimum distance.

An estimated 350 to 400 boaters without home moorings have had their licence renewal refused for the full 12 months due to CRT’s new policy. Extrapolated over a full year, this figure shows that around 25% of boaters without home moorings are at risk of being evicted from CRT waterways and having their homes seized and destroyed. The NBTA will take whatever steps are necessary to defend bargee travellers against this attack on the right to use and live on a boat without a home mooring.

NOTES
For more information contact the National Bargee Travellers Association, secretariat@bargee-traveller.org.uk
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. The NBTA London one of the local branches and has been running for just over a year. Contact nbtalondon@gmail.com

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. Section 17 is the legal basis for CRT’s enforcement powers. 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.

National Bargee Travellers Association

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

0118 321 4128

secretariat@bargee-traveller.org.uk

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