As many of you know, last May the Canal and River Trust (CRT) rammed through a policy which would restrict or refuse licences to people who they claimed hadn’t moved ‘far enough’. The statement they gave to say how far is far enough was very vague. They said,
“[it’s] very unlikely that someone would be able to satisfy us that they have been genuinely cruising if their range of movement is less than 15-20 miles over the period of their licence. In most cases we would expect it to be greater than this”.
So, is 21 miles enough or 25 miles or even 100 miles? They’re not telling us how far, but they are happy to say. ‘YOU’RE not moving far enough’ leaving boaters uncertain as to what they have supposedly done wrong, creating unnecessary stress and anxiety.
We can see no clear limit to adhere to and CRT seems to be imposing different limits on a case by case basis. This has become clearer over time, with more and more people getting a restricted licence when they had travelled far in excess of 20 miles. We also noted that over this period, we have never seen CRT say to any able bodied person that doing 15 miles in the licence period was fine. So in effect the 15-20 mile range became at least 20 miles.
At the same time as the distance that CRT is demanding is increasing, the time in which they believe you must do the distance is decreasing. We had thought that when CRT stated the 15-20 miles range, that it was referring to the 12 month licence period. As in, at least 15-20 miles over a year licence and 7.5-10 miles over a 6 month licence and so on. However, we found CRT demanding people on 6 month restricted licences to do at least 20 miles over the 6 months. Why apply the same range to a year licence as to 6 month licence? It seems that they chose the 15- 20 mile range because they were starting with a number they could get away with publically but where they are able push it further, when dealing privately with individual boaters, they did.
We quite often find that CRT believed 20miles isn’t enough. Through the NBTA’s caseworker group, which offers help and advice to boaters facing reduced licences and eviction, we have found people who had done 30 miles and even 100 miles and still had CRT on their backs. For CRT, distance isn’t enough, it’s how you travelled over that distance too. If they think you have travelled around a certain area for ‘too long’ then they have said that it doesn’t matter that you have travelled over 50 miles, for example. In some cases, they try to get away with enforcing a certain pattern of movement, what they call a ‘continuous journey’.
With one case we were helping, a boater was refused a licence and threatened with eviction by CRT after travelling approximately 60 miles on a 6 month licence. Why? Because they didn’t like that at one point in his journey he did a U-turn to get some coal. CRT made it out that his travel pattern was incorrect because he lacked a ‘continuous journey’. Nevertheless, after a petition and 6 days of campaigning, CRT backed down and we got his licence back. CRT pushed their luck – but we pushed back and we won. You can read about that victory here. https://nbtalondon.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/boater-eviction-stopped/
This isn’t the only time we have helped someone get their licence back. However, many people are under enforcement. From May to October, CRT has issued 826 restricted licences. A large proportion of these are in London and of the 1,225 boats in the city without a home mooring, 295 boats were given restricted licences between May and November 2015. That’s 24%, almost 1 in 4 boats without a home mooring in London. Also during this period, 10 boats have been removed and four are at seizure point with a further four planned and awaiting removal and another 11 in planning. With hundreds of boaters currently on restricted licences, there is fear of even more evictions in the future. As Simon Cadek, Enforcement Supervisor for London at the London Waterway Forum in October 2015 said,
“It’s only the beginning of the policy”.
Many in our community already feel the pressure of this policy already. The idea that this is ‘only the beginning’ worries many of us, however, it is also only the beginning of us stopping their policy. We must step up the campaign by coming together as travelling boaters. We must stop CRT case by case. Each time someone is under attack we must support them, we must campaign for them and, if necessary, even stop evictions. However, we can’t just deal with the effects of the policy, we must get rid of the policy. We will do this by using the press to show up CRT on this issue. We must also reach out to the non-boater groups and individuals, so CRT are shown to be on their own in their want for a policy which threatens so many of us. One way we will do that is by marching with others for secure homes for all on the People’s Assembly demonstration on the 16 April. On that day we will hand in a petition to Parliament, already over 20,000 strong and growing, demanding that the Government pressure CRT into getting rid of their unjust policy. We hope you will join us.
For more details on the demonstration go here: https://nbtalondon.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/boats-are-homes-national-demonstration-2/
For the petition, go here and please sign and share it:https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/boats-are-homes-prevent-the-eviction-of-boat-dwellers
To contact a London caseworker; email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring/text 07974 298 958