Boaters march to protect their homes!
Last Saturday (16th April), just over 200 boat dwellers marched to Downing Street to hand in a petition against the Canal and River Trust’s (CRT) policy that threatens travelling boat dwellers (boats without a home mooring) with restricted licenses and even eviction. Along with protesting against evictions, we are demonstrating over the need for more mooring rings and more facilities such as water taps and sewage points.
CRT’s policy was introduced in May 2015 and attempts to restrict licenses and evict boat dwellers without a home mooring for not travelling far enough or travelling in a pattern of movement not to CRT’s liking. To add insult to injury, CRT does this without stating a minimum distance or pattern of movement that they believe would satisfy them. Instead CRT has continued to enforce this policy inconsistently.
The British Waterways Act 1995 is the law that governs boats without a home mooring on CRT waters but this policy goes beyond this Act. The Act does not contain any requirements to travel a minimum distance or to follow any specific pattern of movement. The Act clearly states that boats without a home mooring must be navigating and must not stay in one place for longer than 14 days.
The petition, Boats are Homes, has been signed by more than 29,000 people. The petition asks the government to put pressure on CRT to end their policy and stop the unnecessary eviction of boaters.
The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) has a growing number of cases where boat dwellers are being threatened with eviction by CRT. Since the policy was introduced (in May 2015) to March 2016, 1,130 boats without a home mooring were given a restricted licence. During the first 6months of the policy in London alone, almost 1 in 4 boats without a home mooring (295/1225)were given a restricted licence. Boaters on a restricted licence are more likely to be evicted , have their home taken away from them and effectively be made homeless by CRT.
The number of boats without home mooring has declined since the start of CRT’s policy. CRT has stated that there were nationally 5,600 boats without home a mooring at the start of their policy and in a recent statement, CRT state that this is now around 5,000. The NBTA believe that this reduction of boat without a home mooring is down to this policy.
Living on a boat was once a peaceful way of life but now it has become a stressful and difficult existence. The threat of homelessness through this policy increases the more it is enforced by CRT and at a time when people, especially in London are facing a desperate housing crisis.
A spokesperson for National Bargee Travellers Association said
“Due to Canal River and Trust’s (CRT) policy, people are leaving their way of life as travelling boat dwellers. Many in our community feel that the CRT is trying to force us off the waterways. We are under increasing strain due to the CRT’s policies.”
“CRT doesn’t have a set distance or way we must move. They deal with us inconsistently, refuse and restrict our licences without giving us clear reasons and threaten people with eviction.”
‘However, today we have shown that we will stand together. We will not let us be picked off one by one.”
We are fighting for our homes and our way of life.’