Boat dwellers protest outside Canal & River Trust’s offices

Boat dwellers protest outside Canal & River Trust’s offices

On Tuesday 10th May between 12pm and 2pm about 90 boat dwellers without permanent moorings took part in demonstrations outside Canal & River Trust’s headquarters in Milton Keynes while 15 protested at the charity’s licensing office in Leeds. They were there to express their opposition to the charity’s punitive and unlawful enforcement action against boats without a permanent mooring.

Since May 2015, Canal & River Trust has been evicting or threatening to evict boat dwellers without a permanent mooring. The number of boats without a permanent mooring has declined since then; in May 2015, Canal & River Trust stated that there were around 5,600 boats without a permanent mooring. In a recent statement, Canal & River Trust reported that figure is now 5,281. The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) believes this reduction in boats without a permanent mooring is the result of Canal & River Trust’s new policy.

mk demo 1

The right to use and live on a boat without a permanent mooring is enshrined in the British Waterways Act 1995. It is not within Canal & River Trust’s legal powers to enforce its draconian new ‘rules’, which set requirements that go beyond the 1995 Act. Yet the Trust has stated that it is very unlikely that a boater who travels within a range of less than 20 miles is complying with these ‘rules’. In addition boaters who have not travelled in a linear fashion but have turned round, for example to access services, have been threatened with eviction. The NBTA is aware of cases where boaters have travelled much more than 20 miles but have still been served with eviction notices.

Canal & River Trust’s enforcement policies are vague and inconsistently imposed. It uses these policies to reduce the number of full 12 month licences by restricting licences of those it considers non-compliant to 6 months or refusing to renew licences altogether.

mk demo 2

Nicole has lived on a boat in the Milton Keynes area for 25 years.

“I have lived on the canal for 25 years, which is longer than I have lived
on land. Canal & River Trust’s new policies have made life so difficult. I
live on the canal because I love the community, wildlife, peacefulness,
diversity of mooring places and have truly made it my home and way of
life. I will be attending the protest because the rules have become
ridiculous and Canal & River Trust are not listening to those it concerns
but making life so difficult and stressful.  Also I take offence to the
derogatory term a Canal & River Trust member of staff used about
liveaboard boaters and this issue needs addressing.”

The staff member Nicole refers to is Matthew Symonds, the Relationship, Policy and Strategy Manager for Boating and a senior Canal & River Trust spokesperson. In a recent discussion with former colleagues, he has allegedly referred to people that live on their boats as ‘gits’.
More information can be found via this
One his former colleagues wrote an open letter to report what they heard:

In response, protesters at Milton Keynes handed in an open letter to Canal & River Trust requesting an investigation into reports of Matthew Symonds referring to boat dwellers in derogatory manner.

mk demo 3

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