Category Archives: Help

NBTA London launches new case worker collective

NBTA London new case-worker collective

The London branch of the National Bargee Traveller Association (NBTAL) has launched a new case-worker group in a bid to help London boaters who are affected by enforcement and the new Canal and River Trust policy on refusing licences.

islington lock

The volunteer case workers can be contacted for help and advice at nbta.london.caseworker@gmail.com and will soon be available for a chat on a special mobile phone helpline.

The caseworker group keeps up to date with pooled knowledge of the  current implementation of the new enforcement policy and the legal framework under which the policy sits, and can give assistance  on  ‘how far is far enough’ questions, re-licensing, sighting data queries and benefits, disability allowances and adjustments and other related advice.

After a trial period when the new policy only affected new boaters on their first licence, CRT has recently announced that the new enforcement policy came into action for all boaters on the 1st of May. Anyone having their licenced renewed after that will fall under the new policy.CRT have also stated that if a licence is renewed after the 1st May, they will look back over the previous year and make a decision as to whether you fit their current definition of “moving far enough and often enough”. If the boater fails this test,  they will refuse to renew their licence and will tell the boater to take a home mooring or remove their boat from their waters. If the boat is not removed and is a livaboard, then the next step is that they will probably take the boater to court for having no licence and to seize the boat and remove it from the canal.

For an unspecified trial period, CRT are offering temporary three or six month “restricted” licences to affected boaters so they can “mend their ways”. This offer of restricted licences is “while boaters get used to the new regime”. The NBTAL fears that at some point in the future, CRT will simply refuse to renew licences with no restricted trial period offered. At a recent Canal User Group meeting, an NBTAL member asked the London enforcement manager how long the trial period would last and what would happen afterwards and was told that “boaters would always be warned before we refuse to renew their licence.”

After a request from the NBTA at a recent meeting, CRT have stopped charging premium rates for these “restricted” licences and the cost is now pro rata to the full licence.

A spokesperson for the group said:

“In April and May this year, 60 licences out of a total of 160 new first year boaters were put on three or six month “restricted” licences for what the Canal and River Trust claim is “not moving far enough or often enough.” Regardless of our concerns about the legality of the new policy, the caseworker group is keeping itself up to date on its implementation and are available to give the best information possible to help livaboard boaters keep their homes.” 

“If you are affected then contact us and we will do our level best to work with you to offer advice and support to enable you to carry on living on the water. We are also monitoring what distance/criteria CRT are enforcing on and what criteria they are saying must be fulfilled to ‘pass’ the restricted temporary licence period, so even if you think you can handle it yourself please get in touch as the info is invaluable. It will be confidential and we do not publish or publicise any individual emails to or from the enforcement team, though we may release the odd report with the anonymised generalised trends of where the implementation of the enforcement policy is heading.”  

“We will also work with the Waterways Chaplaincy in the case of particularly vulnerable boaters. The case workers will work in your interest and keeping you on the water, if that’s what you want; is paramount, whether through negotiation, support, referral or other appropriate methods. As a last resort because court cases are usually lose-lose situations, we have experienced boaty lawyers at hand for advice and referral just in case the shit really hits the fan.”

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FACT AND ADVICE SHEET REGARDING ENFORCEMENT

London National Bargee Travellers Association

FACT AND ADVICE SHEET REGARDING ENFORCEMENT

Canal and River Trust enforcement powers

Currently the 14 day limit in the 1995 British Waterways Act should be the legal underpinning of any enforcement that CRT takes 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 license 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.

How this works in practice is that CRT have the power to reasonably interpret the legislation and enforce boats that they consider to have broken it. At the end of the process CRT can apply to the County Courts for ratification – or permission – to use their section 8 powers to remove the boat from the waterways.

The enforcement process involves several stages and it is advisable to not ignore letters or emails and to try to negotiate with CRT to be removed from the process. The London NBTA can give further advice on this and there is special protection for livaboards, disabled, elderly and pregnant women. If court action is threatened, the London NBTA can assist the boater with finding proper legal representation.

The ‘new enforcement policy’ and non-renewal of licenses

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/news/policy-outlined-for-boaters-without-a-home-mooring

The new enforcement policy circumvents the above process by using non-license renewal as an enforcement tool.The policy is new, appears to have administration glitches and teething problems, but is best encapsulated in the letter that was sent by CRT to all boaters without a home mooring that states:

“From 1 May 2015, when the licence for a boat that doesn’t have a home mooring comes up for renewal, we’ll look back at its cruising pattern to determine whether it’s appropriate to re-licence the boat again as a continuous cruiser.

 

If, at the time of renewal, we’re generally happy with a boat’s cruising pattern over the course of the previous licence period, then we’ll issue another continuous cruiser licence straight away. Of course, if during the period of the new licence we become concerned about the boat’s cruising pattern then we’ll let the boater know.

 

If we’ve any concerns about a boater’s past cruising pattern, we will get in touch about six weeks before the licence renewal date, to let them know which of the following two categories applies and what they need to do:

 

Category one

 

Boats that have hardly moved during their licence period won’t have their continuous cruiser licence renewed.

 

For the first few months after 1 May 2015, while boaters are getting used to this new approach, we’ll give those in this category another chance to establish an acceptable cruising pattern by issuing a three-month licence. If, after this three-month period, they still haven’t moved far enough then they’ll have to secure a home mooring before getting a new licence.

 

Category two

 

If a boat has been moving, but not enough to fully meet the requirements of our Guidance, we’ll only issue a six-month licence as a continuous cruiser. This will give the boater the chance to establish an acceptable cruising pattern. If, after this six-month period, they’ve still not changed their cruising pattern then they’ll have to secure a home mooring before getting a new licence.”

A frequently asked question

How far is “far enough”.

CRT refers boaters to their guidance for boats without a home mooring. Some boating organisations believe that this guidance is potentially unlawful because it appears to state that there is a minimum distance requirement, something that is not set in the legislation or subsequent case law (County Courts do not set precedent and the original intention was that the judge would determine ‘bona fide navigation’ from ‘place to place’ taking into account the context of the particular case in front of him/her). However, this distance requirement would need to be challenged in court, so for all practical purposes CRT appears to be enforcing on this:

“ (..) we can advise that it is 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.”

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/boating/licensing/enforcement/boaters-without-a-home-mooring-how-far-is-far-enough

It is important to note that CRT are clearly saying that 15-20 miles is not enough. That 15-20 miles range is NOT enough has been underlined by two recent public statements by CEO Richard Parry. The first was given in an article to the Financial Times (26/02/2015) in which Parry states:

“We welcome continuous cruisers, many of whom have a fantastic lifestyle travelling around the country. We don’t want evictions to happen, but in extreme cases if someone stubbornly refuses to comply (…)”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/40ae3218-bd8c-11e4-9d09-00144feab7de.html#axzz3VEjgkawf

The second was given in an article in City Metric in which Parry states:

“I’m telling you that we believe, clearly, that it has to be more than 15 to 20 miles,” Parry has said. “How much more we’ll be debating forever.”

http://www.citymetric.com/horizons/more-and-more-londoners-are-living-boats-their-lifestyle-under-threat-new-regulations-853

What do I do about all this?

  1. For a start it’s important to keep records and dates of your movements. This isn’t strictly required by law, but as CRT data of your boats movements may be unreliable, it is probably a good idea.
  2. Move to a new place every 14 days unless there are good reasons not to – such as ill health or mechanical breakdown – and inform CRT’s local enforcement manager by phone and follow up email o0f your intention to stay longer.
  3. Obtain a copy of CRT’s sighting data on the movement of your boat and challenge it if it is wrong. It would be a good idea to do this two or three months before your licence is due to be renewed. Contact 0303 040 4040 or Sarina.young@canalrivertrust.org.uk
  4. If CRT contacts you and tells you they are only going to offer you a new licence with a reduced term of six or three months then challenge this. Reply to the letter by email to the address given on it. Be firm and polite and provide details of your cruising pattern and state that you believe this to be within the law. Ask for your CRT sighting data if you haven’t already got it. Ask why they have refused to renew a full license. State that you if you do not receive a satisfactory answer will be raising this as a formal complaint. If the reason is already given as ‘not moving far enough’, then ask how far they consider being far enough.
  5. CTR may also offer to give you ‘guidance’ on an individual cruising pattern. If this guidance is reasonable and you believe that you will be able to comply with it then it is your decision whether to accept this.
  6. If you do not accept CRT’s decision not to renew your licence for a full 12 month term because you believe that their interpretation that your cruising pattern over the course of the last year as not bona fide is unfair, or if CRT will not negotiate and are threatening to not renew your licence and you wish to continue living on your boat on CRT managed waterways, then you need to seek legal advice. London NBTA and the National NBTA can give you the contacts for a free legal advice line run by solicitors experienced in Canal and River law and section 8 cases in particular.
  7. You can also raise the decision as a formal complaint and have it reviewed. To do this follow the step by step guide given in this link: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/contact-us/making-a-complaint

What happens if my licence is not renewed?

CRT will ask you to remove your boat from the water. Seek legal advice as above because if you live on a boat on the canal that is unlicensed, CRT will summon you to a County Court and ask the judge for permission to remove your boat from their waters. You may be liable for costs if permission is granted. Seek legal advice if you intend to go to court. In court you can challenge CRT’s decision not to renew your licence.

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.

image

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 6th November 2014

For a number of reasons, the legal rights meeting planned for tonight is severely oversubscribed.  We have been overwhelmed by the response and if everyone who has booked turns up, it will simply not be possible for everybody to get in.

However, we are doing everything we can to make sure that we get the information to as many people as possible.  We are planning a second meeting for the new year, in a much bigger venue.  Also, we are going to broadcast the meeting on Ustream for anybody who cannot make it.  This will also be available online after the meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 7pm.   To watch the live broadcast, go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nbtalondon