Category Archives: Local issues

Past Event; Forage for Facilities

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In protest, the National Bargee Traveller Association London (NBTAL) organised a ‘Forage for Facilities’ event today to highlight the shortage of water, waste and rubbish disposal points on the London canals.

There were 8 boats in total, with about 40 attendees. The event took place in West London today starting at Old Oak common and involved an expedition of boats, decked out in banners and bunting, hunting the elusive facilities that have been promised by CRT since 2013. The flotilla travelled for five hours, with no facilities in sight. Between Little Venice and Bull’s Bridge there is only one water point for boaters without a home mooring to access.

A recent report by a group formed by CRT and some London boaters called the Better Relationships Group, has found that 4,000 boats, or approximately 8,000 boaters, are sharing 15 working taps and five toilet and rubbish points in the greater London area.

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A spokesperson for the NBTA London said:
“After travelling five hours we didn’t find any water points, rubbish disposal facilities or anywhere to empty our toilets. The lack of facilities in this area means that we are unable to fulfill our basic needs without travelling unreasonable distances.

This forces us to live in a way that is comparable to living conditions in third world countries. With CRT’s new draconian demands to travel a minimum distance per year, boaters are being forced to inhabit places that are thoroughly lacking in facilities.
Overall there is a general lack of facilities at a time when there are more boaters, who are paying more money to CRT and seeing no response to demand in return.”

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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.”

NBTA General Meeting

This meeting is to decide what the NBTA does in general.

This will be on the Saturday 21 November at the Quaker Meeting House, 150 Church Rd, Watford WD17 4QB (near Watford
Junction Station). Registration starts at 9.30am, the General Meeting ends at 6pm. There are going to be breaks in-between, including lunch .

If you would like to come to the General Meeting, please book a place as soon as possible by emailing secretariat@bargee- traveller.org.uk or phoning 0118 321 4128. We need to keep the venue informed of the numbers so please let us know in advance if you wish to attend.

Further travel directions etc. will be sent out on booking.

Towpath Gathering – Victoria Park 19th April

Towpath Gathering – Sunday 19th April – 12 noon
Canal Gate, Victoria Park (Western-most entrance)IMGP6550

An open air meeting and celebration of the boat community. There will be music and speeches from the boater community, alongside trade boats, bunting, banners, balloons and placards… and much more.

This is during a time when the Canal & River Trust (CRT) plans to refuse full licences to lawful boaters who “don’t move far enough”.

Along with refusing licences, CRT plan to issue some boats with a more expensive and shorter 6-month licence, on the condition that CRT will only give full licences once the boater changes their ways.

For one reason or another many of us move around various parts of London, and that is our right. But CRT plans to set requirements that go beyond the British Waterways Act 1995. This Act clearly states how often boats should move, but does not state any minimum distance that we have to travel nor follow any specific cruising pattern beyond the stated 14 day limit.

We must not allow CRT to debilitate our community. Please show your support at the Towpath Gathering.

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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.

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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.

***THIS SATURDAY JOIN THE BOATERS BLOC!!***

Nbta London's photo.

Everywhere you go in London redevelopments are happening making the housing needs for people harder.

The waterways are not excluded from this. Around Central London there is pressure to move out boaters so that property prices are not negatively effected. However, we need more mooring rings.

The whole of the navigable waters of the Bow Back Rivers was taken from us for the Olympics. Now it is only open to some trip boats and with plans to turn it into just 24 hours moorings. This should be open again to all with 14 days moorings.

There has been great reduction of facilities across the waterways. In time where there is more boats, we need more facilities. Places like West London are lacking facilities. We demand more facilities now.

Let’s march on the City and alongside other housing campaigns let our demand be heard

More Mooring Spaces
Open the Bow Back Rivers
More Facilities

Saturday 31 January at 12 noon
St Mary’s Churchyard, Newington Butts, SE1 6SQ (Elephant and Castle tube/rail)
NBTA banner and boaters will be at the corner of St Mary’s Butts and Gun Street

***This SATURDAY join the BOATERS BLOC***

Nbta London's photo.

Everywhere you go in London redevelopments are happening making the housing needs for people harder.

The waterways are not excluded from this. Around Central London there is pressure to move out boaters so that property prices are not negatively effected. However, we need more mooring rings.

The whole of the navigable waters of the Bow Back Rivers was taken from us for the Olympics. Now it is only open to some trip boats and with plans to turn it into just 24 hours moorings. This should be open again to all with 14 days moorings.

There has been great reduction of facilities across the waterways. In time where there is more boats, we need more facilities. Places like West London are lacking facilities. We demand more facilities now.

Let’s march on the City and alongside other housing campaigns let our demand be heard

More Mooring Spaces
Open the Bow Back Rivers
More Facilities

Saturday 31 January at 12 noon
St Mary’s Churchyard, Newington Butts, SE1 6SQ (Elephant and Castle tube/rail)
NBTA banner and boaters will be at the corner of St Mary’s Butts and Gun Street

CRT Hands Off Our Homes! Public Meeting, 22nd January 2015, London

The Canal & River Trust (CRT) is on a mission to make the lives of live-aboards without home moorings harder. CRT has been meeting with some boaters’ groups to try to get an agreement to an unlawful definition of “place” and an unlawful minimum distance that continuous cruisers should travel to comply with Section 17 (3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. This, together with recently concreted towpaths without mooring rings that are impossible to moor boats on, and the lack of facilities like water taps, threatens our homes. We must stop CRT making our lives harder. We need more mooring rings, more facilities and no further mooring restrictions.

The National Bargee Travellers Association London is hosting a public meeting about these attacks on boat dwellers and discussion about what we can do about it. We have also invited some speakers from the wider housing movement so we can get ideas about what can be done to defend our homes. Join us at this campaign meeting to plan what action to take.