Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Waterways Charity admits its cruising rules are not legal

The Canal & River Trust (CRT) which manages waterways in England and Wales has admitted that the rules that it has required a sector of its boating customers to obey actually have no legal standing.

Canal & River Trust Head of 
Boating, Sally Ash
Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Continuous Cruisers (boaters with no home mooring) asked for clarification of the British Waterways (now CRT) rules being enforced — saying: “Why can’t you make it simpler and just tell us how far it is necessary to move? ” In a background paper for a meeting in Milton Keynes in November 2012, the CRT Head of Boating, Sally Ash said: “We would if we could but it’d be wrong and we’d be going beyond our powers. ‘Place’ can only be defined within a local context. That’s why we’re trying to develop local mooring plans in true cooperation with all sections of the boating community”.

In admitting that it cannot lawfully specify a minimum distance that boaters without home moorings must travel in order to comply with Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act, CRT are now returning to a definition that was given by the then Kennet & Avon Canal Waterway Manager, Ian Jarvis at a meeting in Bath in January 2005 attended by Bath MP Don Foster, representatives of Bath & North East Somerset Council, the West Kennet Boating Community and National Association of Boat Owners. The minutes of that meeting state: “regarding the Guidelines for Continuous Cruising it was confirmed that the guidance note suggested that a progressive journey was necessary. The boaters asked what was the realistic expectation for a progressive journey and Ian Jarvis confirmed that the requirement would be to move from one neighbourhood to another — and one definition of this would be to move from one parish to another.” The boater representatives at that meeting said that they were happy with the continuous cruiser guidance that had been reviewed by user groups — that it was good guidance — although it needed clarification.
In the background notes for the Milton Keynes meeting in November the CRT also said that it has dropped the enforcement target of putting all boats that travel less than 30km during their contract period into the enforcement process — stating that the target was unrealistic.

Panda Rainbow of the K&A Boating Community said: “There isn't much evidence of true co-operation with “all sections” of the boating community here on the K&A in the light of Sally Ash’s rubbishing of the views of the liveaboard boaters on the Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group and her unilateral termination of the steering group in late 2011 just as it was reaching a consensus.”

In the the briefing paper Sally Ash also conceded that the judgement in BW v Davies is not legally binding saying: “In making a judgement in the Davies case in 2010, a Bristol county court judge said that moving to and fro along a 10 mile stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal did not amount to bona fide navigation. This is a steer but not legally binding for other areas”.  

Panda said: “Judgements made in a county court are not binding, even on another county court and this is a significant U-turn from Ms Ash’s original statement in a press release on 1 April 2011.  That press release said: ‘The decision of the Learned Judge in the case of British Waterways v Davies will be binding on lower courts (and District Judges) and persuasive on Circuit Judges throughout England and Wales.’ This vastly over-stated BW’s legal position; apart from anything else, there are no lower courts with jurisdiction to hear Section 8 cases.” she concluded.

At the meeting it was also admitted that overstaying on visitor moorings was not a problem caused by itinerant ‘liveaboard’ boaters — and that boaters with moorings were just as likely to disregard visitor mooring time limits.

You can read the CRT briefing document in full at:  

The meeting in November took place between continuous cruisers; CRT Trustee John Dodwell; the CRT boating team and CRT enforcement staff. It was initiated by continuous cruiser Peter Macdonald following discussions with Mr Dodwell in which Mr Macdonald raised his concerns about the CRT Council briefing on Non-Compliant Continuous Cruising published in October 2012.

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