THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOAT OWNERS

Thursday, August 24, 2017

NABO News Editorials

NABO News Editorial June 2014

Peter Fellows has some thoughts on moorings, selfishness and regulations

The London Assembly report on moorings in London, included in the news section, shows a substantial increase the numbers of residential boaters with an extra 1,000 boats now mooring on London’s canals. This is attributed to rapidly rising housing costs in the city. In other areas, such as the western end of the K&A, the Ashby, Grand Union and Oxford canals, people who have waterway-based lifestyles congregate in smaller groups. CRT believes that nationally there are something like 700-1000 boats without a home mooring that have not moved more than 5 km in a 12-month period. However, this is a small percentage of the 35,000 boats registered with the Trust - although it has to be said that vast majority of these remain tucked up in marinas and online long-term moorings for most of the year. CRT has introduced a trial on the K&A which identifies neighbourhoods through which boats must move, as well as the no-return rules and overstaying charges at visitor moorings. But the results of a survey of NABO members by Mark Tizard, reported in this issue, show that 78% of respondents felt there was no problem of people overstaying on visitor moorings outside the well-recognised congestion hotspots on the K&A and parts of London. Non-movement and overstaying raise the question of enforcement and an extract from a CRT briefing paper in this issue describes the enforcement processes used for licence evasion, unidentifiable boats and overstaying. Geoffrey Rogerson concludes that even if boaters want more visible policing of non-movement and overstaying they are not going to get it. The calls for greater enforcement by boaters are understandable but it is expensive and I would prefer to see CRT funds used maintain the navigation infrastructure.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of one member in Mark’s survey: “I don't want CRT to get too heavy-handed on this as the lack of regulations is one of the attractions of the waterways. It is more about changing the hearts and minds of boaters so that overstaying ... is widely perceived as the selfishness that it is.” It seems to me that CRT risks killing the proverbial ‘goose that laid the golden egg’ and many boaters who seek the freedom to cruise minimally regulated waterways may find alternative ways to spend their leisure time. As boaters we should be taking responsibility to point this out in a quiet non-confrontational way if we find any overstaying miscreants. This would help change the general perception of overstaying in much the same way as public attitudes to smoking and wearing seat belts were changed.

The London Assembly report calls for local solutions to mooring issues and I am pleased that CRT is endorsing this approach. Robert Neff has written an interesting article on marina-based residential moorings and the difficulties marina operators and liveaboard boaters can face with local authorities over planning permission and council tax. It is a bit of an eye-opener to see how complicated all this can be.

We don’t wave the NABO flag as often as we should, but we can now that CRT has taken up Mark Tizard’s suggestion to appoint a Boater Welfare Liaison Officer as described in his article on support for vulnerable boaters. Finally as a departure from our usual boating features, David Fletcher reports on a journey from London to Manchester, this time viewing the waterways at 80 mph. Enjoy the summer until the next issue in September and please send me your photos for possible use on the cover of NABO News - you could get a free year’s membership.

Peter

 

NABO News Editorial April 2014

NABO News Editorial April 2014

It seems that one unexpected consequence of the winter flooding is the revisiting of plans to merge EA navigations into CRT. Although CRT successfully manages the navigation and flood control on the Trent, NABO believes that without substantial Government support running into tens of millions, CRT is not yet sufficiently financially secure to take on the additional EA waterways. In this issue, NABO’s Thames Rep. Louis Jankel, offers a detailed breakdown of why this is a bad idea, but with some form of reorganisation of Defra looking increasingly likely, will the politicians listen?

The good news is that CRT has abandoned plans for a Roving Mooring Permits trial and Mark Tizard reviews the somewhat chequered history of RMPs from BW days. Now we need to turn our attention to no-return rules and overstaying charges, which as I have pointed out many times, should never have been introduced. As NABO’s Mooring Rep., Mark is fully involved in both these and monitoring the ‘guidelines for continuous cruisers’ just reissued by CRT. As he points out in his articles and Mike Rodd describes in his update on the K&A mooring plan, these signs and charges are not legally enforceable and are a sledgehammer to crack a proverbial tiny nut. Most boaters and boating organisations seem to agree that where there is an issue of overstaying, proper even-handed enforcement to move offenders on is the right way forward - but of course this costs CRT money. Perhaps it is also up to us boaters to apply peer pressure more often; after all we are the ones that would benefit. Finally, we have all been saddened to learn of the death of NABO’s oldest member and lifelong waterways campaigner, Philip Ogden. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Peter

NABO News Editorial December 2013

A breath of fresh air

Those members who were unable to attend the AGM in November missed a real treat. Not only an interesting and enjoyable presenta­tion from Adam Comerford, CRT’s Group Hydrology Manager, but also an opportunity to feed our opinions into proposals for new water man­agement strategy. Richard Parry, CRT’s new Chief Executive, spent the day with us and received some fairly critical ‘home truths’ from members—especially about CRT consultations—during the open ses­sion. I for one was impressed with his openness and willingness to lis­ten to boaters’ opinions; something of a new turn of events for BW/ CRT and a breath of fresh air that I hope he can translate into a new ethos throughout the whole organi­sation. Mark Tizard reports a similar view after he and other Council members met Richard in November. NABO has been saying for years that it would like to be a ‘critical friend’ to CRT but until recently much of NABO’s criticism and questioning, especially on the legality of some recent changes, have been largely ignored. The planned meeting be­tween our legal representative and CRT’s legal team early next year is a good step in the right direction. NABO News has carried comment and articles that are critical of CRT and will continue to do this if it is necessary—see our responses to the SE visitor moorings and K&A con­sultations and the note on K&A bol­lards. The EA is not immune—Louis Jankel reports on problems on the Thames. The last issue also carried articles and an editorial complain­ing about the proposed treatment of community boating organisa­tions and I am pleased that CRT has decided to not alter the licensing structure for this group of boaters, although there is no mention yet of fundraising restrictions or mooring rents. Rebecca Bruce, who contrib­uted one of the articles said: “How fantastic and very well done for all the part that NABO has had to play in this and for having more faith than I did that CRT would eventu­ally listen to people—there is hope!”

I also give CRT credit where it is due—following the recent report of repair work to the Wolverhampton locks, in this issue, George Ballinger, CRT’s Head of Engineering, gives an update of the work going on behind the scenes to minimise the negative effects of HS2 on the canals. Finally, farewell to Richard and Simon, who have left the Council but will remain as Secretary and reps and welcome back to Trevor Rogers.

Enjoy the Christmas break and wishing you happy boating in 2014 from all at NABO News

NABO News Editorial October 13

Sleepwalking into Trouble?

 

There was a (very short) CRT consultation in July on changing the licensing system for charity and community boats, which would result in them being charged for a standard leisure boat licence rather than a commercial licence, less a 60% discount. Fair enough, you might say: simplify the licensing system as much as possible; but the knock-on effects on the charities could be very serious. And as two charities point out in their responses, included in this issue, there are other changes proposed, including a ban on ‘commercial’ revenue-generating activity on CRT land and possible changes to moorings and service provisions for these organisations. This is already being seen by some as the ‘big’ charity that has all the power trying to take money away from smaller charities that do not. Regardless of the merits of CRT’s intentions, is its public relations department sleep-walking? Has it not considered what the public perception of the proposals might be when they become more generally known? Newspaper headlines of small boat-owning charities being forced to close because of CRT would be a disaster for the Trust.

In other articles in this issue, Mark Tizard has data on mooring uptake at the ‘honey pot’ site of Stoke Bruerne, which show that the new mooring regulations have had little effect on the availability of visitor moorings there. It seems that word has got round that better enforcement means overstayers no longer overstay, so maybe it would have been better to have introduced better enforcement first to see if it worked before all these ‘no-return’ rules and so on, which (as I said in the last issue) I still believe should be rescinded as soon as possible. On the subject of the last editorial, Brian and Susan Chadwick point out in their letter in this issue that I should have referred to ‘continuous moorers’ not continuous cruisers - a point I gladly accept. Mooring issues and developments were also discussed at the last meeting between NABO’s Mike Rodd and Mark Tizard and CRT and there is a report on the outcome.

I like to give credit where it is due, and I have included a report from Ian Lane, CRT’s West Midlands Principal Waterway Engineer, on the difficult repairs needed to a lock on the Wolverhampton flight following vandalism - all done within 52 days. Mike Rodd recently attended an excellent presentation by Adam Comerford, CRT’s Group Hydrology Manager, who has kindly agreed to speak at NABO’s AGM in November (put the date in your diary now - November 16th at Wolverhampton Boat Club). Finally, a recent sinking on the Huddersfield Canal prompted me to collect a number of diverse safety-related articles together in this issue. NABO now has a new promotional leaflet, so if you would like copies to hand out to fellow boaters, please get in touch with the Secretary, Richard Carpenter.

Peter Fellows

Editorial, NABO News 4, July 2013

Editorial, NABO News 4, July 2013

 

In my younger days, we regularly loaded up the boat with friends and beers and set off from Calcutt, mooring at the visitor moorings in Weedon for a Saturday evening meal together at the restaurant there, before returning on Sunday. On a recent trip further down the Grand Union, we saw a CRT sign at Cosgrove saying: ‘Maximum stay - 14 days per calendar year’. What is all this about? Presumably, local boaters might want to regularly visit this attractive village, but are they supposed to moor here overnight for a maximum of fourteen times per year? Or can they moor once each year for a fortnight – or some other combination of visits? It is not clear. But whatever the interpretation, who is going to monitor and enforce this and what are the penalties if, for example, someone moors fifteen times a year? How are shared ownership boaters supposed to know if another owner has moored there in the previous year? Are hire-boats to be included? The whole thing starts to become surreal… and totally unnecessary.

If CRT staff are the enforcement officers, couldn’t they be better employed doing something more useful - like enforcing the 14-day rule? Or is it going to be volunteers? In which case, have they been fully briefed that they could be cross-examined by a defence counsel when they appear as witnesses in court? I don’t know if this sign and the restrictions are the Regional Waterway Manager’s idea to deal with a specific local problem, or whether it is now a CRT policy, as there appear to have been no public statements by CRT on its introduction.

The whole purpose of boating (to me at least) is unrestricted enjoyment of the waterways - provided of course that I am considerate to other boaters and do not abuse visitor moorings - which is what the vast majority of boaters are like. Why should I not revisit a place however many times I wish to? This ‘no-return’ rule is bonkers and should be rejected. These things have a habit of becoming custom and practice; having been trialled in one location, they become adopted throughout the system. If you see any similar signs that offend your sense of justice and freedom to cruise, please send me a photo and the location.

The other thing I noticed on our return to the Grand Union, since we were based here and regularly cruised this stretch, is the much larger numbers of live-aboard boaters that now line the route. A journey that took four hours fifteen years ago took five hours last month because of the need to revert to tickover to pass moored boats every few hundred yards and either side of almost every bridge. This creates a difficult situation for CRT: how to enable boaters to make reasonable headway and calculate their cruising times based on three lock-miles per hour; and at the same time, deal with the legitimate aspirations of more and more people to choose a cheaper way of life afloat. There are of course no easy answers, but CRT has made a start and should be applauded for increasing the enforcement of continuous cruising rules (and also for substantially reducing licence evasion over the last two years). To me, even-handed enforcement, and not the imposition of these new no-return rules, is the key to dealing with non-compliant boaters. Different aspects of the mooring debate feature in detail in this issue, including the K&A mooring plan and loss of moorings to commercial interests, overstaying charges for visitor moorings in the South East, the introduction of Roving Mooring Permits, and a London enquiry into moorings. As always, I welcome NABO members’ views on all of this. In the meantime, enjoy this issue and a summer out and about on the water.

Peter