NABO, together with ACC, AWCC, IWA and RBOA, met with CRT on Monday 31st March 2014 to discuss short stay towpath moorings, followed by a presentation on the waterways chaplaincy activity.
These are NABO’s notes from this meeting.
Richard Parry, Simon Salem, Sally Ash
Alan Wildman – RBOA
Les Etheridge & Paul Roper – IWA
Mike Rodd & Mark Tizard – NABO
Steve Jenkins and Lucy Smith – ACC
Paul Le Blique – AWCC and NAG
John Scott – Chaplaincy Service joined the group at 2.15pm to discuss waterways chaplaincy.
Why are we here? – Nominally to review the paper provided by Sally Ash (Short Stay Towpath Moorings – Discussion Guide for National Boating Organisations for 31/3/13). Although the meeting did not follow paper, a number of the issues within the paper were covered (as summarised below). Any specific action points are shown in italics within the document and the ACC/NABO/RBOA’s understanding of overall agreement and decisions taken at the meeting are summarised at the end of the document.
The 5 key points of consensus from the boating association’s pre-meeting were raised as a starting point for discussions at the meeting with CRT.
Enforcement essential – pragmatic, targeted and visible enforcement.
Evidence is required (including to be made available to associations) before any decisions are made. While the organisations agreed that some local changes might be made for the impending boating season where evidence of congestion is or becomes available (from CRT or the boating app), it was noted that no evidence was available at the Associations pre-meeting or the CRT meeting. There is a role for the associations, their members and other boaters to provide evidence of congestion, good moorings etc. via email/text reporting system to supplement CRTs evidence & enable limited resources to be targeted/improvements/increased capacity or perhaps restrictions at affected moorings where evidence exists.
Localism – decisions can only be made locally, via the NAG process rather than partnerships. Need consistent national framework above this.
Education is important – breast up, courtesy, evidence that this has worked in some locations e.g. Honey Street, Skipton. Need to encourage boaters to move and reinforce the courtesies of boating.
Maintenance of non-VM (casual) moorings essential to enable other options to the VM.
A short discussion on the items raised then took place including:
There need to be adequate casual moorings available and awareness of them. These need to be sufficiently maintained.
If there is evidence of non-compliant boaters or undue pressure on VMs, then the boating associations round the table have not been made aware of it.
Localism is key – where does CRT get its input from – NAG, Partnerships? There is concern that the partnerships are running away with ideas. Note that the original K&A boaters group provided definitions of place and other work that informed the changes there, not the CRT partnership.
Richard Parry recognised that there are future governance issues that need to be addressed to consider the role of NAG, the partnerships, local waterways manager etc. There is a need for coherence
Enforcement needs to be pragmatic, sympathetic (skilful, firm, sensitive, recognised that dealing with real people), it is costly to CRT (financially) and CRT can be in a lose-lose situation with some enforcement situations with regards to money and reputation.
Patrol notices are the first part of the enforcement process. They are still being issued however, once issued, a boater is “in the system” i.e. once a PN is issued, it is step 1 in only a 3 step process. The issuing of a Patrol Notice therefore has potentially significant cost implications for CRT unless the boater receives it and moves. The pre-CN1 letter (informal polite please move) is reported as not being in use despite being developed.
Richard Parry recognised that it would be useful for the Associations to have a regular update on enforcement from the enforcement advisory panel (CRT’s Denise Yelland could not be present today) and while information on individual cases could not be provided, there could be retrospective reviews of enforcement provided to the associations. It was agreed that a dedicated meeting to discuss enforcement with Denise and the associations would be set up by CRT. The meeting would take place in the next 2 months and before the meeting, the associations would be provided with a summary of evidence and an exposition of the enforcement approach. Paul from the AWCC and NAG requested that the aims of the meeting be clear from the start. The associations were keen to explore and understand the current enforcement process and to see if it could be improved in any way.
Patrol officers should be more visible on the canals – enforcing, educating and encouraging.
The benefits of a notice to be posted on boats was discussed – this would be something pre-Patrol Notice that was not part of the formal enforcement system but which encouraged boaters to move and which made boat owner aware that they were overstaying. It would also send out a message to other boaters and waterways users. CRT agreed to look into this.
The Foxton example of where persistent over stayers on VMs had been moved on 3-400 meters off the VM was discussed.
The ACC raised that enforcement guidelines for CRT enforcement teams are essential to ensure consistency and these guidelines should be made available by CRT to all boaters so boaters could understand enforcement rules and what to expect.
It was noted by NABO that CRT are currently “gambling” that they have the right to introduce no return and maximum stays per month on 24 hour/7 day VM’s, why not “gamble” on physically moving non-compliant boats (under impeding navigation powers) further along the towpath. The towpath telegraph would soon get to hear of this.
No evidence of overstaying/VM space issues was brought to the table or discussed.
Richard welcomed and discussed the idea of a system of obtain evidence from boaters about busy moorings, space on VMs, good casual moorings etc. (not about ratting on a fellow boater). This could be done via an App, email text. The CRT Nature Watch App provided a useful model that could be developed to be simple and easy to use. It would be a positive reporting tool to reinforce CRT evidence and potentially enable CRT to target enforcement, introduce more VMs, manage VMs, improve casual moorings. CRT agreed to look into this.
The figures raised at the recent CRT London user Group of historical and current number of boats in the area (i.e. significant increase), number of continuous cruisers in London and number of London boats “in the system” in relation to cruising patterns was cited as being valuable and something that had been shared by various Facebook boating pages stimulating debate and understanding of the problem/issues. Numbers for different hot spots on the system should be circulated and promoted via CRT and other association publications.
It was agreed that more data is needed on boaters leaving marinas for good and this could be obtained directly from marina operators. CRT advised that this was hard to obtain. NABO felt this was something CRT should explore by building relationships with marina operators.
Casual Moorings and Maintenance
The issue of casual moorings was discussed and how there are miles of network available other than VMs but these were not always well used or boaters were perhaps unaware that they could be used.
Standards for these casual moorings would need to be defined and maintained. Features of a useable casual mooring included depth of channel (access), straight edge, sufficient distance from lock/bridge/flight/weir etc.as not to impede navigation, bank clearance & grass cutting, offside vegetation managed sufficiently to ensure navigation not compromised, somewhere to put pins/nappy pins/chains in (e.g. ARCO often good rather than bollards/rings).
These casual moorings might not be signed at the canal-side (costs, too many signs etc.) but could be marked on maps, in Pearsons guides etc. in future and communicated by various routes e.g. website. By encouraging the availability of more casual usage this could reduce pressure on VMs
RP asked if we need more of these casual moorings? IWA advised that selectively yes e.g. Leicester summit had no need. There was general agreement that there should be more.
Changes to VM Timescales
Discussion of proposed changes to all short stay VM – NABO, RBOA and ACC did not support current proposed changes. The IWA and AWCC did not agree with the other three organisations detailed above.
Richard Parry agreed that they would hold tight on their position – that there would be no changes to VM (except to retain existing restrictions at Thrupp, Stoke Bruerne and Foxton) but CRT would continue to gather evidence at all sites in the SE identified on Jeff Wyatt’s list using volunteers to gather evidence. This would be compared and incorporated into the data gathering promoted via the CRT app idea above.
Discussions on 2/4 hour (shop stop) moorings together with 24/48 hour and 7/14 day. IWA and AWCC happy for rationalisation to 4 hr/24hr/14 day across network.
Other organisations felt evidence required, don’t change fast. The 7 day rule should be removed.
Any eventual restrictions on some VM (based on evidence) would be lifted outside of the main season (nb/ this never happened at Stoke Bruerne and Thrupp and other site despite intention that it would) and moorings would be 14 day in winter. Winter is November to March. Enforcement could be concentrated in the boating season. It was agreed that London was a case on its own in relation to this issue.
A discussion on overstay charges ensued based on the group’s view on them.
It was discussed whether the “success” at the 3 sites was down to boater behaviour or down to the “threat” of the overstay fine? CRT felt that there was evidence at the 3 sites that the overstay charges worked and should they be rolled out wider. Sally advised that only 2 fines had been levied at these 3 sites during the year. Sally advised that the “deterrent” charge was one of the options being considered at other sites in the SE but this would now be put on hold.
A number of existing VM signs may already include information on overstay charges. These will not be taken down over the next year whatever happens but issue is whether CRT widens their scope at VMs (or even enforces on these VMs where signs already exist and not been adopting overstay charges at present).
Overstay charges only relate to VM, not to casual moorings.
CRT advised that there is no evidence of people willingly clocking up over stay charges and that they do act as a “deterrent”. They are set at a level not to attract the more affluent boater who might treat it like a permanent mooring.
There were varying views amongst the associations. Paul from AWCC did not see the charge as a threat. RBOA, NABO and the ACC felt that they were a perceived threat and boaters were moving because it was courteous to do so.
NABO and the ACC advised that there was a risk to CRT of a legal challenge associated with the various changes being proposed with an overstay charge being taken to a local magistrates court with negative PR implications for CRT. RBOA made the point they were aware of a major car parking company that had never taken anyone to court for non-payment due to the high risk of the case failing and the subsequent reputational and operational damage this would cause.
Discussion of the precedent of over stay charges on the K&A. Note that the K&A original fully representative group did not support overstay charges, while the subsequent partnership group supported it.
Some felt that the 14 day mooring rules can be enforced upon, VM overstay return rules and ‘penalty’ charges cannot (this is based on NABO’s legal advice).
There were mixed views amongst the associations on the £25 overstay charges, these need to be reserved for local situations and used sparingly where there is local support and evidence e.g. Islington. Again NABO’s legal advice is that such a charge can only be justified if it is a genuine “service charge” and not in any way a fine or penalty. It is understood that CRT agreed with this view.
CRT confirmed that there is NO CRT thrust to implement more over stay charges but they won’t remove them where they exist at the 3 SE sites (Thrupp, Foxton etc.) and any other sites where already in use (e.g. Islington and the K&A). They won’t do more but they won’t rule them out, they will learn from the ones in place.
Need a combination of education, encouragement enforcement supported by evidence.
The overstaying/abuse of VM problem is only undertaken by a few boaters and NOT the majority so why alienate the majority, rather target enforcement at the relevant few.
Breasting up is now taken as read in London but should be rolled out as standard practice across VM across the network.
Sally reported that the rationale for them is reported to be “ghost moorers – boaters who report a home mooring that they don’t use”. Sally’s view is that they would be a local solution with limited application. NABO asked that Sally quantify the scale of the problem but she was unable to do so. NABO felt this problem could best be dealt with by CRT building relationships with their marina customers to obtain this information.
ACC felt that it was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Difficult to enforce. May be issues with those with a registered home mooring off their home mooring, issues with continuous cruisers etc.
Sally considering a “calendar day ration e.g. 8 per month etc. Can only be applied on those sites where there is daily monitoring undertaken by volunteers.
NABO, RBOA and ACC oppose any non-return rules. IWA and AWCC support (AWCC does not support on river navigations or where events taking place e.g. Trick show).NABO’s legal advice is that non-return rules are not legally-justifiable and can certainly be challenged in law.
Issues with older people and marina users coming out of marinas and their right to return within given period with limited cruising routes from marina.
Could simply state at VMs – “please use sparingly” but what does sparingly mean? How monitor and how enforce these?
Simon Salem raised the issue of education and a discussion took place on the role of “peer pressure”, word of mouth.
Discussion how the non-experienced/new boater might need more information but that there was ultimately no excuse for ignorance.
The AWCC would welcome a “social code” from CRT that they would share amongst their members and that they would be disappointed if their members flouted.
Code of practice for boaters as licence holders raised and what is reasonable behaviour. Note that boaters in London, K&A and on Gloucester and Sharpness canals have requested/are going to get guidance on acceptable cruising patterns to ensure won’t come under enforcement eye.
CUB agreement to 20 mile cruising pattern was agreed but has disappeared into the ether. K&A have agreed a 20 mile cruising pattern to be acceptable.
Definition of place raised and NAG support this in relation to bridge hoppers and non-return rules. NABO supports the work done on the K&A by the original representative mooring group to define place and would suggest this is an example of the strength and value of true local engagement by truly representative groups.
If a code of conduct existed, all organisations would sign up to it (subject to content) however it would only work if reinforced by effective enforcement and organisations would only sign up to and promote it alongside effective enforcement by CRT.
Richard Parry reinforced that it was a 2 way process and that CRT must be accountable to the associations.
Welfare officer and Chaplaincy
Richard Parry advised that any welfare role in CRT had to be supported by an independent network (e.g. the Chaplaincy). He then invited in John Scott from the Chaplaincy
John gave an update on their 2009 Workplace Matters initiative and how they worked with the Herts and Beds emergency services and a number of other clients (law courts, retain sector, Vauxhall motors, Luton casino and Luton airport) to provide theological and wider support in workplace. In 2008 Mike Shawl had identified a growing need for work on the waterways. As a result Jenny Dibsall was seconded in from the Salvation Army for 2.5 days a week). Jenny then recruited a network of volunteers across parts of the network – mainly South GUC and the Lee and Stort, also now have some connections in Birmingham and Bristol. The chaplaincy network of volunteers provide support, befriending services, funeral services, hospital visits and help with welfare issues (e.g. advocacy, recently supported family with purchase of new stove).
Jenny is retiring in April and with that the Salvation Army funding of the post goes. CRT are funding the post short term in the interim (a few months).
John wants to replace Jenny and expand the role across England and Wales via church connections. John is also looking at other funding sources with CRTs support. Paul currently has funding for 2.5 days a week for one year (this will attract limited candidates). If he could get it part time for 3 years he’d get more interest, if he could get it full time for 3 years he’d get best calibre of candidates.
It was noted that Jenny was very good at providing support and advice without pushing her faith and John advised that all volunteers were required to do the same although the organisation was a Christian faith organisation and “marketed” itself as such but should not force its faith on those in need. It was acknowledged that some boaters would not be happy to talk to a Christian organisation however non-denominational their approach. John advised that a pagan chaplaincy service existed.
Chaplaincy volunteers are trained to recognise mental health, drug and alcohol issues and to signpost to other organisations for support. They always need more resources.
It was asked what the formal route is for contact with the chaplaincy – currently via Jenny Dibsdall and then via her interim Lorraine Newman, currently recruiting into the role. CRT will promote the contacts for the chaplaincy to the associations.
Steve Jenkins reminded the group about the original reason for the need – an aging canal population who may have retired to the canal network, sold their house to buy the boat and have limited resources as they grow older (living on £500 a month) and perhaps increasingly unable to continuously cruise. But now, increasingly the need was for those with mental health or wider benefits related issues. The chaplaincy was therefore no longer relevant to canal needs although a boater in need could be signposted to the chaplaincy if their needs could be met by the chaplaincy and they had no issues with dealing with the chaplaincy.
It was mentioned that sometimes by the time a welfare issue has come to light, the chaplaincy services may no longer be suitable.
Note that the Boaters Christian Fellowship and the Chaplaincy are not formally connected.
The ACC and NABO raised that it was their view that CRT should consider a part time in-house welfare liaison officer post to act as a signpost between vulnerable boaters (actual or potential) and relevant help including the chaplaincy where applicable and to support the enforcement teams.
Richard Parry acknowledged that his enforcement officers already do this liaison where they can but they had limited enforcement resources that were stretched with such welfare issues.
At the end of the session Richard Parry said he would take the welfare liaison officer away for consideration and look at alternative funding options for it (partnerships, volunteers, canal users etc.). It was also mentioned that the associations may have some expertise amongst their members e.g. NABO have a housing “expert” and RBOA have a “benefits” expert.
Summary of agreed actions:
* No further changes to VM (days of stay, no return rules or over stay charges) to be made until a data gathering exercise launched to be co-ordinated by CRT but promoted by all associations.
* CRT to review governance and how local boater support can best be structured perhaps as a sub-set of NAG.
* CRT to review the establishment (including maintenance standards) of more casual moorings and how these could be promoted.
* CRT to call a further meeting of the Associations to discuss enforcement process and the scale and scope of the current issues. Information on evidence and exposition to be provided to associations prior to meeting.
* CRT would review how breasting up of boats (common in London) could be encouraged at VMs identified as being congested.
* CRT to draft a code of practice for boaters.
* CRT to investigate adaption of Nature Watch App for boaters reporting mooring opportunities or capacity issues.
* CRT to investigate potential for a visible patrol notice that is not part of the formal enforcement process but which sends a message out to relevant boat and nearby community of the need to keep moving to comply with licence conditions.
* CRT to make available to Associations, information on enforcement levels in hot spot areas (CRT London User forum example) for associations to promote to their members.
* CRT to provide chaplaincy contact details (Jenny and interim) to the Associations.
* CRT to consider options for welfare liaison officer.