British Waterways responded to the Bristol court decision in their favour by amending the “Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers”.
Stakeholder organisations, including NABO, were invited to a meeting to discuss the changes on 23rd June 2011. Geoffrey Rogerson and John Slee attended on NABO's behalf. At the end of the meeting, NABO asked for the opportunity to submit written comments; BW's Head of Boating, Ms. Sally Ash, agreed, setting a deadline of 31st July.
She also agreed to circulate notes of the meeting; these have not yet been received by NABO.
NABO welcomes BW's attempt to clarify the application of the law through the courts. We are keen that boaters know where they stand. However, we are mindful that the Bristol case (BW vs Paul Davies) provided a county court judgement on a specific case which does not set legal precedent, though it may prove persuasive in lower courts and the “stretch of canal” referred to in the judgement was “the 10 mile stretch between Bath and Bradford Upon Avon”.
NABO believes that the “Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers” should be written in plain English, not using legal terminology: as it says, explaining “in day to day terms the nature of the” … “movement that must take place.” Any legal references (including, for example, “passage or transit”) should be restricted to the footnotes, particularly since the document itself states that it “does not have the force of law”.
We suggest that the title should be “Guidance for Continuous Cruisers”, omitting “Mooring” since the emphasis is not exclusively about moorings, but includes (rightly we believe) the intention of bona fide navigation. Alternatively it could be re-titled, “Guidance for boaters without a permanent home mooring”.
NABO is pleased that the meeting's agenda included BW's intention to prioritise enforcement of this guidance. We believe that enforcing 14-day mooring limits is fundamental to the successful management of the waterways. Furthermore, we believe that it is right that the guidelines should draw continuous cruisers' attention to the statement in a licence application regarding the intention of bona fide navigation throughout the period of the licence.
However, we believe that trying to be too specific about distances or lock/miles and neighbourhoods would be against the spirit of the law and therefore difficult to enforce. We accept the need for a series of well thought out letters, explaining why BW considers a boater is not adhering to the spirit of the law and giving opportunity for communication and explanation by both sides. It may be helpful if the wording of these is agreed between BW and stakeholder organisations. NABO would be willing to be involved in this process.
Allied to this, NABO has actively supported the idea of Local Mooring Strategies. Again, we believe that reasonable enforcement of short-term visitor moorings time-limits will be crucial to their successful implementation. It is important to note that the rules should be applied consistently, whether the boater is a “continuous cruiser”, has a home mooring or is on a commercial or hire boat, in order to prevent “continuous cruisers” being, or feeling, victimised.
We attach British Waterways' amended “Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers” with NABO's suggestions for amendments in the right hand margin. We hope that these modifications will contribute to the process of clarification of what is legal and what is not.