CRT and EA are in the process of opening up the waterway system for general navigation. The latest from CRT was on 23 June and it said: ‘As you may have heard, the Government has today announced measures to continue the easing of lockdown. Importantly, this means that from Saturday 4 July all boaters in England will be able to stay overnight on their boats. In Wales, you can go out on your boat if you can do it locally. This generally means not travelling further than five miles to where your boat is moored. There should be no overnight stays on boats, no landing in any place beyond the immediate local area and a return to the point of departure. The restrictions on staying local could be lifted on Monday 6 July, if conditions allow, and we will update further when this is confirmed.’ This page gives details of canal structures that may not be open. Note that the Leeds & Liverpool, Macclesfield and Peak Forest are open, although water shortages mean there are timed passages at the major locks. As we go to press with this, there is a city lockdown in Leicester. CRT have a stoppage notice here https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/notices/17849-between-bridge-18-wanlip-road-bridge-and-bridge-52-turnover-bridge. So the city is closed. In order to help those who live-aboard, the Trust is suspending the requirement to move every 14 days on moorings between Wanlip (Bridge 18) and Newton Harcourt (Bridge 52). We are not done yet with this virus. Stay safe out there.
EA has said this on 26 June: ‘We are pleased to let you know that overnight stays on boats will be allowed from 4 July 2020. This includes private leisure boats as well as commercial hire boats and hotel boats. Individuals and operators should follow Government guidance on social mixing outside of household groups.’
Boat Safety Scheme extensions. We understand that the suspension of BSS examinations up to end July will not be further extended in most circumstances. Guidance for boat owners on preparing boats for examination in the time of COVID-19 has been published here: BSS Examination Preparation Linked to Covid-19 protocols. It is now expected that, if your BSS is due or overdue, you will get this organised in most circumstances. You should ring your chosen examiner and get a booking for the examination to be done. If you are shielding and cannot do this, then you must ring your navigation authority (NA) and talk to them. Otherwise if your licence is due or overdue, and you do nothing, it will not be renewed. If you are caught up in this and have a good or bad experience, please tell us so that we can understand what is happening and guide the NAs.
NABO Council. We met in June by teleconference to review the current position of the issues of the day. There will be a full report in the next NABO News. We have been using the phone-in option for a couple of years now, and we are getting better at it. It is time- and cost-effective, all done in a couple of hours and the minutes come out quickly. We will go back to having some of our meetings at Tamworth, but it is clear that things will change.
CRT is extending licence holidays for many boat businesses until 31 July and continues to try ‘to persuade DEFRA and central Government to provide a specific waterway financial aid package. IWA are continuing to lobby and intend to send another letter this week to the Waterways Minister. Their Chief Executive and Chair are due to meet with her next week’.
CRT meeting. Mike Rodd and Mark Tizard will have a routine phone-in meeting with CRT’s Matthew Symonds on the 14 July.
CRT winter stoppages. These are now on the CRT website here. Phil Goulding took part in a long review meeting in June to discuss the details. If you have comments, please let us know or send them straight to CRT at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/planning-your-boat-trip/planned-winter-stoppages
Bridgewater and Taunton Canal in Somerset. CRT has stated that it will not continue to operate the Bridgewater Docks, although it will continue to run the 11-mile canal. The CRT lease on the docks is coming to an end and, although it has been extended until November because of Covid-19, CRT does not want to renew it from the dock's owners, Somerset County Council. So if nobody will take on the running of the docks, all boats will have to be removed. Apparently, boat owners have been given notice that they will probably have to remove their boats, some of which are residential.
Housing benefit and universal credit In a landmark judgement issued on 25 June 2020 the Upper Tribunal has confirmed that Housing Benefit is payable for boat licence fees because the boat licence fee if living aboard is rent. Specifically, the boat licence fee is a payment in respect of a licence or permission to occupy a dwelling and thus it qualifies under Regulation 12(1)(b) of the Housing Benefit Regulations. Regulation 12(1)(b) is directly transposed to the Universal Credit Regulations so this judgement also applies to claims for the boat licence fee as housing costs in Universal Credit. The judgement is here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5ef4c369e90e075c5582f510/CH_3284_2017-00.pdf
Navigation Advisory Group. David Fletcher attended a phone-in meeting in June. There was a long discussion about the reopening of the waterways, covering emergency engineering, water shortages in the NE and river navigations, and managing the Government’s response to Covid-19. Also, there was discussion on boater’s facilities provided by CRT. Should they continue to provide services like shower and pump-out, which are very expensive to operate? You may recall that the cost to CRT of a pump-out is £100, for which they collect less than £20. There is pressure to move to providing connections for self-pump-out only. CRT has several times said that there is no obligation on its part to provide anything. Tell us what you think.
We are nearly there, this lockdown is being lifted and we have to find a way to the new normal. There are no face-to-face meetings planned. Routine meetings will be attempted by tele- or video- conferences. Be sure that we remain as active as ever in these times. There is plenty of contact to be made and influence to be brought to bear for the good of boaters.
Navigation Advisory Group. Vegetation. David Fletcher will call into the next Zoom meeting in mid-July. The subjects will be ongoing work on the recovery of mowing regimes and the winter work planned for offside cutting. We see a lot of social media pressure on CRT not to cut towpaths, to save the wild flowers. Our normal stance is to fight for the navigation aspects of towpath management. What do you think?
The next NABO Council will be a teleconference on Saturday 5 September at 10.15. Members are very welcome to take part. Please let us know so that we can make arrangements.
We need members help. Could you help us by having a phone catch-up with CRT regional managers on a quarterly basis? Sharing and raising local issues such as moorings, vegetation, dredging etc.
Membership renewals. The July renewals are going out mostly by email. Please check and see, particularly if you pay by transfer, PayPal etc. Please don’t pay by cheque if at all possible. As previously advised, we are no longer using the Wolverhampton PO Box. Our new HQ address is 20 Oak Grove, Hertford SG13 8AT.
Website security. We have now made the change on password complexity. The new requirement is for nine characters with at least one each of upper case, lower case, number and special character. If you cannot get into the website, this is why. Any problems, we are here to help.
The next edition of NABO News is being prepared this week and will be with you in July. This will include an item from our NE representative Howard Anguish, about the problems for the local canal societies facing difficulty with loss of income from local event and services.
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