Following NABO’s recent Council meeting, I have been asked to write to you to raise the following concerns: we appreciate the efforts that CRT is now making to limit the use of the towpath for exercise, specifically in areas where there are moored boats, but we feel more needs to be done. We are hearing of instances (Nantwich and New Mills, to name but two) where speeding cyclists and serious runners are putting the rest of the towpath population at risk. Because they are exercising strenuously, they are inevitably exhaling more forcibly than a gentle walker or leisure cyclist; and this is why we feel that this particular group should be TOLD, not encouraged, to use alternative routes such as dedicated cycle paths, roads and wide pavements where 2m distancing can be guaranteed. It is often too late if they happen to see a poster once they get to the towpath. We suggest a local radio campaign or a press release sent to the relevant outlets and posters within the nearby communities.
We welcome the extra month given to leisure boat licences. We suspect many boaters are likely to face increased financial difficulties in the coming months in meeting their licence and mooring payments and hope that CRT will keep this under review the longer the current restrictions remain in place. We are concerned that boaters will be tempted to vacate moorings and move to the towpath to reduce costs. Some marinas, already hit by loss of trade through chandleries, hire boats etc. will struggle to cope and will be at risk of closure, with the resultant loss of facilities and moorings. We would support any attempt by CRT to help the marina industry, either directly or through Government. We would suggest that CRT considers temporarily forgoing its 9% mooring levy for marinas that are prepared to offer a mooring ‘holiday’ to those in genuine need.
We urge CRT to start talking to the insurance sector regarding the requirement for a BSS certificate, to arrive at a general agreement that this requirement is formally suspended. Hopefully, there is an awareness and understanding that, once the lockdown requirements are lifted, there will need to be a substantial period of time, months not weeks, for surveyors to be able to deal with the backlog and for boatyards to be able to carry out any remedial work.
Finally, there is growing concern that the safety of some boats moored on the towpath may be at risk, either internally through the state of batteries, bilges etc., or externally through the possibility of damage and vandalism. Some insurance policies insist that boats are not left unattended for extended periods of time. Should the lockdown be further extended, CRT should consider granting permission for boaters to visit, but not move, their boats to enable batteries to be recharged etc.
In summary, our members are very appreciative of the steps CRT is taking to contact and protect vulnerable boaters and the steps already taken to cushion the effects of the lockdown on the trade and on boaters generally.