Report on CRT National Users Forum September 7th 2016

As usual this was held at The Bond in Birmingham, and followed the usual structure of a series of presentations by various CRT officers. Whist this information is of interest, and the people-networking is valuable, one can’t help feeling that the approach does not make full use of the large numbers of representatives of the various waterways-related organisations present?

Ian Rogers provided the introduction and then Mike Grimes and his team presented various reports on boating–related matters.

  • Denise Yelland reported on enforcement (to be rebadged as “boat licence customer support”) and showed that 95.6% of boats were licenced and 90 boats had been seized for licence evasion. She also noted that over the past year there had been an increase of 400 boats in the London area! About 900 boats had received restricted licences, of which about 24% had then either moved off CRT waters or sold their boat.
  • Matthew Symonds went through the recent Boat Owners Survey – this has been well-circulated previously, so no surprise. An important bottom-line though is the decrease in the number of boats being used for leisure purposes whereas there is an increase in the use of boats as prime residences. Matthew also reported on the very extensive collaborative work being undertaken to develop a mooring strategy for London. This should produce a draft strategy by April 2017 with the final report due in December.
  • Mike Grimes reported on his frustrations in trying to get Peel Holdings to rethink their recent decisions relating to CRT-licenced boats using the Bridgewater Canal. It seems Peel is simply not willing to listen – but another attempt will be made in October. Mike also mentioned the work being done on online pre-bookable moorings and passages – both of which will be available on the same portal as boat licences.

In the brief discussion which followed, NABO reported that it believes that CRT was not responding publically to the very well-crafted PR strategy produced by the NBTA in relation to the alleged unfairness etc of the CC’ing requirements for boaters with school going children and for pregnant women. The result is a high degree of misinformation is going out without being challenged. Ian Rogers agreed to investigate this.

An excellent presentation was then given on CRT’s handing of the winter flooding, illustrating the extent of the damage and how this was dealt with. It was also noted that in many cases local councils and authorities had made major financial contributions to the work and also many volunteers had helped where possible.

Dean Davies reported on the summer and winter stoppage programmes, noting that where possible (double locks, or alternate routes) there had been 17 summer stoppages. In the up-coming winter period, there would be 228 stoppages – up from 170 in the past year, covering 180 locks, 18 bridges etc. Dean noted that the Welsh Assembly has made a large contribution to the major work being undertaken on the Mon & Brec.

Richard Wakelin, a recent addition to the staff with extensive utility asset management experience, reported on the work being done in this vital area, based on internationally recognised best practice. A most professional, long term approach

Finally Richard Parry took an overall look at progress and also mentioned that the work re CRT possibly taking over running EA’s navigations was progressing well and he hoped a decision would be finalised in 3 months’ time.

Overall? As always very interesting but I feel that the format is wrong and the available knowledge of the representative delegates is just not being tapped into?

Mike Rodd

8th September 2016