Category: NN Editorials
Published: Tuesday, 24 September 2013 09:39
Sleepwalking into Trouble?
There was a (very short) CRT consultation in July on changing the licensing system for charity and community boats, which would result in them being charged for a standard leisure boat licence rather than a commercial licence, less a 60% discount. Fair enough, you might say: simplify the licensing system as much as possible; but the knock-on effects on the charities could be very serious. And as two charities point out in their responses, included in this issue, there are other changes proposed, including a ban on ‘commercial’ revenue-generating activity on CRT land and possible changes to moorings and service provisions for these organisations. This is already being seen by some as the ‘big’ charity that has all the power trying to take money away from smaller charities that do not. Regardless of the merits of CRT’s intentions, is its public relations department sleep-walking? Has it not considered what the public perception of the proposals might be when they become more generally known? Newspaper headlines of small boat-owning charities being forced to close because of CRT would be a disaster for the Trust.
In other articles in this issue, Mark Tizard has data on mooring uptake at the ‘honey pot’ site of Stoke Bruerne, which show that the new mooring regulations have had little effect on the availability of visitor moorings there. It seems that word has got round that better enforcement means overstayers no longer overstay, so maybe it would have been better to have introduced better enforcement first to see if it worked before all these ‘no-return’ rules and so on, which (as I said in the last issue) I still believe should be rescinded as soon as possible. On the subject of the last editorial, Brian and Susan Chadwick point out in their letter in this issue that I should have referred to ‘continuous moorers’ not continuous cruisers - a point I gladly accept. Mooring issues and developments were also discussed at the last meeting between NABO’s Mike Rodd and Mark Tizard and CRT and there is a report on the outcome.
I like to give credit where it is due, and I have included a report from Ian Lane, CRT’s West Midlands Principal Waterway Engineer, on the difficult repairs needed to a lock on the Wolverhampton flight following vandalism - all done within 52 days. Mike Rodd recently attended an excellent presentation by Adam Comerford, CRT’s Group Hydrology Manager, who has kindly agreed to speak at NABO’s AGM in November (put the date in your diary now - November 16th at Wolverhampton Boat Club). Finally, a recent sinking on the Huddersfield Canal prompted me to collect a number of diverse safety-related articles together in this issue. NABO now has a new promotional leaflet, so if you would like copies to hand out to fellow boaters, please get in touch with the Secretary, Richard Carpenter.
Category: NN Editorials
Published: Saturday, 22 June 2013 15:49
Editorial, NABO News 4, July 2013
In my younger days, we regularly loaded up the boat with friends and beers and set off from Calcutt, mooring at the visitor moorings in Weedon for a Saturday evening meal together at the restaurant there, before returning on Sunday. On a recent trip further down the Grand Union, we saw a CRT sign at Cosgrove saying: ‘Maximum stay - 14 days per calendar year’. What is all this about? Presumably, local boaters might want to regularly visit this attractive village, but are they supposed to moor here overnight for a maximum of fourteen times per year? Or can they moor once each year for a fortnight – or some other combination of visits? It is not clear. But whatever the interpretation, who is going to monitor and enforce this and what are the penalties if, for example, someone moors fifteen times a year? How are shared ownership boaters supposed to know if another owner has moored there in the previous year? Are hire-boats to be included? The whole thing starts to become surreal… and totally unnecessary.
If CRT staff are the enforcement officers, couldn’t they be better employed doing something more useful - like enforcing the 14-day rule? Or is it going to be volunteers? In which case, have they been fully briefed that they could be cross-examined by a defence counsel when they appear as witnesses in court? I don’t know if this sign and the restrictions are the Regional Waterway Manager’s idea to deal with a specific local problem, or whether it is now a CRT policy, as there appear to have been no public statements by CRT on its introduction.
The whole purpose of boating (to me at least) is unrestricted enjoyment of the waterways - provided of course that I am considerate to other boaters and do not abuse visitor moorings - which is what the vast majority of boaters are like. Why should I not revisit a place however many times I wish to? This ‘no-return’ rule is bonkers and should be rejected. These things have a habit of becoming custom and practice; having been trialled in one location, they become adopted throughout the system. If you see any similar signs that offend your sense of justice and freedom to cruise, please send me a photo and the location.
The other thing I noticed on our return to the Grand Union, since we were based here and regularly cruised this stretch, is the much larger numbers of live-aboard boaters that now line the route. A journey that took four hours fifteen years ago took five hours last month because of the need to revert to tickover to pass moored boats every few hundred yards and either side of almost every bridge. This creates a difficult situation for CRT: how to enable boaters to make reasonable headway and calculate their cruising times based on three lock-miles per hour; and at the same time, deal with the legitimate aspirations of more and more people to choose a cheaper way of life afloat. There are of course no easy answers, but CRT has made a start and should be applauded for increasing the enforcement of continuous cruising rules (and also for substantially reducing licence evasion over the last two years). To me, even-handed enforcement, and not the imposition of these new no-return rules, is the key to dealing with non-compliant boaters. Different aspects of the mooring debate feature in detail in this issue, including the K&A mooring plan and loss of moorings to commercial interests, overstaying charges for visitor moorings in the South East, the introduction of Roving Mooring Permits, and a London enquiry into moorings. As always, I welcome NABO members’ views on all of this. In the meantime, enjoy this issue and a summer out and about on the water.