Listening to boat owners, Speaking out for boat owners, Representing boat owners.

Stephen PetersSTEPHEN RICHARD PETERS – the candidate from NABO

I gave considerable thought to what I should include in my election statement, which may be just one of dozens that will be sent out to electors in February. It reflects my considerable experience as an active, practical boat owner and volunteer involved in the inland waterways.

Boat owner since 1989 with a Seamaster 30 motor cruiser “Nattajack” based on the River Severn. Council member of National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) for the past 18 years - currently Hon Treasurer and Rivers Secretary.

Member of RYA, Avon Navigation Trust, RNLI (Governor), Railway & Canal Historical Society, Cruising Association and Seamaster Club.

Experience of canal restoration– Hon Secretary of Droitwich Canals Trust in 1980’s;
local government- elected district councillor for 12 years, currently Independent county councillor and parish councillor representing home area.

I intend to represent the interests of ALL boaters, irrespective of lifestyle, including broad beam and river users. My knowledge of waterway legislation, byelaws, Acts of Parliament, technical issues, Boat Safety Scheme and local planning should be of value to the CRT Council and I will strive to ensure that the Trust makes sound decisions in the interests of all who navigate the waterways.”

You will see that I have been on the Council of NABO since its early days – I could have said longer than anyone else, but that makes me feel old!

I want to give boat owners a real choice in this election. No one organisation should have a monopoly of representation on the new Council. The views of NABO members and independent boat owners who belong to no specific association are all worthy of a seat on Council. However, it is important to vote for a candidate who has links with the broad spectrum of boating rather than someone pursuing a narrow, personal agenda. I am grateful to my colleagues for endorsing my candidacy to enable me to speak up for all of you. I am also grateful to The Boating Association (TBA) for their support and co-sponsorship with NABO.

My chosen boat is a river cruiser and if elected I will always ensure that broad beam boats and river users are not neglected by the CRT. At the same time, I intend to fairly represent the wide range of other boaters who are customers of CRT. This will include narrow boat owners, continuous cruisers, charity and community boats and people whose boats are their homes – including those who are eligible to vote in this election and those who find themselves excluded by the rules. Each have their own problems and concerns which must be taken into account by the CRT Council and Trustees.

Over the years I have witnessed the launch of a host of policy initiatives and public consultations from British Waterways. The same issues have arisen time and again, often without any final resolution and in many cases without addressing the ongoing concerns of boat owners. This cannot be allowed to continue and the new CRT must not be the existing BW in the guise of a charity. I support the Boaters’ Manifesto and endorse its key points.

Make no mistake, waterways issues and their solutions ultimately require political (with a small “p”) decisions. The CRT Council will be a broad church comprising a number of vested and competing interests. A successful Council will need members who can represent their own constituencies with vigour and strong argument, whilst recognising diversity and the reality that compromise and co-operation will sometimes be necessary if the CRT is to succeed. And it must succeed – this is the “only show in town” and it demands our full support and involvement. The future of our pastime depends upon its success.

I am standing for election solely to represent the interests of private boat owners & navigation – not businesses or ramblers or anglers or nature conservationists. They will all have their own representatives on Council and they will undoubtedly campaign for their own sectors. But I am not insensitive to the needs and concerns of other users. If the waterways are to survive and flourish all interest groups need to work together and respect each others’ views.

The ultimate success and indeed survival of the CRT depends on its securing adequate new sources of finance to supplement funding from central government and the income from property and boat licences. In the current economic environment this is not going to be easy but it is incumbent on every elected Council member to act responsibly and to promote the wider interests of the CRT whilst safeguarding the investments and lifestyles of those who have elected them. The incorporation of The Waterways Trust into CRT must not be result in the diversion of much-needed funds away from maintaining the waterway network.

The CRT is not perfect and it will require much improvement in future years. The existing management will need to adopt a new mind-set in the post-nationalisation era. This election is not perfect and many boat owners have been excluded from participating due to the strictures regarding possession of 12-month licences. The election process will need to be revised for the future and if EA navigations are eventually incorporated the representation quota for boaters will have to be increased considerably. The precise role of the CRT Council is unclear but the Private Boater members must be prepared to speak out in support of boating and navigation.

I am pleased that DEFRA has decided that the CRT will be required to be open and transparent in its dealings with the public and must comply with disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. NABO took that view during the consultation process unlike another national association and the CRT itself. It is the right decision and I support it having personally successfully persisted in obtaining licensing information from the EA and Broads Authority despite their reluctance and the intervention of the Information Commissioner. I am all for openness and accountability and I will keep a close eye on such matters if elected to the CRT Council.

During the passage of the BW Act 1995 I personally lobbied Parliament to object to certain clauses which I felt were contrary to the interests of boat owners, particularly the ill-considered Boat Safety aspects. I subsequently played a major role in persuading the BSS to carry out a major review of the scheme which benefited all boat owners. I intend to pursue similar campaigns where I consider boaters are not receiving a fair deal.

If I am successful at this election, I will be available to listen to the views of other boat owners and take up issues where appropriate. You will not find me airing my views on public websites, social networks, blogs or chatrooms – that is not my style. Rather, I prefer to speak to people, listen to what they say and then take stock before acting. I will not pursue a personal, narrow agenda but will try to represent all private boat owners. Years of experience of waterways and local government have convinced me that this is the best way to achieve success. I have a wealth of knowledge and an extensive archive of canal-related documents, Acts of Parliament, byelaws, legal opinions, etc to help me to represent all boaters. Please give me your vote by placing a number “1” against my name on the ballot paper and I promise to do my best on your behalf.

Stephen Peters