One third of Continuous Cruisers threatened

April 2017 - According to the National Bargee Travellers Association one in three continuously cruising boats have been threatened with the loss of their licence by the Canal & River Trust since it arbitrarily changed its Terms and Conditions in May 2015, writes Peter Underwood.

That was the background for the Boats Are Homes march which saw around 200 boat dwellers march on Whitehall in demonstration in protest against Canal & River Trust's (C&RT) policy of evicting or threatening to evict travelling boat dwellers if they do not comply with what NBTA says are 'unlawful travel requirements'.

The boaters marched to Downing Street to hand in the 'Boats Are Homes' petition to the Prime Minister which has been signed by more than 33,300 people. It calls on Mrs May to intervene to stop Canal & River Trust making boat dwellers homeless.

The march then continued to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in Smith Square to hand in a letter demanding that the Government takes responsibility for stopping C&RT's 'unlawful enforcement policy against boat dwellers'.

The NBTA says C&RT's current enforcement policy and T&Cs, set in May 2015, sets requirements that go beyond the British Waterways Act 1995. ​

“The 1995 Act clearly states that boats without a permanent mooring should travel to a different place every 14 days, but it contains no requirement to travel a minimum distance or to follow any specific cruising pattern beyond this. C&RT is now imposing minimum distances and specific cruising patterns but has not stated what distance it considers to be 'far enough'.”

The majority of the cases dealt with by the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) are those of boat dwellers being threatened with eviction by C&RT. It says, at least 1,576 boaters without a permanent mooring have had their homes threatened by restriction of their licence renewal to six months according to figures released by C&RT.

This represents around one third of the community of boat dwellers without permanent moorings.

Pamela Smith, Chair of the National Bargee Travellers Association said: "The Government must keep Canal & River Trust in check. This so-called charity receives at least £39 million each year in Government funding.

“This is taxpayers' money; our money. There must be accountability to Parliament, and ultimately to us, the people, for whom the charity holds the waterways in trust.”

“Canal & River Trust is threatening many with homelessness at a time when we are facing the most serious housing crisis since 1945. The result of the charity’s policy is that often it is the most vulnerable boat dwellers who are being threatened with eviction and Canal & River Trust knows this.”

“The law hasn't changed since 1995 but boat dwellers whose licences have been renewed without any issues going back 10 or 20 years have recently been told that their annual travel patterns are no longer compliant.”

Photos: (1st) The marchers outside DEFRA, (2nd) Marching up Whitehall, (3rd) Protesting by Downing Street.

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