Use of car park enforcers still angers boaters

February 2018 - Canal & River Trust's decision to impose £150 'fines' on boaters using its long-term moorings when they are vacant – and handing enforcement over to a commercial car parking firm - is still causing anger and opostion amongst boaters, six months later, as Alec Wood reports.

Boater John Williamson complained on Facebook: “More incompetence by CRT. They have just put warning signs up on our moorings threatening an "overstaying charge" of £150 per day for boaters who do not have an agreement.”

He goes on to say that the charge will be collected by “District Enforcement, (DE) a car park supervising firm of dubious reputation.

“The problem is, the only way to see these signs is to moor up to a vacant pontoon and walk along to the gate they are fastened to, by which time the signs claim you have already agreed to the contract under which you are being charged. No you haven't as you were not aware of the terms when you tied up. See you in court....”

John points out that the concept seems to be another way for C&RT to outsource everything: “The scheme seems to be a way for CRT to avoid employing their own enforcement officers for some esoteric reason. It can't be cost savings, as hiring a limited company to work for you, who are the only customer in the industry, must involve a profit element somewhere, unless corners are being cut.”

As he goes on: “Another reason given by CRT and DE is that apparently, enforcement of mooring rules requires a specialist knowledge of the laws and rules relating to mooring, which DE claim to have.

“If CRT are not the experts in mooring law, bearing in mind they are by far the biggest canal owner and operator in the UK, then something is drastically wrong. As the rules are written by CRT, I would hope they understand them better than anyone else. Unfortunately, we are unable to bring this situation to the attention of the shareholders, as there aren't any.”

The Facebook discussion was joined by Andy Beck who said: “I complained about these and they sent the detailed T&Cs, which explicitly state that anyone caught on one of these locations will have 48h from the sighting to vacate. So, I conclude, all unoccupied permanent moorings are now free for 48h. Enjoy.”

In an attempt to explain the decision C&RT claims that: “Boats moored on a Waterside Mooring site without a valid mooring agreement are preventing other potential paying customers from occupying the berth. This is both unfair to other customers on site who are paying and it also means that the Trust is losing potential income. Our new mooring enforcement process seeks to deter people from mooring without permission in the first place.”

Without offering any examples C&RT alleges that: “In some cases, our mooring customers return to their home mooring from a cruise to find somebody else has moored in their space without permission. The Trust is then asked to intervene to get the unauthorised boat to move. This can take time which is a huge inconvenience to the permanent berth holder and the Trust who are then faced with incurring additional enforcement costs.”

It says: “We have previously applied other methods to encourage unauthorised moorers to move immediately. It can, however, take a long time as well as being costly – sometimes resulting in court action.

“We feel that adopting an approach similar to that used in the Parking Management Industry and successfully trialled on the River Thames, could be of a benefit to all. The approach we have taken will mean much speedier action in dealing with unauthorised moorers.”

However Andy Beck finds a huge irony in another of the C&RT answers to 'frequently asked questions' that asks whether boaters will get a 'ticket' immediately.

It says: “If your boat is sighted at one of our Waterside Mooring sites without permission, you will be notified and given 48 hrs to move the boat off the site. If you fail to move the boat after 48hrs, you will be issued with a MOCN for being in breach of the conditions on the sign.”

However, it is also clear that C&RT has abdicated all responsibility as the £150 per day charge is paid directly to the car park enforcers and any appeal is also in their hands. Boaters cannot appeal to C&RT about a charge; only to the enforcement firm, or fight it in the courts.

As another boater on Facebook observed, it is difficult to see how C&RT benefits by handing over a simple enforcement operation to a commercial company, given that it has the expertise and that the resultant conflict and damage done to the Trust's reputation has to potential to become embarrassing.

Photos: (1st) Birmingham's Gas St with visitor moorings on the left and long term moorings on the right in the distance , (2nd) The image C&RT's Waterside Moorings likes to portray.

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