Boaters on the UK's inland waterways are mounting a demonstration in Central London to protest about their treatment by the Canal & River Trust.
They say the event is a bid to stop the trust “evicting or threatening to evict boat dwellers without permanent moorings based on their distance or pattern of travel.”
The boaters say the trust is exceeding powers enshrined in a 1995 British Waterways Act by insisting so-called canal continuous cruisers have to travel certain distances or face legal action to evict them and seize their boats.
The protest on April 8th, organised by the National Bargee Travellers Association will start at Victoria Embankment Gardens in Villiers Street before moving to 10 Downing Street and on to Defra headquarters in Smith Square.
Organisers say:“We also demand that CRT stops the imposition of mooring time limits of less than 14 days; abandons its plan for chargeable bookable moorings and stops selling off our waterways.
“We want proper maintenance of locks, bridges and waterway banks; more mooring rings; more water taps and more sanitary facilities.”
One of the organisers Pamela Smith, Chair of the NBTA, said: “We have numerous examples of people being unfairly treated.
“People with school age children, for example, who can only travel short distances because they need to be near schools who then have to make up the boats’ mileage in school holidays.
“Even then there are examples of boaters who have travelled the required distances not being believed by the CRT. They then have the threat of short, six month licences being imposed on their boats or their licences withdrawn altogether.”
Last year a 30,000-strong petition, opposing CRT’s "punitive and unlawful ‘rules’ " was handed to Downing Street. Protesters say the Prime Minister’s office passed the petition to Defra which in turn referred it back to the CRT itself.
CRT said: “We welcome continuous cruising and do all we can to help boaters stay on the water. The guidance for boaters has stayed the same for years, but what we’ve been doing recently is getting in touch with people earlier if it looks like they may be having problems so they can be sorted out.
"We want boaters to talk to us if they are struggling: for example if someone is ill or has broken down we can arrange for them to stay in one place for a little longer. We can put boaters with more severe difficulties in touch with the places that can help [and] we often agree different arrangements on a case-by-case basis.
“The waterways are for everyone and we need to manage them fairly otherwise it would be chaotic in popular places: it would be neither fair nor feasible for everyone to bob around a small area indefinitely, for potentially very long term reasons like work or school.
“A roaming lifestyle can be wonderful but comes with its own challenges and we’d urge people to think hard about the practicalities before they begin a life afloat.”
The demonstration starts on Saturday 8th April 2017 at 12 noon. Assemble at Victoria Embankment Gardens, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NS. More details HERE.
Story dated March 8th 2017