Hundreds of thousands of pounds owed to the Environment Agency could be going uncollected, a meeting has been told.

The money should be have been paid for structures in the Thames like jetties and slipways.  But a recent spot check by the agency on a stretch of the river discovered that only 25% of fees are paid, it was said.

The report by River Users Group 6, which covers the river from Henley to Maidenhead, was told it could result in a loss of £600,000 to the agency if a similar situation exists along the whole non-tidal river.

The EA says it is still assessing the situation and the licensing procedure is under review.

The news comes as the EA board approves a 4.8% increase in boat registration fees, a move strongly opposed by boating groups and associations along the non-tidal river.

In a statement the agency said: “We have recently carried out a survey in three representative reaches of the river  to help estimate how many structures such as mooring posts, jetties and pontoons (known as ‘accommodations’), are not displaying licence plates. This is part of a wider review of the management of accommodations river wide.

"Depending on their position in relation to the riverbank, owners of these structures may need to licence them with us. Licensing accommodations provides an essential income stream for managing the river, whilst also enabling us to monitor the number and build quality of the structures as well as assessing any potential impact upon flooding and the natural environment. Licensing charges are based on the size of the structure and start at approximately £60 per annum.

"Of those surveyed, a significant number may not need to be licensed because of their position in the riverbank. We also have not yet checked how many are licensed but are just not displaying a licence  plate. Consequently, we cannot yet confirm how many structures are not licensed when they should be. 

"When thoroughly checked, this survey will help us scope out the viability of bringing all relevant structures into compliance.

"We know from work we have carried out in the past that checking this, and managing the process to make the structures compliant, is extremely time-consuming and labour-intensive.  The work may also divert manpower from other important tasks our Waterway Officers carry out.

"We are working to understand whether the cost of making all structures compliant will exceed the value of the revenue it will bring in. This will enable us to decide on the right course of action. We need to be sure that the work will deliver a significant return on investment and the right environmental outcomes.

"We also intend to review the licensing process to make it more efficient, and the charges, to ensure they reflect market rates.  We will not make any changes to the current policy or charges without full discussion and consultation on any proposals with both commercial and private accommodation licence holders."

See reaction on our River Thames Views page

Other points from the RUG meeting at Cookham Reach Sailing Club:

  • The pilot scheme in which a private parking firm has been involved in enforcing 24-hour mooring at four sites on the river has been hailed an “incredible success”.

The enforcement system is in place at Oxford and downstream at Weybridge. As previously reported by River Thames News the firm District Enforcement has adapted a procedure used for car parks to tackle overstayers on moorings.

The scheme has so far been a deterrent and no court action has yet been taken. The EA plans to liaise with other riverside property owners to extend the scheme.

  • A total of 195 volunteers plus 14 volunteer boat crew have been recruited this year by the EA. Some are being kept on for the winter this year for the first time to help with maintenance.

Story dated October 17th 2013