CaRT defies Government's school walking distance limit.

Published: Wednesday, 26 June 2019

IT HAS been discovered that Canal & River Trust define greater walking distances for school children than the Government specifies.

The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) has discovered that though the government specify the maximum walking distance a child can undertake to school at two miles, Canal & River Trust set it at over three miles.

Repeated denials

Despite repeated denials and refusals to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests by the Association, it turns out that Canal & River Trust drew up 'illustrative cruising patterns' for boat dwellers without home moorings with school age children as long ago as November 2016.

The NBTA has obtained a document entitled 'Term Time Cruising Example GU' that shows an example travel pattern on the Grand Union Canal for a whole school year. The file properties show that the document was owned by Denise Yelland, former Head of Boating Enforcement at CaRT, who left in late 2018.

Have to walk 3.1 miles

The example travel pattern shows that CaRT considers that staying within 5km (3.1 miles) either side of a specific place where a school is located in term time, moving every 14 days, complies with its current interpretation of Section 17 (3) (c) (ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995, as long as the family travels further in the 13 weeks of the school holidays and half terms. The example suggests that CaRT expects boaters with school age children to travel considerably further in the summer holidays so that their range exceeds 32km (20 miles) over the year.

The 3.1 mile radius from the school in term time is however greater than the two miles that Government guidance states as a maximum journey to school for younger children unless transport is provided.

Refused to consider less mileage

CaRT has refused to consider a smaller radius in term time for families with younger children, putting them at risk of enforcement if they prioritise their child's needs above meeting CaRT's unlawful movement requirements.

For boaters with school age children whose licence has been restricted to six months, this is complicated by CaRT's unwritten and unpublicised expectation that they should travel a range of 20 miles within the six months, not half of that range as some have found out to their cost.

In a later development, it has emerged that CaRT consider that anyone could follow its example term time cruising pattern and not be subject to enforcement action. Simon Cadek, CaRT Enforcement Supervisor for London, stated in an email dated 30th August 2018 that:

"The Trust’s position is that it is possible for those with school age children to stay in a smaller area during term time and to cruise in a wider range during the holidays and as this isn’t a special exception or adjustment, it follows that anyone (with or without children) would not fall into our various processes if they carried on a similar pattern."

Fall foul of CaRT enforcement process

Despite these statements from CaRT, many Bargee Travellers, both with and without school age children, who follow a similar cruising pattern fall foul of the enforcement process. Enforcement staff agreed term time cruising patterns with one family and were in the process of negotiating with other families in August 2018, but then pulled down the shutters and refused to discuss the matter further.

In early 2019 CaRT told the NBTA that no family should be offered a term time cruising pattern. The NBTA advises anyone in this position to challenge CaRT on the inconsistencies in its enforcement process.