Protest against discriminatory boat licence fees

Published: Friday, 12 April 2024

THE National Bargee Travellers Association took to Paddington Basin recently.

To its protest, what it describes as against discriminatory boat licence to fees the association informs:

Hundreds of boaters and supporters took to the towpath of Paddington Basin in London on Saturday 30th March to demonstrate against the Canal & River Trust’s (CRT) plans to increase licence fees above inflation and introduce differential pricing based on mooring status on the country’s inland waterways.

Bar3rdLargely abandoned

On a stretch of the Regent’s Canal that has recently been largely abandoned following CRT’s introduction of ‘chargeable moorings’ at £25-35 per night, the basin was filled with many boats—including a number of boater tradersmoored in protest and helping to facilitate a celebration of the boater community that ran from 12pm through to past 8pm, with hundreds in attendance.

There were a number of musical and dance performances throughout the day as well as food and drink served, multiple boater-run stalls, a National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) information booth and a unity march on the CRT’s nearby offices. Activists from the boater community spoke movingly about the campaign to resist CRT’s divisive licence surcharge, and were joined by members of other groups in solidarity, including Right to Roam, London Renters Union and Don’t Pay, with Marcus Trower, Secretary of the NBTA explaining:

Basin empty

“Hundreds of boaters and supporters alike turned out for this demonstration of community, solidarity and resistance to CRTs plans to dispossess us from our homes on the water. Before we arrived, Paddington Basin was empty, but today we’ve demonstrated exactly what boaters mean to the waterways by filling it with life, celebration and a sense of community.

We sincerely hope that CRT will sit down with boaters, drop clearly discriminatory policies like this licence surcharge and ensure that our contribution to the waterways is acknowledged and way of life respected. However, if they do not, boaters will continue to resist their plans fiercely. CRT has wanted us gone for a long time now, but we’re still hereour lives may be nomadic, but our community is here to stay.”

Bar1stCRT’s licence surcharge came into effect on 1st April the assciations tells. Unchallenged, the policy will allow CRT to raise licence fees on itinerant boaters in order to price them off the water. The current proposals specify a surcharge of an additional 25% on boats without a home mooring on top of a projected 34% increase in the standard licence fee (estimated CPI plus 1.5%) within the next five years. Previous proposals by CRT’s predecessor, British Waterways (BW), saw attempts to introduce a 250% surcharge in an attempt to rid the waterways of itinerant boaters altogether. The image is of Marcus Trower addressing the crowd.

The policy is deeply unpopular with boaters. Even CRT’s own biased and misleading survey on the subject last year found that over 97% of boat owners without home moorings were against the charge, whilst 60% of all boaters preferred options that didn’t charge people for not having a home mooring. Various boater organisations aside from the NBTA have also decried the surcharge as discriminatory, unjustified and unwanted.

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) cite the potentially unlawfulness of the policy, and inform:

Bar4Administrative nightmare

“The proposal to charge more for continuous cruisers would be an administrative nightmare, open to abuse and highly divisive within the boating community. Dividing the community like this is especially detrimental at this critical moment, when the whole waterways community needs to come together to show Government how our canals and rivers are valued and need to be adequately funded.”

The National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) wrote to CRT to inform:

'We are concerned that the current proposals have been determined without any meaningful consultation with those who will be most seriously affected by them. We also note with concern the findings of the Equalities Impact Assessment recently undertaken by your staff, which clearly shows the potentially negative impact of the suggested changes on those who are most vulnerable'.

The policy has been officially introduced, but the NBTA is committed to coordinating a continued resistance, protecting our way of life on the water. We want to ensure thatjust like every other time CRT or BW have tried to introduce divisive, differential licence fees the legal precedent of ‘one licence, one fee’ is upheld. We encourage any boaters who want to be a part of this ongoing campaign to get in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Pamela Smith, Chair of the NBTA stated:

Run it into the ground

“The CRT have taken a public assetthe UK’s inland waterwaysand run them into the ground through years of mismanagement and short-termism. Contracts have been outsourced, public land has been sold off and maintenance of infrastructure has been constantly neglected, leading to higher costs. And now, just like Thames Water, they’re using their own incompetence as an excuse to scalp their customerssaddling itinerant boaters with spiralling licence surcharges whilst their executives continue to take home some of the largest charity sector salaries in the country.

"Our community has had enough. Boaters are the lifeblood of the waterwayskeeping them safe, vibrant and welcoming. We’ve been at the forefront of reviving the canals, and giving them new life and purpose since they fell into neglect in the 1960s. The CRT need to stop scapegoating us, get their house in order, and ensure that they’re not remembered for undoing what successive generations of boaters have worked hard to build.”