Fairness for those on the waterways

Published: Monday, 24 February 2014

READING Mick Fitzgibbons comment it seems he and I share the same concerns, writes Pam Pickett.

Prior to leaving the recent boaters' Open Meeting at the Waterfront in Nottingham at which Richard Parry spoke of fairness for all on our waterways I voiced those concerns I have with regard to the direction in which enforcement is seen to be going to Richard Parry.

Damaging publicity

Given the need to attract charitable donations if our waterways are to succeed, I suggested that damaging publicity in respect of evictions of the vulnerable from our waterways could be putting the very future of our waterways in jeopardy; that the ‘feel good' factor of the system was being eroded.

Just before British Waterways changed to the Canal & River Trust I met with the then British Waterways Marketing Director, Simon Salem. If memory serves me right, and it more usually does, one of the topics of conversation that came up was with regard to an ‘Aunt Sally'. That as British Waterways regardless of what had been thrown at them they had been unable to respond, but once the Trust was ratified this would change, and it did as we saw from the early and so petty threat by CaRT to sue Pamela Smith for what it maintained was ‘mockery of the trust logo'. (CaRT libel Action).

Tony Dunkley

Now we have yet another boater facing eviction on issues of non-compliance and about to be left standing on a river bank, homeless. Whilst I have no doubt complaints have been received by CaRT re the boater Tony Dunkley seen to be mooring for free whilst others pay, the facts of the matter are that he has a paid for home mooring he chooses not to use, has a valid BSS and insurance, and until this was recently revoked by CaRT had a valid licence.

He therefore maintains that as he has a paid for home mooring where his boat may be lawfully kept and moves every 14 days he is fulfilling the terms of his licence. Tony who has suffered from prostate problems and a serious chest infection that has left him with asthma has been a boater for 50 years, and chooses now not to use his home mooring only as it necessitates a three quarter of a mile walk to his boat. He is not on a visitor mooring but as he moves no more than three to five miles and is not using his home mooring, CaRT having revoked his licence is now to seek his eviction through the courts.

Cash to spare

Speaking to boaters I am aware that I'm not the only person wondering if CaRT, that it seems has cash to spare only when it comes to enforcement, came in with the express wish to ‘sanitise' our rivers and canals, ‘because it can'. The eviction of vulnerable boaters is made easy for CaRT given few of us are able to risk the cost of fighting our corner, unlike CaRT that risks only boaters and taxpayers money should it lose. Monies that would be better spent in employing lengthsmen thus minimising the amount of problems the Trust is now seeing on our system, and for which it is now, desperately I suspect, appealing for donations.

In conclusion, hearing what I hear, seeing what I see, until such time as CaRT ‘cleans up its act' with regard to wastage, puts its faith in expertise, not office staff and accepts a duty of care to the vulnerable, I for one, regardless of my concerns for our waterways will not be prepared to put my hand in my pocket to donate even one penny. British Waterways may well have considered itself to be an ‘Aunt Sally' on a fairground coconut shy, but is this really any reason why we boaters should now be considered by the Trust to be likewise?