A trustee responds

Published: Thursday, 13 December 2012

Article Index

THE Canal & River Trust Trustee, John Dodwell has asked if he may respond to some recent items contained in narrowboatworld, to which we have acquiesced.

Why I write. I've been asked why it was I who respond and not others. But it isn't only me—various staff members have written to narrowboatworld, including Vince Moran, Director of Operations.

Did you see chief executive Robin Evans' interviews in Waterways World and Canal Boat?; Chairman Tony Hales has been making speeches, and see Useful Downloads for his speech to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations with pictures of boats and his reference to waterways being at the heart of what the Trust does and that navigation and towpath access is essential.

And other trustees have been giving speeches. I've also been asked why I bother. The reason is that I have a passion for the waterways—have done for over 50 years. I know lots of others who share this passion—that's one reason why they write to narrowboatworld. It's why people like Vince Moran spend Sundays replying to Pam Pickett (narrowboatworld 1st December)—and I've personal knowledge that he's not the only senior executive who works outside a 9 to 5 regime.

So when I see people drawing wrong conclusions without having as much information as possible, I wish to provide some more information. If people still disagree—well, it's a free world but at least they do so with the benefit of more information.

Mystery photographers

I've read the concerns over mystery photographers of boats and have been in touch direct with Pam Pickett on this. Neither of us can make a lot of sense of it. I suggest that if you want to know why someone is photographing your boat, then ask them. If the person is a Trust enforcement officer, he/she will be able to show you their ID card.

Believe it or not, I heard from a boat owner going through Fradley that he came across a father and son team of boat spotters—a bit like train spotters. So the mystery photographers might be one of them. Good for the boat owner who invited them onto his boat—to their glee!

That letter

I've checked and there's no reason—in my view—to think Ralph Freeman is being 'targeted'. Whilst data protection etc stuff means I shouldn't comment on any one person's situation, I can give you some general information. Part of the enforcement procedure is to check that boat owners claiming to have a home mooring do indeed have one at the place they have specified.

Not everyone is as honest as I'm sure all you readers are. Indeed, I've heard of 16 boats supposedly moored at a place which can only take 12 (and that's not because of different boat sizes); Marinas etc sometimes get a letter asking whether in fact a boat is moored there. Some people choose to have a home mooring in the winter at one place, be a continuous cruiser in the summer and then take a winter home mooring at another place.

So keeping track of where the home mooring is isn't always straightforward. As part of their checking whether a boat without a home mooring is moving from place to place, the enforcement team take photos of boats. Why? Because if there is later a dispute whether a boat was at a certain place on a certain day, then the photo is part of the evidence.

Small traders

I've also read about small traders having trouble with the Trust. Again, I have to be careful how much I say. But what I've found is that some small traders sign an agreement to do one thing—and then do something else. When this is pointed out to them, they promise to put it right—but don't always do so. What's the Trust supposed to do? Nothing?

In some cases there are personal or health problems and the Trust tries to help and gives extra time. In one case someone trading from a boat said he was a continuous cruiser but then he stayed in the same area—but didn't want to pay a mooring fee. You can imagine the grumbles the Trust would get from other traders on boats who are paying a mooring fee or complying with the continuous cruiser rules if the Trust turned a blind eye to that.

My own view—and the Trust's—is that small traders generally add colour and vibrancy to the waterways and so should be encouraged. However, there have to be some ground rules—which are then followed by the small trader. Most small traders do. To suggest that asking small traders to follow the rules (which they themselves agreed to) is bullying them is an easy accusation to make—but not right.