PRESS RELEASE: 18th April 2016
Issued on behalf of Respondents – Boaters at Hartford Marina, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
JUDGES RULE – HARTFORD MARINA HOMES ARE NOT ‘VESSELS’
On April 15th 2016, almost a year to the day since Peterborough Crown Court quashed the
Hartford Two’s convictions under Article 2 Environment Agency (Inland Waterways) Order
2010, the Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division sitting in London affirmed the
correctness of the judgement of the Crown Court.
In delivering the lead judgment of the Court, Lord Justice Lindblom said that the Crown Court
had been “right to find” that the “floating houses” at Hartford were “homes on water” rather
than vessels capable of navigation: and in concurring judgments Mr Justice Teare and Mr
Justice Holroyd both found themselves “unable to accept” that the homes at Hartford could
be vessels. Mr Justice Holroyd added that to his mind, “a vessel …… must be navigable” and
that these floating houses are most emphatically not that.
The Environment Agency does not have a right of appeal against this decision but has to
request permission to do so. Given the strength of the judgment, which is likely to feature in
the official Law Reports, and the fact it affirms decisions of the higher Courts of respectable
antiquity, it is thought unlikely they will obtain such permission.
The full Approved Judgment is here:
Residents of waterside homes at a Cambridgeshire marina, many of them pensioners, were determined
to fight demands that they pay an unlawful £430 annual river tax imposed by the Environment Agency
or face heavy fines and a criminal record.
The caravan/lodge homes are on permanently fixed floating pontoons and connected to main services.
They cannot be fitted with engines and with no means of propulsion are incapable of navigation on the
waterways like a boat.
By law, a registration fee is due on all vessels using the river to help pay the costs of the locks and
weirs essential to navigation and services provided to boaters. The marina home owners use none of
these river facilities and pay local Council Tax.
In a victory for common-sense, a Crown Court Judge over-ruled local Magistrates and quashed the
convictions of two residents. He found that the homes were not vessels and not subject to registration
fees, and refused the Environment Agency leave to appeal.
Despite the ruling, officials from the Environment Agency, an unelected quango not directly
accountable to the public, instructed Queen’s Counsel to appeal directly to the Administrative Court.
The action, at enormous cost to the public purse was a waste of precious navigation funds which should
go only towards maintaining the navigable river.
In an unequal and unfair ‘David v Goliath’ battle, the home owners had initially to find thousands of
pounds in legal fees. The peace of their idyllic riverside retirement was shattered by fears of criminal
prosecution and what could only be seen as potential theft of their limited retirement funds.
Hartford residents maintain that not only are their static homes not ‘vessels’ subject to registration
(which the High Court has now agreed) but that the EA has no jurisdiction over the private waters of
the marina. The Environment Agency’s six-year battle to re-classify the private adjacent waters as part
of the main river was rejected as unlawful by the Secretary of State in 2010. River taxes, or registration
fees are only due on boats moored on or navigating the river. Despite the government ruling, the
Agency arrogantly prosecuted two berth-holders and many others, fearful of the intense bullying, just
Further Information for Editors:
Hartford Marina Community Association was formed in 2008 and successfully challenged
threats of eviction by the local authority. Owners of the floating lodges and static houseboats
pay Council Tax. HMCA has succeeded again in proving that the Environment Agency’s
prosecutions for failure to register the homes as boats had no basis in law.
The Environment Agency is the navigation authority for the Anglian Waterways including the
River Great Ouse. The legislation governing the river is The Anglian Water Authority Act 1977
and The Environment Agency (Inland Waterways) Order 2010. The prosecutions were brought
under the Environment Agency’s own 2010 Order.
Spokesperson for the Hartford Marina CA: Sue Rodwell Smith 07970 019509
Environment Agency: Waterway Manager, Irven Forbes – 03708 506 506