From the Tiller

by Alan Wildman

Due, in part, to Canal & River Trust’s changes to its network of Waterway Regions and the change of direction as regards its Waterway Partnerships, there is nothing much to report on that front until the new arrangements and appointments have settled down. RBOA will be attending the CRT Annual Public Meeting in September, so we may have more to report soon thereafter.

The Middle Level Bill which RBOA supported, and on which I reported in the July/August issue of Soundings, is still in the hands of Central Government. Following a number of agreed amendments, it must first go back to the House of Lords for a Third Reading and then over to the House of Commons for consideration of those amendments. It is hoped, though, that the Bill will proceed to Royal Assent later this year.

Proposals from the Environment Agency have been released, for increased licence fees ranging from 5.7% to 10% on various navigations under its governance. RBOA recognises the need for Navigation Authorities to raise funds to maintain our waterways but we believe boaters should not be continually squeezed in this way. In consequence, RBOA is set dead against such swingeing increases and has submitted an appropriate response to the EA consultation.
The Broads Authority continues its pragmatic approach to the subject of residential moorings and RBOA has, again, been invited to comment on the suitability of a number of further potential locations. I am pleased to confirm that RBOA has fully supported the initiative.

HMRC has called for more evidence on the use of red diesel, primarily focused on non-transport commercial usage but with potential to affect authority’s thinking on rebated fuel for domestic use in residential craft. RBOA has responded in robust defence of continued red diesel availability for residential boaters.

RBOA was also invited by DEFRA to comment on its Draft Clean Air Strategy. Diesel usage on inland waterways and the increased popularity of solid fuel stoves in land and water based homes, are clearly within focus.
Diesel has long been the preferred fuel for boat propulsion and solid fuel stoves are a convenient and traditional source of heat and cooking in boats but, none the less, our overall carbon footprint is comparatively low. RBOA has responded to DEFRA, very much in support of maintaining these low impact traditions for boaters.

We have, however, offered to work with DEFRA to look at ways to further minimise boaters’ contribution to air pollution, whilst protecting our way of life – solid fuel stoves and diesel engines are an integral part of how many of us live and should be allowed to remain so into the foreseeable future, albeit, perhaps, with more focus on low emission coals and properly seasoned woods.

I recently picked up a thread on Facebook which stated that CRT had reached an agreement with a boating family with school age children and no home mooring, whereby the family could maintain a somewhat curtailed cruising range during term time and a more extensive cruising range during Easter and Summer school holidays. I contacted CRT for clarification and was told that, whilst no formal arrangement had been put in place, the boaters were advised that, provided they comply, in full, with the proposed cruising pattern, they would be unlikely to fall outside of the CRT licence terms and conditions. That cruising pattern would see the boaters remain within a cruising area of around 5 miles during term time but extend their cruising range by a further 23 miles or so during the two school holidays. The 14 day rule, limiting the maximum continuous stay time in any one place, will continue to apply.

Whatever one’s view, this is a clear indication that CRT, true to its corporate word, is willing to offer advice and agree solutions with those boaters that declare specific issues and seek a consensual resolution.

It is also good to note that Waterside Moorings, the department which operates CRT’s directly managed moorings, has now deferred its proposed (huge) mooring fee increases, pending further talks with those potentially affected.
And before I sign off for this edition of From the Tiller, a gentle reminder that autumn and winter will soon be upon us; so now is a good time for us all to check the safety of our heating, gas and electrical systems. CO alarms and smoke alarms also need regular checking, of course. Should you have any concerns, marinas and boatyards are often able to advise, as are boat surveyors and boat safety examiners. RBOA is always here to offer help, too.

As ever, my sincere and very best wishes go out to every one of you.

The RBOA Newsletter, Soundings, is sent free to members six times a year.

It is also available to non-members for £2 (+ £1.20 P&P).