EA loses houseboat case appeal
FIXED HOUSEBOATS BASED at a marina off the Great Ouse, which would not be capable of being moved without the use of two workboats, are not ‘vessels’, and need not be registered (licensed) with the river’s navigation authority the Environment Agency, according to three High Court judges.
The case began In 2014 when two houseboat residents at Hartford Marina received notices from the EA to register their homes, and on refusing (because they didn’t believe they needed to) they were summonsed.
But the Crown Court ruled in 2015 that having no propulsion, being fixed to the river bed by poles driven through brackets at their corners, and being connected to mains power, water and sewage, they were not ‘vessels’ as covered by the EA’s Inland Waterways Order and needed no registration. The EA appealed, saying the Order was “plainly intended to ensure that every possible description of vessel is brought within the reach of the registration provisions”. The lawyer representing the boaters disagreed, contending that an “essential provision of a vessel is that it is capable of navigation”.
The Appeal judges took the view that there were legal precedents of floating structures (such as landing stages) which had previously been ruled not to be ‘vessels’, and that the Crown Court had been right to view the houseboats in the same way.
Meanwhile, another EA appeal is still awaited after it lost a case against boaters in marinas off the Thames, who the Agency claimed still needed to register their craft even if they never leave the marinas.