Steep licence fee rises spark anger on the Avon
BOATERS BASED ON the Warwickshire Avon say that steep licence fee rises are making life very difficult, especially for those with longer craft.
However, the independent navigation authority, the Avon Navigation Trust (ANT), has defended its increases on the basis that they improve fairness, that it needs the funds, that its licences are cheaper than most waterways, and that there was a full consultation. Up to now, charges have been based on boat length, but with a flat rate for all craft over 50ft. This is to be replaced by a sliding scale continuing right up to 70ft. This means longer boats will see steep percentage rises: 30ft: annual fee rises by 32% from £ 220 to £333 37%, £ 275 to £377 59%, £313 to £499 83%, £313 to £ 575 Boat owner Jay Benham said that “whilst we, as boaters, fully understand the importance of maintaining this beautiful part of the world, and would be happy to pay more each year, none of us could have foreseen the increase on this scale”.
In its consultation ANT said it needed to close an £ 80,000 annual funding gap to secure a sustainable future for the navigation, and published graphs showing that even after the changes, the Avon would still cost less than the Thames, the Anglian waterways, and the Canal & River Trust system, and only slightly more than the Broads. ANT also said it had amended its proposals in the light of consultation responses: it had reduced the fee rise for small boats, classed sailing craft as unpowered, introduced payment in instalments and cut the supplement for residential craft – and that most respondents supported the changes.
So far the only rises announced are for long-term licences; however, ANT says its strategy going forward will include “a slightly more expensive short-term licence” for visiting craft.