Licensing workshops underway
THE CANAL & RIVER TRUST’S boat licensing review has entered its second stage, a series of regional workshop meetings, following the initial dialogues between independent charity Involve and 14 boating organisations including the National Association of Boat Owners, Inland Waterways Association, National Bargee Travellers Association and Residential Boat Owners Association.
There did seem to be a general consensus among these bodies that the functions of licensing were to pay towards the maintenance of the waterways and to give permission for use of the system (although one respondent said it was a way of paying senior CRT staff). But when it came to the need for change, there was more doubt with several bodies questioning whether there was anything wrong with the existing system – and one suggesting that CRT had already made up its mind what it would do.
Others did see a need to change, to meet challenges including increases in congestion, residential boats, craft without home moorings, length and width of craft and renting out of vessels.
When it came to what changes were needed, proposals included: higher fees for wide boats; or charging extra for boats without home mooring, or finding some way of encouraging them to cruise further (such as a discount for travelling a certain distance, or a licence type allowing stopping for only a couple of days).
Others suggested that this would only mean the canals would use more water; or that the system should be simplified by reducing the number of length-based charging bands. Ideas which received the thumbs-down were charging based on the value of a boat, pricing by distance travelled and zonal licences – although some supported a London ‘congestion charge’.
The second stage is already underway: over 900 boaters responded to an invitation to apply to join one of a number of regional workshop meetings. A team from Involve selected 135 of these (on the basis of a balance of boater types and views) to attend the workshops on 18 May to 29 June, which aim to ‘improve, refine or discard options’. From these meetings CRT will develop options for a third stage consultation open to all boaters, before the proposals are finalised in the autumn.