Monday, 2 November 2009

BW's 'secret' war against residential boaters

Just saw the latest post on the K and A boaters' website entitled Psychological Warfare on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Well done to the author of that one. The view that BW is engaged in a covert war of attrition against residential boaters sits at the heart of my personal opposition to BW and so many of its works! I simply reflect on the dozens of friends I have made over the years who have succumbed to the pressure and given up living afloat. (Maybe they were actually the wise ones?)

In particular I completely agree with the sentiment: BW’s aim is break our resolve to live within the rules laid down by law and either be ‘bullied’ into paying for unwanted moorings or to simply disappear (?)

As far as I am concerned this has been the tacit policy since the 95 Act. BW felt terribly stitched up when they didn't get their own way on banning Continuous Cruising altogether by requiring all licensed boats to have a home mooring. What we now call Continuous Cruising was in the event endorsed by Parliament and enshrined in the primary legislation. This is particularly telling when you remember that this all occurred during the height of rabid Thatcherism and during a period when road travellers were well under the cosh, literally in some cases. Living afloat not only survived the passage of legislation despite outright opposition from BW, but was supported and endorsed on a cross party basis.

To my recollection BW went away and sulked somewhat for a few years then in the late 1990's started trying to surreptitiously whittle away at the rights boaters had won for themselves, and have consistently continued to try to do so ever since.

There is for me a very telling comment from BW in the latest consultation document.

'Some people call for stronger legislation – a call which we have considered but ruled out for the pragmatic reasons that more draconian powers are neither necessary nor likely to be granted and in any event would be very costly and controversial and would take a very long time to try to acquire.'

Too right - the last thing BW want is detailed parliamentary scrutiny of how they conduct themselves towards residential boaters! The last time Parliament took up our cause it:

1. Protected the right to cruise without paying for a mooring by making that right part of the primary legislation,

2. Strengthened the position of Houseboat Certificate holders on existing residential moorings (another part of the improved rights for residential boaters won through Parliament as per the 95 Act, which BW have subsequently consistently attempted to undermine).

3. Took the view that left to themselves BW would be unreasonably heavy handed against residential boaters and so forced BW to adopt a five year moratorium against taking action against unauthorised residential moorings and forced BW into an active programme to provide more residential moorings nationally.

(On this last point of course any new directly managed moorings created these days go to the highest bidder only!)

It is no surprise that BW don't wish to create circumstances where Parliament would be obliged to look at all this again, especially given this would provide an opportunity for residential boaters individually and collectively to make representations and have their case heard in a cross party legislative scrutiny committee. Look what happened last time we did that!

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