Freedom News

Houseboaters to ballot for action against license fee hike

Members of the National Bargee Traveller Association (NBTA) are gearing up to take on the Canal and River Trust (CRT) over what they say is a sham consultation aimed at imposing punitive fees on people who lack a home mooring.

Boaters are waiting for updates on a new licensing structure which was mooted earlier thus year by the trust, which oversees waterways across the country and raises around 11% of its funding through the licensing system. In an effort to justify raising charges at rates above that of inflation, the charity blamed cuts to government funding before asking “whether it’s fairer to apply higher increases to certain boaters in a way that reflects how they use the waterways.”

In a statement, NBTA secretary Ian McDowell said:

The fact that CRT would even propose charging boaters without a home mooring more for their licence than those with one is a clear attack on our community. Their consultation was nothing more than an exercise in divide and rule in order to sanitise a plan which they have admitted they are keen to pursue.

“In CRT’s biased survey they claimed that this is a fairer way to reduce their current financial problems and maintain the crumbling waterways infrastructure – but those financial problems and the parlous nature of the waterways are due to their mismanagement. Whether its spending money on vanity projects like a new logo or paying subcontractors hundreds of thousands of pounds to enforce their ill-conceived mooring schemes, CRTs finances are in tatters because of their own negligence.

“When it comes to claims of fairness, it doesnt take long to see that for CRT fairness” is just a word they use to hide their real agenda – marginalising boaters without a home mooring. Whenever they talk about fairness it is always a preamble to making our lives more difficult.

“We will refuse to be priced off the waterways with any means we have at our disposal.”

The suggestion of specific hikes for “certain boaters” continues a longstanding clash with a large section of the boating community who don’t have home moorings and instead use the continuous cruising system, amounting to around 24% of the riverborne population. In London particularly, the trust has repeatedly attempted to crack down on itinerant boaters in what critics say is a campaign of waterways gentrification.

Writing at the start of the consultation, CRT chairman Richard Parry said:

“We continue to secure as much income as we can through our commercial and charitable activities, control costs where possible, and focus our resources on those priority works which are required to support navigation. Nevertheless, with our government grant frozen and therefore declining in real terms since 2021, and currently undecided after 2027, the income we receive from boat licences is more critical than ever.

“While we do not underestimate the impact on boaters of any licence fee increase, unless we can increase income from all sources at a level above inflation, it will not be possible to secure a sustainable future for our waterways.”

The NBTA is open to anyone in Britain whose home is a boat and who does not have a permanent mooring. To get involved with the NBTA campaign or find out more, smail secretariat (at) and check out

Pic: NBTA’s Spring Fayre, called in protest at CRT policies and celebration of the community in Clapton, May 2023, by NBTA

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