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Protest at Hungerford lock over Canal and River Trust’s new charging plans

A protest is being held at a Hungerford lock tomorrow (Saturday) by those against a new boat surcharge.

The Canal and River Trust’s (CRT) decision to impose a new surcharge for boaters without a permanent mooring has sparked anger among many, who have labelled it “discrimination”.

Stock image of the Kennet and Avon canal
Stock image of the Kennet and Avon canal

In what the chair of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) has labelled an “attack on boaters without a permanent mooring”, the trust’s new surcharge will see those colloquially termed “continuous cruisers” pay an additional fee with a staggered rise from five per cent to 25 per cent over the course of the next five years.

Pamela Smith added: “CRT’s latest attack on the community of boaters without a permanent mooring is discriminatory, unpopular, financially illiterate and quite possibly unlawful.

“None of this is a surprise given CRT’s increasingly chaotic mismanagement. This time, however, CRT has strengthened the resolve of many in the boating community, both with and without permanent moorings, to resist its attempts to eradicate our way of life.

“We demand one licence for all.”

The protest will begin at Dun Mill Lock 75 on the Kennet and Avon Canal at 10.30am on Saturday. Those taking part will then walk up the towpath into Hungerford town centre where they will distribute leaflets and engage with the public in the hope of raising awareness and strengthening the voice for change within the boating community.

The NBTA said the trust made the decision based on what they describe as “unsubstantiated claims” that boaters without a mooring gain “greater utility in use of the network” and have a “greater impact on ageing infrastructure”.

This decision comes despite a 60 per cent majority vote in last year’s consultation against charging extra for boats without a permanent mooring.

The NBTA argues that, statistically, non-permanent mooring boaters are by far the minority of waterway users, making up only a fifth of such licence holders and have instead suggested a one per cent increase across all boating licences would be more effective, both in the nature of fairness and profitability.

Despite the 1995 law entitling boaters to use and live on their boats without a mooring, the volunteer organisation claims the CRT and British Waterways have “made many attempts to rid the waterways of boaters without a permanent mooring”.

With a rise in licence fees across the board of 17 per cent over the course of 2022 and 2023, the association said it fears this increase will be “driving many pensioners and low-income earners who live on boats without permanent moorings into hardship and poverty”.

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