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To: The Prime Minister

Boats Are Homes! Prevent the Eviction of Boat Dwellers

Please act to protect the homes of itinerant boat dwellers in the UK by stopping the Canal & River Trust from refusing licences and pressuring boat families into homelessness.

Why is this important?

Canal & River Trust (CART) declared on 13th February 2015 that from 1st May this year it will refuse to re-license all boats that “don’t move … far enough or often enough” to meet its Guidance for Boaters without a Home Mooring – unless they take a permanent mooring. This places boat families under unique pressure as many cannot afford a mooring. Many boat dwellers work locally and some are key workers. Many require access to local services such as health care and schools and will be put to extreme difficulty if forced to move unreasonable distances. Like it or not, socio-political realities have made the waterways an affordable housing resource for many families. Canal & River Trust has long denied this reality, describing themselves as a 'navigation authority' and harbouring a marked hostility towards the water-based community. This position is no longer tenable and CART needs to accept its responsibilities as a landlord.


CART's new policy sets requirements that go beyond those stated in Section 17 (3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. Boat dwellers are happy to comply with the clearly stated, lawful requirement not to remain continuously in any one place for more than 14 days. However, the 1995 Act does not contain any requirement to travel a minimum distance or to follow any specific cruising pattern beyond the 14-day limit. The new policy means that boat dwellers are being forced to travel distances that put them out of reach of their jobs or their children's schools, and make it impossible for them to access health care or to stay near elderly relatives. If they choose to keep their homes they will be faced with the need to give up working, take their children out of school, miss out on vital health care and abandon elderly family members.

If a boat licence is terminated, or renewal refused, the boat is then unlicensed. CART has the power under Section 8 (2) of the British Waterways Act 1983 to seize, remove and sell unlicensed boats from its waterways. Section 13 (3) (a) of the British Waterways Act 1971 gives CART the power to demolish a houseboat that it has seized. In cases where a boat is lived on, CART obtains a Court Order and also obtains an Injunction banning the boat dweller from ever returning to its waterways. Breach of an Injunction carries the penalty of arrest and imprisonment. Therefore, the boat dweller not only becomes homeless but loses the only asset that they own. Information provided in response to a Freedom of information request showed that in 2010-2011 the enforcement team had a target to seize 100 "non compliant" boats each year. When boats are seized, CART contracts with a firm of Bailiffs to tow the boat away and the Police are present.

Permanent residential moorings that boat dwellers can legally live on are in very short supply. Where they exist, they are very expensive (up to £25,000 per year in London). The majority of marinas will turn you away if you live on your boat. Over 90% of permanent moorings are non-residential (“leisure moorings”). CART knows that if boat dwellers live on leisure moorings they risk having planning enforcement action taken against them for unauthorised residential use. In London and the south there is a severe shortage of moorings and mooring fees are vastly inflated. CART's own directly managed moorings are priced using an auction system where the highest bidder wins. Some private moorings have waiting lists of 9 years and more. There is no security of tenure for boat moorings so even if you do take a mooring, you could be evicted at the whim of the marina owner. CART is the largest inland navigation authority in the UK. It owns or manages some 80% of the waterways. The Environment Agency and other smaller bodies own and/or manage the remaining 20%. If CART refuses to renew the licence of a boat dweller, there are few, if any, other places that a boat dweller can take their boat.

CART's latest move is yet another attack on the right to use and live on a boat without a permanent mooring; a right that Parliament enshrined in law in 1995 when it passed Section 17 (3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. Before 1995 British Waterways (which became CART in 2012) sought powers to force all boats to have a mooring and criminal penalties against anyone caught living on their boat without a permanent residential mooring and a houseboat certificate. Parliament refused British Waterways these powers and acted to protect the 10,000 or so boat dwellers that would have become homeless in 1995 by wording Section 17 (3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 in such a way that it included a wide variety of patterns of boat use including those boat dwellers who needed to remain close to a place of work, children's education, health care or elderly relatives. The reasoning behind the wording of this section can be found in the Minutes of Evidence of the Select Committees that drafted the 1995 Act.


2017-05-04 21:24:54 +0100

The petition was again handed in to 10 Downing Street on 8th April 2017 during the 200-strong Boats Are Homes march, which continued to the DEFRA headquarters to hand in a letter demanding that the Government takes responsibility for stopping Canal & River Trust’s punitive and unlawful enforcement policy against boat dwellers. There is a full report here

2017-04-05 18:10:19 +0100

Petition hand -in this Saturday 8th April
Everyone who signed the petition is invited to join us when we hand in the petition during the Boats Are Homes demonstration in London on Saturday 8th April 2017. The march will assemble at at 12 noon at Victoria Embankment Gardens, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NS . Let's keep up the pressure! Join us on the march to Number 10 with an even bigger petition and then to DEFRA to tell them we will not be fobbed off! The Government must take responsibility for keeping CRT in check.

2017-03-04 16:32:12 +0000

There will be a national Boats Are Homes demonstration in London on Saturday 8th April 2017. Assemble at at 12 noon at Victoria Embankment Gardens, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NS for a march to Downing Street and on to DEFRA in Smith Square. All petition signatories are invited to join the march. Let's keep up the pressure!

The Government has not done anything to stop CRT; the Prime Minister passed the petition to DEFRA which in turn referred it back to CRT, which refuses to change its policy. Join us on the march to Number 10 with an even bigger petition and then to DEFRA to tell them we will not be fobbed off! The Government must take responsibility for keeping CRT in check.
Facebook event page

2016-11-25 16:49:52 +0000

Disappointing response from the Prime Minister

Unfortunately the petition had a disappointing response from Number 10. It was referred by Downing Street to DEFRA, who told us that the matters raised in the petition are for Canal & River Trust to address and we should contact the charity for a response. We have written to Theresa May asking her to look again at the petition because we need direct Government intervention, as we have attempted many times to raise the issues highlighted in the petition with Canal & River Trust to no avail. We stressed that we need the Government to step in to prevent the charity pursuing its punitive and unlawful policy.

2016-04-27 22:37:15 +0100

On 16th April more than 200 boat dwellers marched through London on the Boats are Homes march. The petition has now been handed to David Cameron at Downing Street and we are waiting for a response from him regarding whether the Government will step in to prevent Canal & River Trust pursuing its punitive policy of restricting or refusing to renew the licences of boat dwellers without permanent moorings.

In the mean time we would be pleased if you could take half an hour to watch a new film that has recently been released. “Off the Cut” by Wendy Zakiewicz provides a unique insight into a community of boaters living on the Kennet and Avon canal. It follows a family on their pedal powered boat as they embark on a journey in which their way of life, and that of the whole community, comes under threat.

You can watch "Off the Cut" here

2016-03-16 15:06:23 +0000

We invite all our supporters to join us when we hand the petition in to David Cameron in Parliament on 16th April 2016 after the national “Boats Are Homes” demonstration which is part of the March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education. Meet at the corner of Gower Street and Euston Road, London NW1 2BU at 12.30pm. Please see the Facebook event

2016-03-16 15:05:46 +0000

Unfortunately the latest development is that Canal & River Trust has intensified its attack on boat dwellers without permanent moorings. On 10th March 2016 the Trust announced that that it will now no longer issue short-term licences for periods of three months, and will only issue them for a six-month period in exceptional circumstances. For the first ten months of the new policy that was implemented from May 2015, those who failed to travel a range of 15-20 miles in their licence period were forced to accept a shorter term licence for 3 or 6 months as an “incentive” to travel further. These shorter licences were issued as an alternative to the issue of a Section 8 notice removing their boats from CRT's waterways. Now, most boaters without permanent moorings who have not travelled "far enough" will lose their homes.

2015-10-21 00:27:37 +0100

20,000 signatures reached

2015-06-17 13:02:38 +0100

Canal & River Trust applying new policy retrospectively

It is clear after the first 6 weeks that Canal & River Trust's new policy is being applied retrospectively and in some cases without any warning at all, not even the 6 weeks stated by Canal & River Trust. Boaters who had their licences renewed without question a year ago who have travelled the same distances this year have been told their licence will not be renewed for the full 12 months. They were not in a position to remedy any alleged failure to comply with the law because the new policy was only announced in February 2015, with the implication that it would be effective going forward from 1st May. It was not made clear that it would be operated retrospectively. This is unfair and unjust. Many boat dwellers are at risk of being evicted from Canal & River Trust waterways as a result.

2015-03-18 13:31:46 +0000

Thank you to everyone who has signed our petition. I am amazed and delighted that we have achieved more than 10,000 signatures. Our opponents are annoyed and angry however, which is a measure of our success. As a result an opponent of the petition tried, and succeeded, in having the title edited without the knowledge of the admin. This has now been corrected and I would ask 38Degrees to support us in contacting the administrators before carrying out changes on behalf of unconnected individuals. If opponents can effect changes to petitions the entire point of 38Degrees is undermined. However, this sabotage attempt has only strengthened our resolve! Please share our petition as widely as possible!

2015-02-23 13:05:14 +0000

10,000 signatures reached

2015-02-20 23:13:41 +0000

5,000 signatures reached

2015-02-20 10:12:17 +0000

1,000 signatures reached

2015-02-20 07:31:17 +0000

500 signatures reached

2015-02-19 22:12:59 +0000

100 signatures reached