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To: Richard Parry, Chief Executive, Canal & River Trust

Stop the boat licence fee surcharges!

Please drop the discriminatory, unaffordable licence fee surcharges.

From April 2024, Canal & River Trust, a registered charity, is imposing an escalating surcharge on the licences of boats without a permanent mooring and increased surcharges for wide-beam boats.

Why is this important?

Have you ever been charged a fee for not having something? Canal & River Trust announced on 19th September 2023 that from 1st April 2024 it will impose an escalating 5% to 25% surcharge over 4 years on the licence fees of boats without a permanent mooring, and increased surcharges for wide-beam boats. This is on top of above-inflation increases to all boat licence fees over the next 4 years, starting with a 6% increase in April 2024.

Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995 makes it clear that the licence to use the waterways can be held either with or without a permanent mooring.


Canal & River Trust has already raised boat licence fees by 8% in 2022 and 9% in 2023. The 6% increase and surcharges are on top of that already vastly inflated sum. Taking the escalating surcharges together with annual above-inflation increases, we estimate that by 2028, the licence for a narrowboat will cost 64% more, and for a wide-beam 130% more, if they don’t have a permanent mooring. We think this surcharge is unfair. It penalises a minority in favour of the majority. We are only 20% of the boats, yet Canal & River Trust want us to pay a surcharge to keep fees down for the majority of licence payers.

The surcharge is a direct attack on our nomadic way of life, designed to pressurise us to move off the water. It will generate 0.6% of Canal & River Trust’s total income. Canal & River Trust says it aims to “balance pricing and affordability” in a way which is “fair” to all boaters. It would be much fairer to add another 1% to all 35,000 licences, instead of picking on a minority of 7,000 boats. The surcharge is not about raising finance, it’s about marginalising our community.

Most of us live on our boats, and many will be at risk of losing our homes if we can’t afford the licence fee. Socio-economic change has made living on the waterways without a permanent mooring the only route to affordable housing for many people. We are on the lowest incomes of all boaters. If a boat dweller cannot afford to license their boat, their home can be seized, removed and sold by Canal & River Trust under Section 8 of the British Waterways Act 1983.

Please sign our petition and help us to make sure the surcharge is defeated now!

How it will be delivered

In person




2024-05-22 08:55:56 +0100

500 signatures reached

2024-05-07 19:22:21 +0100

100 signatures reached

2024-05-06 20:43:09 +0100

50 signatures reached

2024-05-06 11:40:17 +0100

25 signatures reached

2024-05-05 12:22:00 +0100

10 signatures reached