A year long review of boat licensing that saw over 11000 boaters reply has resulted in few real changes to the 20 year old system, which CRT and IWA both considered to be outdated – except for a general increase in fees!

The review shows some awareness of the problems brought by the growth in wide craft on the waterways with a fee increase of 10% or 20%, but this will be not start until 2020 and brought in over a 4 year period, and is unlikely to slow their adoption as canalside ‘mobile’ homes. The major issue of craft without home licences, especially in major cities, has been deferred to ‘a further review’.


The Inland Waterways Association stated they considered that the Canal & River Trust had failed to take the opportunity to produce a modern licensing system that addresses the problems it inherited on its creation in 2012. IWA sees this as a missed opportunity to solve some of the issues caused by the current licensing system, and in particular the effect of the continuous cruising option introduced by the British Waterways Act 1995 as an alternative to having a home mooring. After spending a significant amount of resource on a major review and consultation, it is disappointing that so little has come of it.

IWA National Chairman, Ivor Caplan, said “The review does nothing to address two of IWA’s key concerns; the increasing use of widebeam boats on inappropriate waterways to the detriment of other waterways users, and ensuring that boaters without a home mooring cruise an appropriate distance. IWA will continue campaigning for these concerns to be resolved.”

Despite CRT’s claim that they aimed ‘to ensure the financial contribution made by boaters towards the cost of looking after the waterways is spread fairly across the boating community’ the visible result for most licence holders will be a 5% to 7.5% rise in licence fees because the 10% discount for early payment has been halved to 5% or even to 2.5% if the fee isn’t paid by direct debit.

Jon Horsfall, interim head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The current licencing system has remained largely unchanged for more than two decades and there have been many changes to the waterways, and to boating, in that time.”

Looks like it could be another 20 years before we actually see any real changes. Did it need an expensive year long ‘consultation’ just to hike fees again?

More information, and the consultation reports, can be found on the CRT website.

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