Boaters to stage protest over ‘discriminatory’ price rises

The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) will stage a protest in Little Venice, west London, against plans to raise the cost of boat licences and introduce a surcharge on continuous cruisers, people who live on boats but do not have a home mooring where they stay for longer periods.

The decision from the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) was first announced in November 2023 and will come into force from April 1.

The trust said it needs funding to keep the waterways alive but the NBTA has labelled the measure “discriminatory” and said it will threaten the nomadic way of life.

NBTA secretary Marcus Trower, a continuous cruiser, said: “An escalating surcharge will increase the cost of a licence by 25% over four years.

“My licence currently costs £1,200, but with these changes that will up by more than a third in the next four years. And the worry is that if they are allowed to implement these changes now, how much more will they start charging in the future?

Marcus Trower said continuous cruisers are being singled out (Marcus Trower/PA)

“We believe it is the trust’s aim to reduce the number of boats without home moorings. We are being singled out and they don’t want us to exist.

“They genuinely seem to believe we are taking the mickey and think everyone should have one particular place to live. But the reality is we live a different way of life that suits us.

“On Saturday, we will show we are united in our fight against these plans.”

A few hundred people are expected to attend the protest, which was described as an Easter regatta, at the canal side exit of Paddington Station, near the bookable moorings.

Activists will stage a “unity march” to the nearby CRT offices while boaters deliver speeches, run craft stalls and provide live music.

Pamela Smith, chairwoman of the NBTA, said: “CRT’s latest attack on the travelling boater community is discriminatory, unpopular, financially illiterate and quite possibly unlawful – none of which comes as a surprise given the trust’s increasingly chaotic mismanagement and desperate attempts to distract from it in any way they can.

“This time, however, they’ve only strengthened the resolve of many in the boater community – both with and without home moorings – to resist their attempts to eradicate our whole way of life and demand one licence for all. Hundreds have actively joined the campaign of resistance so far and anger with the trust is at a fever pitch.

“The NBTA are helping to channel this energy and to ensure that – just like every other time CRT or British Waterways before them have tried to get rid of our community – we stand united, strong and victorious in our opposition.”

The CRT has been contacted for comment.

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