Kennet and Avon canal boaters’ fury over canal eviction bid

BOATERS along the Kennet and Avon canal joined a national protest at a Canal and River Trust’s policy that is threatening to evict boats without a home mooring.

In May last year the CRT began refusing to re-license boaters who do not have a permanent mooring, for not moving far enough or often enough under the 1995 British Waterways Act, which boat families say has put them under severe pressure as they cannot afford a permanent mooring.

A group of 200 boaters marched on Downing Street on Saturday to hand in a petition against the policy,.

Bradford on Avon boaters Daniella Carrozza, and Rhys Thomas, both 38, and their two children, Rowan, two, and Wren, 14 months, were refused a one-year license as the CRT said they fell foul of the act’s guidelines.

“My daughter Wren was in hospital from a life-threatening illness, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, which was treated with chemotherapy. It was an incredibly worrying time and this letter was not at the forefront of my mind,” said Mrs Carrozza, who has been living on the canal for six years. This is a massive infringement on my personal freedom. It feels like harassment. I take my kids to nurseries in Bradford on Avon and Bath so we cannot afford to move too far away. When we appealed this it was refused, but we have now been given an exemption for a six-week period. We have followed all the rules for years and when I called them to say what was I doing wrong they gave no advice or guidelines.”

Semington Boater Rob Wainwright, who went to the protests in London, said according to a CRT statistic from last year, 96 per cent of boaters were following the rules.

“It is incredibly stressful to have all this uncertainty. Me and my partner have put our life savings into this. I am having to fit our bathroom in whilst holding down a job – and I am in a better position than most,” said the 39-year-old The National Bargee Travellers Association chairman Pamela Smith, herself a boater in Marlborough, said: “It is a complete injustice. This is hitting hard on all of us but especially families with children. It is just cruel. The law clearly states that people without a permanent mooring should move on after 14 days and the vast majority of boaters are happy to abide by that.”

The petition, http://bit.ly/1FdjdkT, currently has over 28,000 signatures.

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