Family say boating community is being ‘destroyed’ after being forced to leave canal

family say boating community is being destroyed after being forced to leave canal - Family say boating community is being 'destroyed' after being forced to leave canal

A family who fled a canal they’ve used for 14 years after being faced with eviction have said boaters’ lives are being ‘destroyed’.

Steve Holder and Sarah Wyeth claim they were ordered to remove their barge from the Kennet and Avon Canal in Bath after being refused a new licence.

The couple say they were told by the Canal and River Trust (CRT) they had not travelled enough for a boat without a permanent mooring.

Along with their two children, Mazy, 18, and Tom, 14, the couple have been forced to move to Bristol Floating Harbour, Somerset Live reports .

The CRT defended its actions by saying eviction was a ‘last resort’ when boaters don’t meet licence requirements.

family say boating community is being destroyed after being forced to leave canal 1 - Family say boating community is being 'destroyed' after being forced to leave canal

Sarah Wyeth and son Tom, 14, playing music on their barge (Image: Steve Holder)

“The CRT has effectively evicted us after 14 years of living on the canal. We are off their waters,” Mr Holder has argued.

“We are a quiet, working family of four but somehow we are such a menace to the CRT. We moved our boat every couple of weeks.

“The distances we had done before were fine but something is going on here. It is unjust.

“There are boats on the canal that don’t even have a licence and they have not moved for years but they stay under the radar somehow.

“I feel like a mug for buying a licence back in 2004. I might have been better off not getting one at all.

“Some canal boats don’t move at all. I feel quite bitter and twisted about all of this.

 

“But we couldn’t go to court to fight this as we would lose. The CRT would out-resource us and then it would set a dangerous legal precedent.

“The CRT is totally destroying lives. They are destroying people’s lives and a whole community. They are clamping down on our livelihoods.”

Mr Holder says he was now been forced to move to Bristol Floating Harbour, which costs £1,960 a year.

“The kids go to school in Bath, I work as a live sound engineer in Bath and Sarah is a barber in Bath,” he said.

“When your life is in Bath it is hard to change that all of a sudden. Driving those longer distances is not ideal.”

What has the CRT said?

A spokeswoman for the CRT said: “Taking action to remove a boat from the water is upsetting and is always a last resort.  It only happens when a boat owner refuses to follow the rules over a long period of time, during which we have repeatedly tried to resolve the issues and difficulties with the customer.

“Canal and River Trust has statutory powers to manage its waterways, which provide that we are entitled to refuse a licence in the event that we are not satisfied that a boat has a home mooring or will be used to navigate ‘bona fide’, or in good-faith, on our waterways – which we refer to as “continuously cruising”. 

“We make sure that in all cases any decision to remove a boat that is lived on has first been independently scrutinised by a judge who considers whether the Trust is acting appropriately.

“We welcome all boaters onto our canals and we seek to manage our busy waterways safely and fairly for all the 34,500 boats on the network. 

“We do as much as we reasonably can to help boaters stay on the water, providing guidance and advice to help them meet their licence conditions.

 

“Whenever boaters are facing serious difficulties we help by offering to put them in touch with support organisations, such as the Waterways Chaplaincy and various local independent services, as well as providing help via our dedicated Welfare Officer. 

“Fortunately, of the 34,500 boats on the network, last year only a very small fraction – 17 liveaboard boats – were actually removed. 

“Living aboard as a family can be a challenge, especially if the boat doesn’t have a permanent place to moor, but some boaters do raise their children on the water. 

“We urge boaters to talk to us if they need help balancing their lifestyle needs with the licence requirements.”

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