THAMES BOAT FEES ROW GOES TO TOP

Protests over a controversial inflation-busting increase for leisure boat licences on the non-tidal river are to be made to Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith.

The increase of 4.8% will come into force in January, Environment Agency Harbour Master Matt Carter confirmed at a general meeting of the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs.

Boat owners are angry about a 2% surcharge on top of an inflation figure of 2.8% to help a funding shortfall for the agency. They say they are bearing an unfair proportion of the cost of maintaining the river.

Boat owners at the ATYC meeting described the increase variously as "an insult" and "a disgrace".

Chairman Michael Shefras said :"There is no way we can face higher and higher boat fees. We have reached the point where we cannot go on facing increases."

In a briefing to the meeting Mr Shefras said: "What is absolutely missing from this is the fact that the Thames and other waterways are not only for the boater, but have a huge public benefit that also needs financing – it cannot [just] be the boater."

There was also anger at the meeting over a freeze for commercial boat fees for the past three years.

Waterways boss Mr Carter warned there were tough decision to be made on management of the river. Grants from Government department Defra had been cut and there was the possibility of further cuts next year.

There was a £2.3 million deficit on maintenance works which had been carried forward.

But on the positive side enforcement of licence evasion had been stepped up and the volunteer lock keeper programme had been a big success.

A pilot scheme in which a private car parking firm had been brought in to tackle illegal overstaying boats had proved highly succesful. He described as "the biggest development on the Thames for some years". Complaints about overstaying boats had dropped from 40-50 a month to just 1.

Later the EA issued a full statement justifying the increase. Read it HERE

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Story updated Nov 12th 2013

 
   
     
 
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