Updated BOATERS WIN COURT CASE OVER THAMES
BOAT REGISTRATION

 

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The Environment Agency is considering an appeal against a court ruling that boats in Thames marinas do not need licences.

The agency had sought to prosecute boat owners at the Thames and Kennet Marina, Reading, and the Penton Hook Marina, Chertsey, because their boats were not registered.

A group of 20 boaters argued that the marinas were not part of the river - and therefore did not need licences.

But some members of the Thames boating community have backed the EA. See comments below.

Ar Reading Magistrates Court District Judge Lachhar agreed and said the EA had attempted to extend existing law "by the back door". The judge agreed marinas were exempt.

Simon Birley, who is restoring a boat at the Thames and Kennet Marina, told the BBC: "We don't think it is over. We have won the battle but not the war.

"My boat can't move and I don't take it out on the navigable Thames; if I did it would have to be registered."

The ruling puts the EA's enforcement policy into question. For the past few years officers have been carrying out spot checks on marinas and warning owners of unregistered boats they face prosecution unless they buy an annual licence - typically around £500 for a 30 foot boat.

The defendants claimed the marinas were on private land and did not form part of the River Thames.

The judge said: "In my judgement it is clear that the Environment Agency, having failed to have the order extended in draft form, is attempting to extend it by the back door by using the Conservancy Act, which has never in the past been used against these defendants.

"In my judgement it would be repugnant to allow them to extend the registration provision to vessels on said marinas without primary legislation."

Andrew Graham, EA Waterways Manager said: "Now that we've had the full reasoned judgement in this case, we have 21 days to consider it and decide whether or not we want to appeal. That is what we will now do."

But some of our readers backed the EA after our story in November. Sharron Griffiths of Chertsey Marine writes

I am somewhat surprised to read this article . The new EA Licence is a licence to float not navigate as it was in the past, The water that flows through and fills the back waters and Marinas is Thames water and therefore comes under the jurisdiction of the EA if any water levels drop too far and allow the boats not to float who would they get in contact with? THE EA

The EA  control the water levels, and part of the licence fees that are paid, go towards the clearing and repairing of weirs and locks on the Thames. And by having these back waters feeding off the Thames then any boats that float within these areas should pay a licence fee, and accept it, I have.

If the Marinas and back waters are not part of the river then why are they linked to the river and filled with Thames water?

Updated December 9th 2015