Fenland Council pledges tougher action against boat owners who over stay their 48 hours of free moorings by the river in March
PUBLISHED: 11:58 07 May 2019
Tougher action is to be taken against boat owners who overstay their welcome at free moorings in March with Fenland District Council vowing to take enforcement action against those breaking the rules.
The council eased off from implementing fines “due to an initial period of education” but promised that from this week offenders can expect to be issued with fixed penalty notices.
Kelvin Alexander-Duggan says he is a boat owner who pays for a mooring in the local marina and pays council tax on top of that.
He says that like others he has become frustrated that the council has taken its time getting to grips with a “small group of squatter boats” that are not paying their dues.
“I have very limited access to local council services,” he says. “For the £1,212.94 that I pay on a non residential mooring which I can only use on ten months of the year due to Fenland council planning ruling in 1979, I expect this council to enforce these mooring restrictions and collect the money owed.”
A council spokesman said: “Limited enforcement action has been taken against boaters since the new moorings management scheme was introduced due to an initial period of education so that people could see the signage and understand the new rules”.
This was carried out over the winter when demand for moorings is low but to suggest, says the council, that the council is owed a large sum would be misleading.
Only a small number of mooring charge notices (MCNs) have been issued but now that the boating season is here and boat traffic is increasing the council says it will begin carrying out enforcement against those disobeying the 48 hour mooring rule this week.
“In addition to the initial period of education, a comprehensive risk assessment had to be carried out as the street scene officers who will be issuing the mooring charge notices) will be carrying out the work near water,” said the spokesman.
“At present, removing a boat from the river is unlike removing a car from the highway.
“Cars have registration numbers and vehicle identification numbers (VINs) all linked back to a registered owner, which is often not the case for vessels in the Middle Level system.
“However, the Middle Level Commissioners (MLC) has recently had an Act of Parliament passed to give more waterway management powers, including the requirement for boat registration, vessel insurance and safety certification.
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“MLC will be working to implement the new legislation on the waterways around Fenland in the coming months. Once in place, the council's moorings scheme will work more effectively alongside it. It will mean that any vessel receiving an MCN will have an identifiable owner with an address.
“This will ensure that future processes will be as straightforward as it is for a car owner.”
Mr Alexander-Duggan says the new restrictions on using the town moorings came into force last year on August 2.
“Since last August a small group of squatter boats have been moored way passed the time limit on the moorings.
“These squatters claim that it is their human rights to stay moored there and they can not be moved. These boats are in a poor state of repair and are an anti-social nuisance through running generators over night, burning wet wood and house coal in a smokeless zone, along with the mess they leave behind where-ever their moored. All too often they just chuck the rubbish into the river.”
His claim – disputed by the council – is that one of the boat owners owes over £25,000 in unpaid fines for overstaying – “three times the value of the boat”.
He said: “If I leave a car parked in the square, the council would remove it in a week. “These squatters should have been quickly removed months ago. These boats should be impounded in lieu of payment of the outstanding overstaying fines.”
In February Cllr Jan French raised the issue of the “frustration” felt by those owners of moorings who paid their dues and those that didn't.
Portfolio holder Cllr Peter Murphy advised the council was about to bring in tougher enforcement but said the problem was that once challenged about overstaying, boat owners simply moved to the opposite bank and outside the jurisdiction of the council.
He said the council is liaising both the Middle Level and also investigating council tax evasion.
With Middle Level now equipped with better powers it would ensure boat owners are registered, have a safety certificate and insurance.
“With these additional powers, fixed penalty notices will be easier to enforce and this should improve the management of the mooring spaces in March Town Centre,” he said.