London bargee travellers protest 'discriminatory' surcharge

Boaters from across the UK have gathered in London to protest against "discriminatory" price rises they say threaten their way of life.

The Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) plans to raise costs associated with living on the water.

Boat licences are due to increase and a surcharge imposed on continuous cruisers.

Continuous cruisers are those who live on boats but do not have a home mooring where they stay for longer periods.

The new rule will come into force on 1 April.

Members of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) congregated in Little Venice in west London to celebrate the community and stand against the CRT's plans.

The trust said it needed funding to keep the waterways alive but the NBTA secretary Marcus Trower, a continuous cruiser, said: "An escalating surcharge will increase the cost of a licence by 25% over four years."

Bargee protestors
People who live on boats without a permanent mooring say the surcharge is unfair [PA Media]

He said his current licence cost £1,200 and he feared what charges would rise to in the future.

"We believe it is the trust's aim to reduce the number of boats without home moorings. We are being singled out and they don't want us to exist," he said.

"They genuinely seem to believe we are taking the mickey and think everyone should have one particular place to live. But the reality is we live a different way of life that suits us."

The BBC has contacted the CRT for comment.

The protest, described as an Easter regatta, was held at the canal side exit of Paddington Station, near the bookable moorings.

Bargee protestors
Supporters of the bargee travellers attended on foot and on the water [PA Media]

Those attending by water displayed banners on the sides of their boats, while some of those on foot carried handmade placards.

The event included a series of speeches by boaters and performers wearing decorated hats and purple masks.

Activists staged a "unity march" to the nearby CRT offices while boaters delivered speeches, ran craft stalls and provided live music.

Pamela Smith, chairwoman of the NBTA, previously said the CRT price rise was "discriminatory, unpopular, financially illiterate and quite possibly unlawful", and that anger with the trust was "at a fever pitch".

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