A broad view of canal boat licence fees | Rivers

Your report about increases in licence fees for canal boats neglects to mention why the increase in fees is necessary (Fee hikes will price us out of canals, say houseboaters in England and Wales, 19 April). The Canal & River Trust (CRT) has, from its inception in 2012, received a grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to help with the finances of running and maintaining more than 2,000 miles of the 200-year-old inland waterways network. This grant is no longer index-linked, and over the next decade this will result in a shortfall in funding to the CRT of approximately £300m. This shortfall will have to come from somewhere, and a proportion of it has to come from increases in boat licence fees.

A campaign called Fund Britain’s Waterways has been set up to try to get more funding from Defra for all Britain’s waterways. If it is successful, the large rise in fees will not be necessary. Some of the London boaters who seem most vocal in criticising the CRT would do well to support this campaign.
Michael Geraghty
Oleanna, Trent and Mersey canal

In recent years many people have taken to living on water. Driving this trend is a housing crisis and the exorbitant cost of rental housing in many cities. One consequence is the virtual choking of canals in many urban areas. Many have become boat parks, straining water, refuse and sanitary facilities to the limit.

Many would-be boaters buy the cheaper “continuous cruiser” licence, but with little intention of going anywhere. The waterways network faces enormous challenges, and the Canal & River Trust’s business model has problems of its own: many people like canals and enjoy the benefits, but it is boaters who pay to use them. The issue is not helped by people paying for a cheaper licence that does not reflect their use of the canal.
Kathy Squires
Ferndown, Dorset

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