Peterborough boat owners outraged by proposed price hikes to navigation charges

Boat owners in Peterborough are outraged about proposals that could see large price hikes in navigation charges along the River Nene.

Sunday, 29th August 2021, 12:29 pm
Updated Monday, 30th August 2021, 10:29 pm
River Nene at Orton Mere.

New proposals put forward by the Environment Agency could see significant rises for boats kept on non-tidal rivers, including the Nene.

One of the key changes proposed is to begin charging boat registration fees based on the length x beam of each vessel from January 2022. This practice is in place on the River Thames currently but not on non-tidal rivers.

Opponents of the proposals have called them heavily biased against the Anglian waterways over boats navigating on the more affluent Thames. It is claimed that the river licence on the Thames would be approximately 20 percent cheaper than that on the Anglian waterways. The base rate would also be ten times higher for boats on Anglian waterways (£159) than the Thames (£15.90).

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Peterborough Yacht Club memorial flotilla in 2019.

Charges are planned to rise by six percent in 2022, four percent in 2023 and remain the same in 2024.

The Environment Agency has defended the rise by insisting that current charges do not cover the costs of services provided to boat owners and, without the rise, it would be faced with £2 million of under-recovered costs over the next three years.

This has not stopped many boat owners, who use the River Nene, raising their objections.

They believe that the new guideline would see the charges for a typical 24-30ft river cruiser rise over 40 percent from next year, with an additional compound interest rise of four percent in 2023. As for large cruisers over 30ft, it is believed that navigation fees could rise by up to 60 percent; in addition to the 24 percent rise in the river licence over the last five years.

Peterborough Yacht Club regatta and family day.

The Commodore of Peterborough Yacht Club, based upstream from the Orton Mere Lock, Ian Simmons, is one of those who is against the proposals and fears for the future of boating along the Nene if they come into force.

He said: “It is being proposed that we pay an extortionate amount; more than the River Thames when the facilities there are much better.

“I have spoken to several clubs based on the Great Ouse and the Welland and they are seriously peeved about it as well. I worry that a lot of people won’t be able to afford the prices anymore and that will have a negative impact for not just our club but all of the local ones. It could ruin what is a thriving social scene.

“We are not against things going up and we recognise that money has to be spent but I feel that it needs to be within reason. Another problem now is that so much has to go on other considerations away from the boating itself. At the club, we want to reinforce some of the river banks as they are starting to fall into the river but first have to pay £2500 just for a nature statement. Navigation is becoming a much more expensive business than it already is.”

Chris Wenn, Chairman of Cambridgeshire Marine Industries, added: “The basis of any charging system is that it needs to be fair and reasonable. In the last five years, the Anglian waterways have already seen the navigation charges rise by nearly 25 percent and having discovered that the Environment Agency is trying to hurry through a massive additional increase of up to 60 percent through, I am flabbergasted.

“The proposed charges are not reasonable and do not present good value for money. The proposed charges are also grossly unfair; charges will be approx. 20 percent higher than on the Thames, which is a larger navigation, in a more affluent area, with manned locks and better facilities. We don’t disagree with the move to a length by breadth system but it needs to be on parity with the river Thames”

The consultation is open to the public until September 26 and can be viewed at: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/environment-and-business/nav-boat-reg-charge.