Category: Priority Update

Why we are fighting Oxford City Council #PSPnO

rectangle_pspno_logoThe Oxford Waterways Public Space Protection Order is a very sinister piece of legislation. As Green Boat Services we have been heavily involved in the campaign to prevent it becoming law. We have invested a lot of our time as a business so we feel we should share with our followers how it will affect the Oxford waterways, its residents, visiting boaters and ultimately the entire inland waterways and all of its users. For those of you new to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a PSPO is like an ASBO on a place rather than on a person. The nasty legislation allows for a single council official to create a criminal offence and then punish transgressors of this new offence.

The PSPnO campaign has got a website with lots of information at www.oxford-pspno.org.uk

In summary: Oxford City Council are seeking powers to impose on the spot fines of £100 and potentially magistrate fines of £1,000 for what they deem to be anti-social behaviour across the entire waterways of Oxford. This proposal if passed will make it a criminal offence to moor a boat anywhere inside the ring road without prior permission (a right to public navigation exists on the River Thames dating back to the Magna Carta); for a boat to emit any noise or smoke (such as for heating or running engines to charge batteries); to store any items on the towpath (such as wheelbarrows, gangplanks, mooring pins); and could even apply to anyone with a dog off its lead or anyone with a can of beer.

The intention is to dictate acceptable behaviour, and to chase those who disagree with their definitions (such as those who think lighting their stove in winter is reasonable!) out of Oxford. Once a notice is given, the options are to pay the fine, or argue the case at Magistrates Court, and risk a criminal record, potentially loss of professional qualifications, and a much larger fine. We cannot see this any way but as a punishment for being poor and living in a cheaper way in a very expensive city.

We’re not having it, Oxford City Council. You’ve crossed a line messing with our friends and you’ve made us angry. 🙁

Frankly, we believe Oxford City Council need to be held to account for ten years of anti-boater discrimination leading up to this. Combined with the underfunding of the Environment Agency and the persistent CRT campaign against liveaboard boaters, Oxford is a boating community on the edge. Even in the five years that we have been trading as Team GB we have witnessed an ongoing decline in the condition of moorings in Oxford, the riverbanks and canal walls are literally collapsing, moorings are being restricted with time limits if not entirely prevented, and charges are being imposed for moorings at sites all over the city. The dearth of moorings in Oxford continues apace, despite claims made by councillors that more would be created. At a time of extreme climate change and during the worst housing crisis in generations, it is becoming virtually impossible to live on board in the most affordable and environmentally friendly way that exists in Oxfordshire.

In short, we’re doing everything our little bodies and brains can manage to fight this! Team GB have been involved since the beginning of the campaign, writing to and speaking at the council Scrutiny Committee meeting, writing to the City Executive Board, writing to and speaking at the Full Council meeting. We have been liaising with councillors, council staff, the National Bargee Travellers Association, Community Law Partnership, using our big list of contacts to put boaters in touch with other boaters, and we’ve been proud of what our friends/customers/neighbours have been pulling together to achieve. It’s ongoing and could be for months yet!

And you can help! Please help! We need your help…

Oh yeah and we’re also sometimes doing some boaty engineering too. More on that another time. X

A Temporary Hiatus

It is with great regret that we have to announce that we have become temporarily unable to meet the demands of offering boat repair services in the City of Oxford.

Until further notice we are having to withdraw ourselves from offering any services to new customers, until we are able to meet the demands of outstanding customers and ongoing projects. In the meantime we are endeavouring to keep up with existing projects with an emphasis on not letting anyone down by over-stretching ourselves.

Partly, this is due to the fact we are unable to offer any out-of-water repair services in Oxford this year, although we hope to return to this once any opportunity to do so exists once more. Our preferred site at Salter’s Steamers boatyard near Donnington Bridge is not available due to their own commitments for the passenger boat fleet, which we all agree must be a priority for them.

Some of the matters that have led to us to reach this unfortunate conclusion include ongoing work on our own boats The Pug, Element and Pirate Princess (which themselves are apparently never-ending!). But also:

We’ve been fundraising and offering personal support to John Simmonds, who lost his home, the narrowboat One Old Peculier during a winter storm in February. For updates follow the One Old Peculier facebook page.

We’ve also become heavily involved with fighting the council’s proposal to introduce an Oxford Waterways Public Space Protection Order, which will affect all potential users of the waterways in Oxford and is part of an ongoing attack by Oxford City Council against liveaboard boaters. This campaign against this poor legislation must be broader than boaters, and would benefit from your additional support. For updates follow the Say No to the PSPO facebook page.

We’re aware that we have been pretty poor at social media recently, and equally as bad at responding to emails and phone calls, but we hope that this hiatus will enable us to come back stronger than ever before and continue our work supporting the boating community of Oxford and the wider waterways.

Watch this space – Team GB.