Sunday 19 July 2015

Persecution of houseboat owners continues unabated

Broads National Pike readers may recall the famous victory by Alan Fish against the Blessed Authority back in May, in which the toll for his barge Oddjob was ruled illegal.

His victory may be short-lived however as I'm told that the Authority has not only appealed against the ruling but is so confident of success that it has already slapped Mr Fish with a notice of contravention for failing to pay this year's illegal toll!

Keen to find out more about the 'live aboard' lifestyle, I had a bit of a poke around some other 'adjacent waters' and looked at some actual houseboats; you know the sort of thing - a house, but built on a raft. Not really a boat at all. Well, alright yes they float, but so do dead fish.

And guess what? Apparently, last September, the owners of these floating cabins were told by the BA that "under the strict wording of the act, your property does qualify as a house boat" - and were invited to sign up to pay a toll. But for what? You may well ask.

A houseboat, yesterday
Now, saying that they "qualify as a houseboat under the Act" is quite a brave thing to say, because the Act doesn't say anything about houseboats at all! And yet here in my fin is an official letter from the BA, saying that they've re-interpreted the words and decided that if your home floats in a private marina then welcome to tolls world. All part of Dr Pikeman's plan for "bringing in a little more money" no doubt!

I had a good old read through this Act thing and found a bit about rafts & pontoons and it says that permanent ones are exempt. But maybe a houseboat which has been chained to the bank, fixed with pile guides and connected to mains services for 40 years isn't permanent? Or maybe it just takes a cleverer fish than me to find the right page. Or maybe you just have to be really, really determined to take money from more people.

And listen - they've been told to get a Boat Safety Certificate too. Well, our intrepid reporter spoke to two Boat Safety Examiners and guess what. You can't issue a Boat Safety Certificate for something which isn't a boat. Who knew?

I wonder who'll be the next floating target for the ever expanding tolls net? Watch your backs, ducks.