Houseboats fee increases far outstrip inflation

posted 28 Aug 2020, 06:29 by David   [ updated 29 Aug 2020, 05:48 ]

As you can see, since the Houseboat Formula was first set, the annual increase have been much greater than inflation or even CPIH (The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs). Supposedly the PLA fees increase in line with the moorings fees charged by river landlords in London but it is difficult to believe these have risen by so much.   

There are at least 3 things issues:

1) The fact that each increase pushes up mooring owners charges in the basket thus self inflating the PLA increase the next year.

2) The fact that they charge extra for amenities like our tidal grid and other people's garden barges although  such amenities are included in the mooring fees charged by landlords used in their basket - so double counting.

3) The method of calculation - e.g. which marinas chosen for the basket and weighting.  I had assumed that they could only rig it once to get a high fee and thereafter would have to follow actual increases but they seem to be doing it each year. 

As part of the original formula being imposed, a Disputes Resolution Panel was meant to be established:  "Dispute Resolution A three-stage dispute resolution process is proposed with (1) the licensee stating their case to the PLA licensing department and, if unresolved, referring the matter to (2) a Dispute Resolution Panel. The PLA could also refer cases to the Panel. The Panel would comprise the District Valuer (who would chair the Panel) and two other voluntary members who possess the necessary skills and are fully independent of the parties and outcome of the case. The Panel’s remit is to consider disputes relating to the elements within the formula or its application. Cases should normally take one day and the PLA would pay the cost of the District Valuer, unless he/she considered the case vexatious. While the Panel’s decision cannot be binding because either party still has the right to seek arbitration (stage 3), it is hoped that arbitration would be less likely once the matter had been heard by the Panel. "

OPLAC's spreadsheet, from which the graph is derived, is below.

PLA close Richmond Footbridge. Unilaterally. Indefinitely.

posted 20 Apr 2020, 15:16 by David   [ updated 21 Apr 2020, 03:40 ]

he Port of London Authority (PLA) have unilaterally and without consultation closed Richmond footbridge, from tomorrow. Indefinitely.  It is a mindless over reaction to Covid19 - pedestrians will instead walk over Twickenham footbridge which is as narrow in places and, unlike Twickenham footbridge, has no balcony type passing points - Would Richmond Council close Twickenham bridge to pedestrians? 

More info on the PLA's Facebook page

It's typical PLA. They could have opened up their private upstream walkway and have one-way traffic both sides (as the bridge used to be). But Oh No that would cost. So they first went for one-way only with no entry signs, which pedestrians wouldn't see if walking downriver. When some people went the wrong way, their response is to close it and blame the public. 

Just like when they closed it one snowy winter because they didn't want to put expensive de-icer down (cheap salt would cause rust and the de-icer used at all airports is too expensive for the PLA). 

Or when they instituted the night closure system (it used to be open 24 hours) because one drunk had been aggressive with the staff. The PLA harbour master David Foster told me then "it was to protect the troops dear boy" - basically the PLA see themselves in a war with the public - you!  Just like they see themselves as the landlord of the river, not the caretaker they are meant to be (and are in statute).


Trip Boat v Police Boat

posted 4 Feb 2020, 05:44 by David   [ updated 4 Feb 2020, 06:08 ]

Trip boat hits police pier then reverses into police boat

30 years after the Marchioness disaster the PLA are still allowing commercial party boats with restricted wheel house visibility and no lookout when required.   Incidentally the police boat (like almost every boat) doesn't appear to be moored in accordance with the OTT PLA mooring guidelines 

Chelsea Residents v CYBC & PLA Court Decision

posted 27 Jan 2020, 15:34 by David   [ updated 27 Jan 2020, 17:08 ]

The Case

"By a licence dated 24 May 1989 made expressly pursuant to section 66 of the Port of London Act 1968 (the 1968 Act), the second defendant (the PLA) granted to the first defendant (the company) a licence to retain moorings at Chelsea Reach on the River Thames near Battersea Bridge for a term of 58 years. The claimants have been granted sub-licences by the company to moor residential boats there for an annual fee. In addition, the company charges a premium for long term sub-licences. The claimants say that the requirement to pay such premiums constitutes a breach of the licence and is contrary to section 70 of the 1968 Act and seek declarations to that effect. "

The Decision

"In my judgment the correct interpretation of the licence is that it does not prohibit the taking of a premium from houseboat owners who are prepared to pay such a premium over and above the annual mooring fee for the assurance of a fixed term licence." 


It is worth noting that CYBC's licence from the PLA is unique  - the fees CYBC pay to the PLA are not based on the houseboat formula (which the PLA use for most marinas) but rather is simply 20% of what CYBC charge their residents (excluding the premium).  This unique licence runs until 2047 when the PLA will likely replace it with the formula.

One point of interest for houseboat residents is the judge ruled that the PLA are not after all obliged to obtain the "best consideration" for River Works Licences.  The PLA had always claimed, (during all licence fee negotiations we've been aware of) that they couldn't discount the charge - they had to charge "best consideration" because of section 67 of their Act.  River Works Licence holders who pay less than "best consideration" have understandably never been keen to tell OPLAC, or anyone.  This gets to the nub of the problem - yes people paying the PLA less  may be a great thing but if it's all hidden it becomes an invitation for cosy dealings, AKA corruption.  The PLA, although a QUANGO, are not subject to Freedom of Information and are famously secretive.  


New Harbour Revision Order

posted 15 Nov 2019, 06:02 by David   [ updated 16 Dec 2019, 17:22 ]

The Harbour Revision Order of 2010  is back except this time it is much longer. See here

Adverse possession overturned on appeal

posted 19 Dec 2017, 09:57 by David   [ updated 19 Dec 2017, 09:57 ]

Waterman's Park article in RBOA 'Soundings' magazine

posted 29 Nov 2016, 04:24 by David   [ updated 29 Nov 2016, 04:27 ]

Waterman’s Park, Brentford

by David DeVere


Some members will be aware of a long-running dispute between the local authority and the boaters at Waterman’s Park, Brentford. Further to legal research carried out by residents, it is very clear that the Port of London Authority cannot own any part of the bed of the Thames, because the Crown was absolutely prohibited from disposing of its land on the bed of the river since 1702 and consequently since 1856/57 the Port of London and its predecessors has only obtained navigational control of the river. David reports as follows:


Apparently I am the only one who has done his research with the ownership issue in dispute back to the Reign of Henry II. That research runs to investigations in the National Archives and the Metropolitan Archives at Farringdon. The archives are stuffed with family tree researchers looking through old deeds and topping up their pensions with research income. One man was examining council drainage officers work books (most odd).


To summarise:

The Crown after the Napoleonic Wars sought to put its administration on a sound footing by tidying up Royal Offices granted over the years.


Lord Liverpool was apparently entitled to income from cargo going through the Pool of London and many of the Crown Offices were hereditary, passed down in families as a nice little earner. Britain was to be put on a national diet to remove the administrative flab.


The City of London had been charging wharf owners for the construction of frontages and levying wharfinger fees as well as renting out mooring points in the stream (much 111cc landing slots at Heathrow). In 1843 the Crown took the City to court and stated that the City had never had ownership of the bed of the Thames and therefore could not charge for constructing works over that bed below High Tide. The Crown stated that the City were merely the navigational authority and had to see to the obstructions in the Thames, with no power to acquire or own the bed through long control. The City naturally stated that because it had long controlled the Thames it had acquired ownership of the bed.


The Information stated,

‘That by the Royal prerogative, the ground and soil of the coasts and shores of the sea around this kingdom, and the ground and soil of every port, haven, and arm of the sea, creek, pool, and navigable river thereof, into which the sea ebbs and flows, and also the shore lying between high-water mark and low-watermark, at ordinary titles, belong to Her Majesty; and Her Majesty has a right of empire or government over the navigable rivers of this kingdom.... and


that the duty of the mayor, bailiff or conservator is, to see to the navigation of the river Thames, and to prevent the erection of obstructions and nuisances in the river, and also to regulate the fishing thereof. And that the mayor did not, in virtue of such office, take, or acquire any estate or interest, in the ground and soil of the bed or shores between high and low water mark,


but that the Corporation have of late claimed, and now claim to be entitled, not only to exercise, by the mayor or his sufficient deputies, the office of bailiff or conservator of the river Thames, but have also claimed, and now claim to be seized of, or otherwise well entitled to, the freehold of the ground, bed, or soil of the river, and of the shores thereof between high and low water mark, within the same limits, in which the mayor exercises the office of bailiff or conservator, and have assumed to exercise.. such acts of ownership over the soil, as are beyond the power and authority of the bailiff and conservator,.., and such as imply that the mayor, commonalty, and citizens are, or claim to be seized of the freehold of the ground and soil of the river between high and low water marks, and they have lately taken upon themselves to make grants to parties possessed of wharfs or lands on the banks of the river, or to such other persons as they think fit, giving them license to embank the strand and soil of the river, arid build thereon, between high and low water mark...


So there it is.


This argument is now used by the PLA some 150 years later. After much negotiation the City and the Crown settled the dispute. After 1856/57 the newly formed body of The Conservators of the River Thames would control the construction and activity on the Thames, take any income from that control and apply it by way of a special Fund for the improvement of the navigation. The Fund was to be kept separate to prevent the City of London from taking the money for its own uses.


One third of the river income from building permits was to be paid over to the Crown. But what the Crown did not do was pass ownership of the Crown’s bed to the Conservators or any of their successors.


It must not be forgotten that much of the Thames bed between High and Low Water had been granted to manorial owners on the banks (for example to the Bishop of London) as the river side land was really no use without ownership of the foreshore lands. The several lords of the manors used the frontages for their own wharves in the days when the roads were impassable and cargo was mainly sent up and down the rivers of the kingdom.


But I digress.


The Thames Conservancy Act could never pass away Crown land to the newly formed Conservators of the River Thames, as the Crown was prohibited by the Crown Lands Act 1702 from disposing of its lands, either by deed or by statute. Parliament put a stop to Queen Anne and her predecessors ‘Selling Off England By The Pound’ (Genesis). The same 1702 Act is in force today and prevents the modern Crown Estate from disposing of Crown assets, save on a lease that will return the land to the Crown after 125 years at most.


Recently the Land at Kensington Palace Gardens Act required the suspension of the 1702 Act in express words to permit the sale of land previously owned by Edward IV near Kensington Gardens to a hotel chain. The legislation further required the Secretary of State to sign off on the sale. The sale of Crown land requires a special act of parliament to be effective and that legislation must specifically suspend or prevent the effect of the 1702 legislative prohibition against disposal.


So neither the Conservators nor their successors, the PLA have ever (by long control or otherwise) obtained freehold or lesser ownership of any part of the bed of the River Thames.


Soundings September/October 2016

Page 7

OPLAC's response to the PLA Mooring Guidlines

posted 24 Nov 2016, 08:45 by David   [ updated 24 Nov 2016, 09:07 ]

The PLA's document that went out in late 2016 for consultation is here.

Our response is here.

OPLAC Byelaw Submission

posted 11 Sept 2015, 14:53 by David   [ updated 11 Sept 2015, 14:56 ]

Below is OPLAC's submission relating to the PLA's proposed bylaw changes (the changes themselves can be viewed here


Dear Mr Knight

 Thank you for recent invitation to informally comment on your proposed changes to byelaws.   We appreciate the opportunity to do this and I hope you will make use of our comments to moderate what perhaps is an initial over-reaction by the PLA to one incident.  I spoke briefly to your CEO Robin Mortimer about these changes at the Thames Vision meeting last Friday; he confirmed my impression that the changes arose from the Isleworth squat boat incident in April. 

 Therefore I have suggested some wording that might deal with such incidents by using a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer, with the benefit that it might no longer appear to some as the beginning of an assault on the Public's Right to Navigate the tidal Thames.  You will find that DBA The Barge Association have similar concerns and have submitted almost (but not quite) identical comments.


(PLA proposed amendments in red):


15 The master of a vessel must not, without the permission of the harbourmaster, cause or permit the vessel:

(b) to obstruct or interfere with navigation, any public access to the Thames or the access to a dock entrance;

 We would be interested to know the purpose and thinking behind this change.  On the face of it this would seem to turn a simple and sensible byelaw (not to obstruct dock entrances) into something with much wider range.  What is meant my "any public access to the Thames"?  For example does it mean the public: 

·        Hand launching a canoe from the riverbank?

·        Sitting on the riverbank with their toes in the water?

·        At low tide walking along the foreshaw without being obstructed by a moored vessel?

·        Feeding the ducks from the riverbank?

·        Simply standing on the river bank with a view of the river unimpeded by a moored vessel?

 We do not consider that any of these reasons would warrant a permanent ban on any vessel temporarily mooring to the river bank. 

 We  believe this new amendment arises from a recent case of a vessel squatting on the riverbank at Isleworth.  We would of course support the removal of squatting vessels.  However the amendment as worded seems to be a sledgehammer aimed at a nut.  It is already very difficult for barges to find moorings on the tidal Thames in the event of an emergency or if caught out by the tide.  The new byelaw would prevent or hinder not just long term squat moorings but also any temporary mooring.  Can we suggest the addition of "for a period in excess of 48 hours" to at least the "any public access" part?  This would achieve the aim of removing squat boats but allow genuine barges to moor in an emergency or to sit out a tide.  We also think the byelaw should clarify what is intended to be meant by 'public access'.



15 (d) to be berthed or moored to any work, structure, post, ring or other thing or place not provided for or unsuitable for that purpose.

The use of the final 'or' means that no vessel could moor to anything which has not explicitly been provided for the purpose of mooring , even if it is suitable for the purpose.  It would prohibit barges from mooring to rubbish barges or indeed to anything not specifically provided for the purpose of mooring to, including to riverbank and to other barges legitimately moored and granting their permission.   It would also seem to prevent a moored barge owner from mooring his dinghy or runabout alongside their legitimately moored vessel, which is likely to  be suitable for that purpose.  Again we assume this arises from the squat boat incident mentioned above.  Again it would prevent or hinder any emergency or temporary mooring by a barge.  We suggest the addition of "for a period in excess of 48 hours" and the replacement of the final "or" with "and";  it may be that a barge or small vessel might want to moor to another barge, with the owner's permission and without obstructing navigation, for a period in excess of 48 hours, and we don't see why that would always need the formal permission of the harbourmaster.  As I'm sure you are aware,  fees often follow closely behind formal permission. 


Best wishes


David Beaumont




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