Environment Agency navigation charges consultation outcomes

The Environment Agency has today published the outcome of its consultation on boat registration charges aimed at providing a “more consistent and transparent” charging scheme.

The eight week consultation launched in July proposed a revised boat registration charging framework and a new three year charging plan for 2022 to 2024.

It was the biggest review the Environment Agency has carried out of its boat registration charges for more than ten years, with more than 1,000 responses to the consultation.

It says changes were needed because the current boat registration charges scheme is inconsistent across its three waterway areas: Thames, Anglian and Medway.

The Agency says it needs to increase registration charges because it does not fully recover the cost of managing and maintaining the waterways.

Following feedback from boaters regarding the proposed increase of 6% in year 1, 4% in year 2 and 0% in year 3, the new charge scheme will now see increases of 4% in 2022; 4% in 2023; and 2% in 2024.

The Agency originally proposed a new charging mechanism for powered and unpowered enclosed boats based on the area of a boat across all three waterways, but it says it has listened to its customers and will now continue with the current charging mechanisms for each waterway. For their Anglian Waterways it means customers will not see the large increases that the original proposals would have brought.

Boat registration renewal notices will be sent out to customers using the Environment Agency’s Thames waterway from next week, with those registered on the Medway and Anglian waterways following early next year.

Andy Wilkinson, the Environment Agency’s Head of Navigation, said:

We had a really good response to the consultation and would like to thank everybody who took the time to respond. The feedback was really valuable.

There was good support for many of the proposals we made, but where there were concerns we have listened and amended our proposals to reflect this.

Our aim was for a consistent and transparent approach to how we charge for boat registration across all of our waterways. We want a scheme that is fairer, works better for customers and provides the right contribution to the overall costs of delivering the navigation service.

The Environment Agency is the second largest navigation authority in the UK, managing 1,000km of inland waterways, plus Rye and Lydney harbours.

Around 28,000 recreational and commercial boats are kept or used on the waterways managed by the Environment Agency and it is a legal requirement for the owners to register their boats.

It operates and maintains approximately 2,500 assets, such as locks, weirs and moorings; maintains riverbanks and manages channels to ensure safe navigation; and removes boat wrecks and other debris including fallen trees.

The changes to the navigation charges are part of a wider plan for its waterways where it aims to deliver:

  • A financially sustainable navigation business where those who benefit contribute towards the benefits they gain
  • A navigation business that is resilient to climate change, reduces CO2 and maximises benefits to society
  • Effective and efficient ways of working between staff, customers and partners

Mr Wilkinson added:

We charge a boat registration so that the people who benefit from the navigation services we provide contribute towards the significant costs of managing and maintaining our navigable waterways.

For each of our waterways, we currently receive less income from boat registration charges than we spend on the services for which those charges should pay. These charges contribute to our overall aim of keeping our waterways open and safe for use by both recreational boaters and those who rely on them for their business.

Our waterways do receive income from other sources, including government grants, funding from commercial activities, and contributions from other beneficiaries. However, for a number of years our funding has not met our investment needs.

To address this, we have developed a longer-term plan to make our navigation business more financially sustainable.

More than 98% of the Environment Agency’s boating customers are private individuals using their boats for leisure, and in some cases as their homes. The remaining 2% are business customers who use their boats as a commercial resource to either work on the waterway, provide boats for hire, or provide trips along the waterways.

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