Monday, 03 August 2020

Private firm may be hired to enforce mooring fees

Private firm may be hired to enforce mooring fees

AN enforcement company could be hired to clamp down on boat owners who refuse to pay mooring fees in Henley.

Henley Town Council received £33,500 in income from the temporary moorings at Mill and Marsh Meadows last year but said there was a small number of people who did not obey the rules.

Some refused to pay the fees and some stayed longer than the maximum of 14 nights.

Now the council has agreed to advertise for a firm to manage the moorings, including enforcement action for non-compliance. Any contract would be for an initial trial period of 18 months, with a six-month break clause.

Town clerk Sheridan Jacklin-Edward told a meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee that the parks services team spent many hours trying to get people to pay the fees without success.

“They come up against a brick wall so many times,” he said. “The difficulty we have is that we don’t really have the formal processes in place to be able to enforce it and that is why we need a professional company to look at it. In theory, you can get any parking contractor — it is the same mechanism they would use for a private car park.

“In the meantime, I know the parks team are working very hard to try to tackle it.”

Councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs the committee, said: “Our parks staff can still monitor and ticket and so on, but when it gets to needing that level of enforcement, somebody else takes it on.

“It is also unsafe. I actually saw our former town clerk physically assaulted by a man over not wanting to pay his mooring fees. It has been a problem for some time.”

There is currently no charge for moorings between 10am and 3pm in an effort to encourage visitors.

The overnight charge is £10, or £55 for the week. During Henley Royal Regatta, the charges increase to £30 per night on Wednesday and Thursday and £40 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or £200 for the week.

There are signs along the towpath and in the Mill Meadows car park giving details of the fees and they are also listed on the council’s website. Parks staff visit the towpath twice a day during the season — before 10am and after 3pm — to check tickets have been purchased and sell tickets to those who have not bought one.

Karl Bishop, parks manager, said: “I wouldn’t say it is an enormous problem but it does take a huge amount of council resources to chase up overstayers — time that could be better used in the parks.”

Cllr Hinton said the enforcement company would take a percentage of the mooring fee.

But Councillor Laurence Plant said: “I would hate to see a parking enforcement, or similar company, take a massive chunk of that revenue. Karl and the parks team are doing a good job and bringing in £33,500 last year was fantastic.

“We have talked a lot about how we can maximise revenue generation and moorings are a brilliant way of doing that.

“I would hate to feel like we are deterring boats from coming to visit and actually risk our revenue being decreased.

“You want the moorings to be as full as possible and if one way of doing that is having boats for a longer time, we don’t have a problem with it as long as they are adhering to the rules.”

Simon Loring, who lives on Rod Eyot, told the virtual meeting: “Everybody is frustrated and it is being made worse by these overstaying boaters. It has been getting worse for about five years now.

“There are two issues — one is noise and the other is pollution. Unless they are plugged into power supplies, they make a huge amount of noise.

“They are sitting there and getting cheap moorings when they should be in marinas paying £10,000 to £12,000 per year.

“When they run their engines, there is no emission regulations on boats so they are as polluting as they can get.

“The other issue is the sewage in the river. Some of these boats have been sat there a long time and they are basically macerating sewage into the Thames.

“It is difficult to prove. In the old days the Environment Agency used to inspect but they don’t anymore and everyone knows that there is no prosecution.

“I have been speaking to the Thames Visitor Moorings Association and they don’t like this either.”

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