[Talk-GB] Boat permissions (c.f. waterways map)

Will Abson will.abson at gmail.com
Mon Jan 24 15:46:22 GMT 2011

On 21 January 2011 14:15, Richard Fairhurst <richard at systemed.net> wrote:
> Tom Chance wrote:
>> Can our resident waterways experts comment on the most appropriate
>> tagging for navigable rivers in the UK?
>> For example, I see you’re allowed to use a boat on the Thames along
>> navigable parts with a license… does that mean it should be “boat=yes”
>> or “boat=permissive”?
> Short answer: I'd say boat=yes. You have to tax a car, get it through its
> MoT etc. to use public roads but we still tag them as motor_vehicle=yes
> rather than =permissive (well, it's implied by the highway tag, but you know
> what I mean). It's pretty analogous to that.
> Long answer: there is actually a public right of navigation on the Thames
> and several other rivers. The right is subject to boats being "registered"
> (that's what they call it on the Thames, as opposed to "licensed" on the
> canals) with the successor body of the Thames Conservancy, which is
> currently the Environment Agency. But as long as you fulfil the requirements
> of registration (fee paid, current Boat Safety Certificate, etc.) then you
> have a legal right to use the river. That's why the red and yellow boards at
> Thames locks tell you that navigation is discouraged in times of flood
> rather than prohibited.

Yes, that's correct, although downstream of Teddington lock (the tidal
section of the river) the Environment Agency have no authority over
navigation, instead the Port of London authority (PLA) are responsible
and indeed regularly patrol it.

So upstream of Teddington you need to comply with the requirements of
the EA, downstream with the PLA. This applies to unpowered craft
(canoes/rowing boats/paddle boards etc.) just as much as to motor
boats, but obviously the requirements are different.

So I wonder if it is worth adding operator=* or something similar to
the river way to represent this distinction.

> There is no such right on the canals: it was abolished by the 1968 Transport
> Act (IIRC). Your navigation is by permission of British Waterways. In
> practice there's no difference to rivers like the Thames - you pay your
> licence, you get your BSS, you're allowed on - but there is a theoretical
> difference in law. So if there were a case for =permissive tags it would be
> on the canals, but again, I'd say that since this permission is always
> granted and is what's expected for such thoroughfares, =yes is more
> appropriate.
> Waterway law is fascinating, archaic, uneven and rarely understood. BW's
> lawyers still have to refer to a 13th century Act to tell them what the
> organisation is permitted to do on the River Lee, for example.

It is indeed complex, particularly since different bodies may own each
bank and the river bed.

In an effort to tackle the problem there's been a great deal of
lobbying in recent years by different groups claiming that access by
canoeists (of which I am one), etc. is restricted to X% of the UK's
navigable rivers.

No doubt this is something for another thread but it strikes me that
the data in OSM would be a great way to verify some of these numbers,
particularly now that the data is being cleaned up a bit for the
waterways map.


More information about the Talk-GB mailing list