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Thread: Middle Level Campaign - urgent, sorry

  1. #1
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Middle Level Campaign - urgent, sorry

    I have been so wrapped up in this campaign that I haven't let you know about it. To be fair I did only get sucked into it a couple of weeks ago after I found out, quite by accident, some stuff that has been going down that would affect me and other liveaboarders like me.

    The long and short of it is that most of us in the area would rather things stayed as they are. The Middle Level Commissioners, who are responsible for drainage and navigation in the Fens (the drainage being the most vital part of the job, of course), are wanting to introduce new charges and get the authority to introduce some pretty intrusive new byelaws giving them power to do pretty much what they like. Because of the way the system was set up in the 17th century any changes now have to be made by a change in the law through an act of Parliament. This is obviously convoluted and inconvenient for the MLC, but they have been working hard to "encourage" people to support their case. This is part of the reason I didn't get to hear about this proposed Bill until very recently. They have their supporters lined up and have not consulted as broadly as they claim they have. The so-called consultation period actually ended around the time of the referendum vote. Who was thinking about a few boaters in the Fens at that time!

    I haven't got time to bore you all with details, but the Commissioners have been thwarted in their attempts to get these changes through a few times over the years and have now decided to try and get their way through what is known as a "private bill". Responses in opposition, known as "petitions" have to be written up in a particular form, using some archaic language and presented to the Private Bill Office in the Houses of Parliament in person. I've been working on my petition in most spare minutes in the last couple of weeks in addition to attending meetings and discussing content and tactics with the man who up till recently has been trying to deal with the campaign all by himself (two hours across several phone calls today alone).

    That's just a bit of background. Here's where I hope some of you might be willing and able to help. In addition to our personal petitions, we are also submitting a Care2 petition, just to show there is a level of interest and support for the campaign. As of this evening, we have about 450 signatures, but a few more would be helpful. The petition (and more details about the campaign) is here:


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    The proposed byelaws worry me most of all. Essentially we'd have to sign up to allowing the MLC to find ways of turning us into criminals with a view to cleansing the system of people they don't care for. They want to leave open the option of being able to introduce any other byelaws as they see fit at any point in the future. Being in breach of any of the byelaws could allow them to revoke any licences they manage to impose, in the way that CRT can at present. Then they steal our homes and all our belongings. Sorry, it sounds dramatic, but that is one route these new laws could take. We just want to avoid it getting to that.

    Four of us are off to Parliament on Wednesday, so if you feel able to support our campaign to keep the the Canal & River Trust and their draconian methods of enforcement out of the Middle Level please click and sign. We've seen minutes of meetings suggesting that the Commissioners want to outsource the management of navigation on the Middle Level to CRT and discussions have taken place. The Bill was presented to the Commons today and our window for petitioning is only between today and the 30th, but as I say, we shall be taking the Care2 petition with us on Wednesday, so if you feel you can sign, please could you do it in the next twenty-four hours.

    Many thanks.

    marshlander


  2. #2
    Heavenly Creature parrotandcrow's Avatar
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    I've signed it, and hope to persuade a few more folk to do the same.
    If men bore wings and had black feathers, few would be intelligent enough to be crows.
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    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    There's been consultation with regards to a stretch of the river in the center of Cambridge City. A stretch that has always been used by residential boats, but had somehow never been clarified on ownership (until now). The highways dept are refusing to except river access due to unsuitable riverside railings that have been in place for many years and the boat residents have had to climb over the railings. It looks like they want to remove the mooring rights on that stretch and reduce mooring numbers in general through this closure. Unfortunately rivers and canals are becoming valued more for amenity/tourist value, regardless of historic use.
    I will sign the petition. We need to increase the potential for these waterways for future generations and stop effective privatisation of a public resource.

    Come on Brothers and Sisters. Another 23 signatures and the target will be met. But it will have more strength if it can go over that by a few hundred. Notify your friends, family. Wednesday is falling on the petition really fast. Act now. Help defend our rights.
    Last edited by alices wonderland; 24-01--2017 at 01:52 AM.

  4. #4
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by parrotandcrow
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    I've signed it, and hope to persuade a few more folk to do the same.
    Thanks, Maggie.

  5. #5
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by alices wonderland
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    There's been consultation with regards to a stretch of the river in the center of Cambridge City. A stretch that has always been used by residential boats, but had somehow never been clarified on ownership (until now). The highways dept are refusing to except river access due to unsuitable riverside railings that have been in place for many years and the boat residents have had to climb over the railings. It looks like they want to remove the mooring rights on that stretch and reduce mooring numbers in general through this closure. Unfortunately rivers and canals are becoming valued more for amenity/tourist value, regardless of historic use.
    I will sign the petition. We need to increase the potential for these waterways for future generations and stop effective privatisation of a public resource.

    Come on Brothers and Sisters. Another 23 signatures and the target will be met. But it will have more strength if it can go over that by a few hundred. Notify your friends, family. Wednesday is falling on the petition really fast. Act now. Help defend our rights.
    Thanks, Steve.

    Yes the consultation for the Cambridge campaign ended on Friday. I just managed to fill out and submit the response in time. Essentially, Cambridge City Council want to halve the number of moorings and double the license fee to 2,400. I attended a meeting about this in Cambridge about a week ago and was impressed by the support the group had mustered and the fact that so many interested parties were at the meeting organised by Camboaters. Their presentations were interesting and very well informed by facts and research. In that regard, we are playing catch-up here in the Fens and we are still still coming across new information every day.

    Apparently it is rather unusual for anyone to make personal representation on private bills. It only happens once or twice a year according to someone in the office. The fact that we are petitioning against the bill means that there will be further scrutiny and probably some of us will be called in to speak to the parliamentary committee. I hope we are managing to do enough. The sad thing is that not every organisation whose members will be affected are willing to stand up and be counted. The Commissioners have made some assertions that we feel need to be challenged. Many have swallowed their line. We are hopeful, but these days who can be sure about anything?

    Thanks everyone for your support!

  6. #6
    Walking back to happiness ma bungo's Avatar
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    Signed and shared on Facebook
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    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Cheers, ma!

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    Walking back to happiness ma bungo's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by marshlander
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    Cheers, ma!
    A few of my chums on FB shared it , seems like it has really been kept quiet
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  9. #9
    Heavenly Creature
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    Signed, and I'll do the FB thing too
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  10. #10
    Heavenly Creature r3ubs's Avatar
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    Signed :-)

  11. #11
    Heavenly Creature Rainbomama's Avatar
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    Signed and shared xx

  12. #12
    Transcending Ecobob's Avatar
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    It won't let me sign. Is that because the number has been reached?
    Just giving me this message ( or am I missing something? )

    we did it

    Dear Petitioners, thank you for signing the petition.
    Tomorrow the campaign goes to the House of Commons to petition against the Bill. Your support is very much appreciated.
    Fingers crossed we can stop the Middle Level Bill in it's tracks.
    Any resemblance to actual persons living, dead, or undead, is purely coincidental

  13. #13
    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Ecobob
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    It won't let me sign. Is that because the number has been reached?
    Just giving me this message ( or am I missing something? )

    we did it

    Dear Petitioners, thank you for signing the petition.
    Tomorrow the campaign goes to the House of Commons to petition against the Bill. Your support is very much appreciated.
    Fingers crossed we can stop the Middle Level Bill in it's tracks.
    You get to carry it in in person with the rest of the campaigners. Well done. Smart clothes, pick up at end of village where the road bends. 8.30am.

  14. #14
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    The Care 2 petition was closed so we could take it with us to Westminster today - with just a few under our target number of signatures. Four of us had a meeting with a very helpful woman in the House of Commons Private Bills Office who accepted our individual petitions too. Two more petitions were presented yesterday. I'm delighted to have got this far. The Middle Level Commissioners have eight days to respond to our petitions after which our objections will be taken into account for the next reading and scrutiny. The process will now probably take many months and the MLC won't get the easy path they were hoping for.

    Many, many thanks for helping us get this far, dear friends.
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  15. #15
    Heavenly Creature
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    I feel like a BBC commentator asking a gold medalist still getting his breath back, but, how do you feel right now?
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    Shed Junkie alices wonderland's Avatar
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    Well done and thanks on behalf of all future boat enthusiasts. Glad you got to delive the petition on time.
    even a gypsy caravan is too much settling down.
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  17. #17
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Uncle jhad
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    I feel like a BBC commentator asking a gold medalist still getting his breath back, but, how do you feel right now?
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    If I'm honest, this is really only the first stage. Spending several days preparing a document articulating my objections to the proposed changes in the law was probably relatively easy. As I made every edit, rewrite and alteration, I realised that I am skating around on the very edges of my knowledge. Late into last evening I was chopping bits out of my response that I could not back up with facts. I had books open all over the boat and I had to decide that I couldn't really afford 150 to buy a book on legislation relating to the Middle Level in the seventeenth century! I think there is probably a download of the text, but I couldn't get it to download. Despite my edits and attempts to shorten my response my arguments still ran to ten pages.

    For me the real challenge will come if I have to stand and debate with others who have a deep-rooted knowledge of the issues, a fully trained legal team on hand and have had years to put their arguments into a manageable form.

    For the moment, though, I have to get back to the rest of my life and pick up some of the things I have let slide.
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  18. #18
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Just an update for anyone who is interested - and I only realised this at about midnight last night - the Bill was due a second reading last week, but because of our petitions (I assume) further progress on the matter was blocked on the 2nd February until it can be aired in proper debate. The Bill is up for reconsideration tomorrow, but I don't know whether that means the debate will happen tomorrow. Just in case, I fired off an e-mail to the local MP at 3am this morning asking him to speak and vote against the Bill giving him my reasons. If anyone else local fancies knocking off a quick message to their MP some extra interest would be useful. Thanks again for your support.

    I've written in a more personal capacity and with more detail on my blog (accessed through my profile page on UKH).
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    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Okay, another update. I have just heard that the Bill has been blocked for tomorrow too. I get the impression that this will continue on a weekly basis until a proper debate can be sorted, possibly some next month ... more time to write to those MPs now.
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  20. #20
    Afloat ... or adrift? marshlander's Avatar
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    Apologies, Paul!

    I think this thread has strayed into the forbidden territory of news and discussion. I have started a new thread
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    for anyone who wants to follow this thread further.

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