Boaters Will Seek Judicial Review Over Increased Port Fees

A rate increase for people who live and work on Bristol docks could be subject to judicial review.

This is a type of legal proceeding in which a judge reviews the legality of a decision or action taken by a public body, in this case the Bristol City Council cabinet.

The Bristol Boaters Community Association (BBCA), the Cabot Cruising Club and the Bristol Cruising Club have taken the first necessary steps to seek a judicial review of the cabinet’s decision to introduce new port charges from April.

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The groups say the new tariffs could force many people to leave their homes or sell their boats.

They also claim that Bristol City Council did not consult and also compare council rates with four private marinas “which provide significantly better facilities and services and are simply not comparable”.

BBCA is now crowdfunding in a bid to raise £10,000 to pay for judicial review.

Boats are an integral part of the docks – photo: Martin Booth

A BBCA spokesperson said: “Boat owners and others have repeatedly tried to work with Bristol City Council and have been ignored. Judicial review is the last option, although not welcome.

“All we want is meaningful consultation and a plan for the port that preserves its vibrant and diverse community.

“We understand the challenges facing the council, including the need to deliver a balanced budget, and we support a reasonable increase in mooring fees.

“But the proposed rate increases are excessive, and therefore we are concerned about the future of our homes, pleasure boats and businesses.

“We want to help Bristol City Council get this right, and we are deeply saddened and frustrated that legal action is needed to bring them to the table.”

The spokesperson added: “Nobody wants this to happen, our backs are against the wall. We have made this decision to meet the standards set by Bristol City Council and to safeguard the future of our Bristol Harbor community.

“We sincerely hope that by demonstrating our willingness to defend our democratic right, a genuine open consultation on the new tariffs will be launched. We hope the mayor’s office will reconsider and embark on a meaningful consultation as always promised and stand by their decision.

“Ensuring thoughtful decisions that are in the best interest of Harbors’ future is paramount to us. Port stakeholders are willing and proactive, we just need the green light.”

Mandy Sharman and her daughter Prim are among the families living on boats in the harbor – photo: Martin Booth

The rector of Bristol Harborside churches is just one of those who have lent their support to the cause of boaters.

Kat Campion-Spall, vicarage of Holy Trinity at Hotwells and St Stephen’s in Old City, said she is “deeply concerned” about the impact of the fee increase.

In an open letter, he wrote: “Given the current cost of living crisis and the shortage of affordable housing in Bristol, these new rates will have a devastating effect on people who are struggling to cope, increasing the possibility of forcing in poverty, or even homelessness.

“We understand that these changes have come at very short notice, with little or no participation or consultation with the port community on the proposals, and without a needs-based assessment.

“We urge the council, Harbor Master and Director of the Harbor Review to meet with the port community before submitting these rates, do the proper assessment and ensure that those who reside in Bristol Harbor are not profoundly affected. for the proposed changes.

Marvin Rees has previously called the people who live on ships in Bristol docks the “privileged few”.

The mayor said that the inhabitants of the ships who live permanently in the port with a leisure license have a “moral” duty to pay the municipal tax.

Rees said Bristol City Council’s role “as stewards of the port includes providing accessibility and involving all communities. We support the businesses and residents who call the port home and welcome tourists from barges to superyachts.”

Bristol City Council has been contacted for comment on the judicial review.

Lead photo: Martin Booth

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