PEOPLE who make their homes on the Kennet and Avon canal have marched on 10 Downing Street to hand in a petition against a Canal and River Trust (CRT) policy that they say has resulted in boaters without a permanent mooring being evicted.
In the 12 months since the previous march, they say the government has done nothing to stop the CRT so they took to the streets in an effort to keep the pressure on.
Hundreds of boaters across the country joined in the national Boats Are Homes demonstration to hand in the petition, which had been signed by more than 33,000 people.
In May 2015, the CRT began refusing to re-licence boaters who do not have a permanent mooring, for not moving far enough or often enough under the 1995 British Waterways Act, which boat families say has put them under severe pressure as they cannot afford a permanent mooring.
Pamela Smith, chairman of the National Bargee Travellers Association, who moors her boat on the canal in the Marlborough area, said: "The government must keep the CRT in check. This so-called charity receives at least £39 million each year in Government funding.
"This is taxpayers' money; our money. There must be accountability to Parliament, and ultimately to us, the people, for whom the charity holds the waterways in trust.
"The CRT is threatening many with homelessness at a time when we are facing the most serious housing crisis since 1945. The result of the charity’s policy is that often it is the most vulnerable boat dwellers who are being threatened with eviction and the CRT knows this.
"The law hasn't changed since 1995 but boat dwellers whose licences have been renewed without any issues going back 10 or 20 years have recently been told that their annual travel patterns are no longer compliant.
"It's recent distance requirements mean that boat dwellers are now having great difficulties staying in work and keeping their children in school.
"If they fail to comply with these requirements, their homes can be seized by the charity. This is a planned strategy to put pressure on boat dwellers without permanent moorings to force them off the water.
"No boat dweller who complies with the 14-day limit in one place should have their home threatened with removal. This is not what Parliament intended when it passed the British Waterways Act 1995. The law was written with a wide scope to include many different patterns of boat use."
CRT spokesman Sarah Rudy said: "The Canal & River Trust welcomes all boaters onto our canals and we seek to manage our busy waterways fairly for all the 32,500 boats on the network. The towpath itself is a public space that we look after for all to enjoy.
"We do as much as we reasonably can to help boaters stay on the water."
The march also involved boaters heading to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs headquarters in Smith Square to hand in a letter calling for action against the CRT.