The Environment Agency (EA) is the second largest navigation authority in the UK. It is responsible for managing 1,000 km of inland waterways - keeping them open and safe for a variety of uses, but especially for boating.

In total there are around 29,000 recreational and commercial boats kept or used on the EA’s waterways and it is a legal requirement for these boats to register with the EA. There is a charge to do this so that those who benefit from the navigation services provided contribute towards the significant costs of managing and maintaining the waterways.

2-year proposal

The EA is now consulting its boating customers and other interested and affected parties on proposals for boat registration charges on its waterways for 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021.

The increases they are proposing are the same percentages as those implemented for 2018 to 2019. They reflect the significant gap between existing levels of income from boat registration charges on each waterway and the cost of providing the services which these charges pay for.

The increases being proposed are:

  • River Thames: 5.7%
  • Anglian Waterways: 7.5%
  • Upper Medway: 10%
  • Unpowered boats, which have a nationally consistent charge and boats (powered and unpowered) covered by joint registration agreements with third parties (Canal & River Trust - Gold Licence, British Canoeing, British Rowing): 7.7%*

* This is taken as an average of the 3 individual percentages for each waterway area because they have nationally consistent charges.

Current funding position

The charges contribute to the EA’s overall aim of keeping its waterways open and safe for use by both recreational boaters and those who rely on them for their business. At the moment, across all EA waterways, boat registration charges only contribute 25% of the total amount spent on operational services.

The waterways also receive income from other sources, mainly through government grant-in-aid (GiA) funding and from a range of boating-related commercial activities. However, for a number of years the overall funding position has been declining, with impacts on standards of service and the condition of the EA's navigation infrastructure and facilities.

The EA is working hard to address this situation through a range of activities; the proposed changes to boat registration charges are part of this work.

Safe and efficient

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “The current cost of the service we provide across our waterways far exceeds the income we receive from customer charges.

“We need to make our waterways more financially sustainable so we are carrying out a full review of navigation charges. We want our charges to be fair, transparent and linked more closely to the cost of the service we provide for boating customers.

“We would like your views on our proposals to increase navigation boat registration charges for 2019 to 2021. We also want to better understand what parts of our service are important to customers to help us prioritise the service we provide on our different waterways. We will also use the feedback we receive to help shape our future funding proposals.

“This 2-year proposal will allow us time to fully develop our future charging plans and look at new ways to fund the service. We’ll use feedback from customers to make our work more financially sustainable, whilst providing customers with greater certainty about the charges they’ll need to pay until 2021.

“These proposals are the minimum increases necessary to sustain a safe and efficient operational service. We think these are reasonable given the gap between the cost of the services, and the income we currently receive from charges.

“We will reflect any increases for 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021 in the future 5-year charging plan, which we now plan to introduce, following further consultation, for 2021 to 2026.”

How to respond

You can view the consultation documents and questions online at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-proposals-for-navigation-boat-registration-charges-2019-to-2021

Here, you can submit your response using an online tool which will enable you to manage your comments more effectively. It will also help the EA gather and summarise responses quickly and accurately as well as reducing the costs of the consultation.

If you would prefer to submit your response by email, please contact enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk using 'Navigation charge proposals 2019 to 2021' in the subject line to request the consultation documents and a response form to complete.

All completed email and postal responses must be received by Thursday, 30 August 2018 using the consultation response form.

Completed responses should be sent to enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk or the following postal address:

  • Environment Agency
  • Navigation charge proposals 2019 to 2021
  • National Customer Contact Centre
  • PO Box 544
  • Bow Bridge Close
  • Bradmarsh Business Park
  • Templeborough
  • Rotherham
  • S60 1BY

The RYA will submit a detailed response to the consultation on behalf of its members.