The UK Waterways Ombudsman and the Waterways Ombudsman Committee have seen a substantial rise in the number of complaints over the last 12 months. The UK Waterways Ombudsman scheme deals with complaints about the Canal & River Trust and the Avon Navigation Trust once its own complaints processes have been exhausted.
During the year 2020/21, the UK Waterways Ombudsman received 77 enquiries, up from 41 the previous year. Ten new investigations were opened and the number of complaints resolved was eight. As before there was a very diverse range of complaints, and again the majority were about boating issues with a lack of communication being a common cause of conflict.
This is the second annual report of the UK Waterways Ombudsman, Sarah Daniel, who attributes the rise in complaints to the increased use of outdoor spaces as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “This past year has been unprecedented in terms of external world events,” she said.
“A number of complaints were about the increased use of the towpaths by all and associated problems this brings. As more people enjoy the space around the waterways the trusts have to continue to work hard to make that possible.”
Subjected to harassment
One complaint related to a dispute between the Trust and a boatyard owner who complained the Trust was trying to destroy his business. The owner was unhappy with repairs to a culvert and dry dock following damage caused by a sinkhole in a towpath. The owner alleged that the repair has meant he can no longer operate his business and claims he has been subjected to ‘on-going unfair treatment, harassment and intimidation’.
The UK Waterways Ombudsman concluded that there has been no attempt to scupper the owner’s business but concedes that repairs were slow to complete and has offered compensation if the owner can demonstrate his losses.
Of the eight complaints resolved, three were upheld in part, one was settled and four were not upheld.