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Drop in boat numbers across British canals

The Canal & River Trust’s National Boat Count has seen a 1.4% drop in boat numbers on its network across England and Wales.

It also saw a 1.2% increase in unlicensed boats, meaning licence compliance now stands at 91.8%.

Nationally, 32,602 boats were recorded on the Trust’s enforceable waters, down by 479, the first reduction recorded since the Trust was founded.

The drop in boat numbers was most significant in the London & South East region, where there were 512 fewer boats than last year.

The increase in unlicensed boats was most prominent in London & South East, where the caseload and backlog in the legal system has been exacerbated by vacancies in the local team.

Across the network, the total number of boats with a home mooring has decreased by 3.7% while the total number of continuously cruising boats has increased by 4.9%.

“Boating remains popular, but our national count paints a picture of the challenges facing many on the water,” said Matthew Symonds, head of customer service support at Canal & River Trust. “The overall drop in licence compliance continues the post-pandemic trend, with the cost-of-living increases being a challenge for many in society.

“The reduction in home moorers and increase in continuous cruisers may also point towards the wider economic environment.”

The income from licence fees represents about 11% of the Trust’s income.

When other avenues have been exhausted, the Trust takes action to remove boats. In the last financial year, 106 unlicensed, including many abandoned, boats were removed from the network.

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