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PLA introduces new method for setting houseboat fees

The Port of London Authority (PLA) is introducing a new method for setting the fees charged on 179 houseboats moored on the tidal Thames; the PLA has written to all affected licence holders about the change today (2 August).

The adoption of the new basis for the calculations follows two years of study and consultation with houseboat owners and their representatives.  The majority of the vessels are moored in groups, or enclaves, covered by single licenses.  Under the new formula, the fees for 20 of the licences, covering 90 houseboats, will decrease; the fee will increase for 15 licences covering 89 vessels.  The increases fall on those licences where the fee has not been reviewed in recent years, in some case up to 15 years.

The basis for the new charging method is taken from a report published just before Christmas by independent consultants who were appointed to work with a Steering Group of houseboat and PLA representatives to look at the basis for calculations.  The consultants considered 13 possible approaches to determining houseboat mooring fees.  They concluded that the PLA licence fee should be ‘a share of the net mooring revenue’, which provided a clear formula with adjustments for local circumstances which was easily monitored and validated, and equally applicable to all licensees, despite the great variety of mooring arrangements.

The PLA plans for the new charging method follow further discussions with houseboat representatives held since the beginning of the year.  During these discussions the PLA reduced the percentage of net annual mooring revenue due (after allowing 15% for the annual maintenance costs of the mooring) by 5%, from the 30% recommended in the report to 25%.

PLA chief executive, Richard Everitt, explained:

“Houseboats are an important part of life on the river.  Developing an equitable approach to how we calculate the fees for this community has been a personal priority for me.  Getting to this stage has involved a lot of dialogue and understanding from all sides and I’d like publicly to thank the houseboat community and their representatives who have worked diligently with us to reach this point.

“Our goal throughout the review process around houseboat fees has been to develop a transparent and predictable method for charging houseboats on the river which is fair to everyone.  I believe and hope that we’ve now got there.”

The Steering Group was established to advise on the direction of the review, identify issues and provide a forum for debate. The Steering Group, which agreed the terms of reference and jointly sought an independent legal opinion, comprised three representatives from the Port of London Authority and four representatives of residential river works licensees and residential boaters; the Group was chaired by a representative from the Valuation Office.

The new charging method will apply from 1 August 2012.

Notes to Editors:

  • The Port of London Authority (PLA) oversees safety of navigation over 95 miles of tidal Thames from Teddington Lock to the North Sea.
  • The river is home to the UK’s second biggest port, busiest inland waterway and thriving sporting communities.
  • The PLA’s income comes from river users; it receives no government money.