Canal & River Trust: Our response to coronavirus

In these unprecedented times, our priority is to support the national effort to keep people safe, following the Government’s advice and taking the appropriate action to protect our colleagues and partners, and everyone who visits, or lives on and around, our canals and river navigations.

Due to the current situation with Covid 19 the Canal and Rivers Trust will be prioritising work that has been identified as urgent and safety critical. Therefore, we are unable to meet our usual 6 week response time to submit Business Boating applications, this includes both Operating Proposals & Works Proposals.

As part of the Operating Proposal process, we conduct an internal consultation and some applications require a site inspection which has meant that we have been unable to review a number of new submissions whilst some staff are on furlough.

We currently have a backlog of applications that have been placed on hold since March, we have commenced progressing these in phased approach. Once these have been cleared, we will log new applications.   You are able to submit a new operating proposal, but please note that we are not operating within our usual response timescales.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and assistance.


*update 21/08/20


The COVID grant survey has now closed.   You are able to view the results here:

COVID-19 Grant Poll Results


*update 22/07/20

VAT reduction

Following recent Government announcements, HMRC have temporarily amended the VAT notice to reduce VAT from 20% to 5% for certain hospitality, restaurant, and leisure sectors for the period 15 July to 12 January. We strongly recommend you read the revised notice to see where your business might be able to benefit. )

 The hiring of boats for overnight accommodation is specifically mentioned in section 5, but other sectors, including floating cafes/restaurants, should also be able to benefit. If you require any clarity we recommend you contact HMRC directly as each business may have specific circumstances.

Our business boating team would be happy to discuss have any other general questions you have.


Latest DEFRA Guidance as of 01/07/2020

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government’s priority has been, and remains, to save lives. Following the latest announcement by the Prime Minister on 23 June, which marked a significant further easing of the lockdown restrictions to come into effect on 4 July, the Government has decided to withdraw the guidance on ‘Using a boat inland and on the coast’ from 4 July.

Latest government guidance on COVID-19 can be found at: Individuals and boating operators are responsible for conducting a risk assessment drawing on the relevant sources of government guidance on COVID-19. In particular operators and individuals should consider:

 You will also be aware of the local lockdown in Leicester. The Canal and River Trust have issued guidance for waterways in Leicester.

For any further questions please contact: eoc.policyhub@defra.govuk


*update 01/07/20

Canal & River Trust Marketing Campaign

In addition, and to help emphasise the re-opening, the Trust is to commence its marketing campaign to promote waterway businesses and waterway experiences to the public this summer and autumn. The extension of the #LifesBetterByWater and #CanalMemories campaign will start this weekend, pushing people to the Trust’s website and ultimately our business boating operator directory.

We kindly ask, if you appear on our directory, that you update your details here as soon as possible to ensure potential customers can find you. Alternatively, if you’re not yet in our directory, please register below and upload your details.



Coronavirus Update:  Leicester Lockdown

Following the announcement from the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care (29 June 2020) regarding the reintroduction of lockdown measures in Leicester, the Canal & River Trust is issuing new guidance on use of the waterways in the city and surrounding areas during this period.

In line with Government advice the Trust is asking leisure boaters to stop all non-essential travel into and through the city with immediate effect. 

The Canal and River Trust have issued guidance for waterways in Leicester.

For any further questions please contact: eoc.policyhub@defra.govuk

Further information is available on the following statement. 


Coronavirus and boating FAQs

Many of your questions regarding coronavirus and boating are answered on this page, which we are regularly updating

We have also compiled FAQs on Business boat licence concessions which is available here Business Boat Licence Concession Info & FAQ


*update 11/06/20

Latest DEFRA guidance on using boats (including business boats) - issued 11th June


 *update 05/06/20

To all boating businesses

You will be aware our navigations are open for private boating, and in the background the Trust alongside other industry representatives are continuing to lobby DEFRA on two fronts. Firstly, the timescale for re-opening businesses and the nuances around which sub-sectors fall into each relaxation of restrictions. Second, the urgent call for dedicated financial support to the industry.

In addition and relevant to those points, we have some specific updates.

COVID-19 Discretionary Grant Scheme

Details of this were included in the last update, but we now understand Councils are imposing deadlines for applications (most between 10-19th June) and we therefore urgently encourage all businesses who have not received a grant (in England) to apply.

Back to Boating Guidance

British Marine, working with key businesses across the country, have created a very thorough and useful document to help you get ready and mitigate against COVID-19, particularly on hire boats. Among other benefits, British Marine provide regular updates to their members. Links to the document and membership information are here: COVID-19 Control in Hire Boats and Membership Details

In conjunction with your own procedures, the Trust is also pleased to provide an COVID-19 Boating Customer sheet for you to include with handovers or generally share in/around your business as best practice when customers use the waterways. You can download the printable PDF here.

As always, if you have any direct queries please contact your local business boating team.


British Marine are preparing a phased approach to preparing businesses for successful emergence from COVID-19 lockdown.  This includes a Back to Business Webinar and sector guidane.   Further details are available o their website


Support re coronavirus

Please refer to the following document for advice on support offered by the Government and the Trust.   And also the wider work being undertaken by the Trust and industry stakeholders in respect of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Waterway Business Support


There is support from Government available for those who are experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus.  Please refer to advice in the above document,our FAQ pages.   Also a full range of business support measures have been made available to UK businesses and employees.  HM Government Support pages helps businesses find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.


Government Discretionary Grant Funds (if you don’t occupy Rateable Premises)

Further to the announcement from Govt, further guidance has now been provided to Local Authorities on who can apply for discretionary grants. If you have not been able to access grants via rateable premises, we strongly encourage businesses to apply for the discretionary fund. Full details in the link below:


Waterway Charities Appeal Grant Applications

There are hundreds of small waterways charities in England and Wales, supporting communities living on and alongside these canals and rivers, working tirelessly to improve people’s lives. Covid19 has hit them hard, bringing projects and activities to a halt and dramatically reducing their ability to fundraise. Many face a very uncertain future.

Thanks to our supporters, and match funding from the Trust, we are pleased to be able to give a helping hand to these organisations through our Waterways Charity Appeal.  The Waterways Charity Appeal will close at midnight on Sunday 28 June 2020.


Contacting the team

If you have any concerns or queries regarding your Boating business during this period please contact a member of the Business Boating Team

Last date edited: 21 August 2020