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The charity making life better by water

Boats operated by charities and community groups

These are boats that are used primarily for community or educational use.

Kilsby School boat trip

There are many boats on our waterways that are used primarily for community or educational use. The majority are operated as trip or hire boats, with a few trading boats and even one that moors up in different locations to offer children's play activities.

Please refer to the guidance notes that apply to the use that you want to make of the boat and complete the relevant operating proposal form.

Do not commit financially to your proposed business before receiving our ‘in principle' approval.

As a charity ourselves, it is important for us to make sure that any organisation receiving a discount or subsidy from us in respect of a boating operation must be using that boat to deliver our charitable objectives.

We are working to produce a clear set of guidelines and criteria that will help us to determine which boats we may subsidise and those that we should not. Whilst this work is ongoing we will continue to use the 'old' charitable discount and criteria as set out below.

There is a 60 per cent discount off the business licence fee providing that all of the following requirements are met:

  • the boat is used for educational purposes by an organisation not operating for profit, or by registered charities for charitable purposes for the disadvantaged or people with disabilities
  • the boat is used only by or for the class of persons that the boat is intended to benefit
  • any charge for the use of the boat is limited to the costs of the trip.
  • the boat is not offered to the general public for hire or reward or for carrying passengers for a payment on a regular basis
  • this concession will not apply if it would create an unfair advantage over commercial passenger boat operations in the vicinity

This discount will be the subject of further review and consultation.

Boater's Handbook

We have now launched a new edition of the Boater's Handbook in partnership with the Environment Agency.

First published in 2002, the handbook is written for boat owners and hirers and contains lots of 'getting started' tips, as well as important information about how to boat safely.

The updated handbook contains some new information on waterway dimensions. There are also pointers on the extra factors owners and hirers of wide beams need to be aware of when navigating and mooring.

The Handbook was originally commissioned by British Waterways in partnership with the Environment Agency and the British Marine Federation. An expert group was commissioned to develop key messages and content, drawing on other published sources and relevant empirical evidence. Since then, there have been several re-prints which incorporated best practice updates.

Download it below, or order a free hard copy from the online shop.

Operating proposal

If you are a new or existing customer and wish to set up a new hire boat, you must submit an operating proposal using your boat licence account on our online system.

Please provide as much information as possible for us to assess your proposal.

For the assessment of new Operating Proposals there is a non-refundable fee towards our administration and initial assessment costs. The fee is to be paid online to progress your application and will be applicable for all submissions received from 1 December 2023 onwards.

The fees for each operating proposal are:

  1. £90 (inclusive of vat) for Fixed Location Trading Boat, Static Letting, Self-Drive Holiday Hire, Self-Drive Day Hire, Skippered Hotel, Skippered Passenger, Roving Trader (fuel, events boats & roving café boats)
  2. £50 (inclusive of vat) for Roving Trader, Trade Plate, Maintenance Work Boat, ROW, Cadets
  3. No fee to be applied to applications for Emergency & Safety Boats and Exhibition Boats.
  4. No fee to be applied to existing business who wish to add additional craft (where new craft are to be added to an existing fleet or extension to existing moorings).

Upon receipt of your submitted proposal, you will receive email confirmation and reference number. We will then aim to give you an in principle decision within six weeks. Please note that you may need to obtain planning permission and negotiate agreements for using our property which could take much longer to finalise.

Do not commit financially to your proposed business before receiving our ‘in principle' approval.

Last Edited: 13 May 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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