The consultation will be run by Involve, an independent charity specialising in public engagement. It aims to ask boaters the fairest and simplest way to split the important financial contribution made by the different types of boats and boaters towards the upkeep of the waterways.
The first step in a three-stage consultation is just starting. In stage one, Involve will interview representatives from the main boating organisations to find out their views on how the consultation should work and what it should cover.
During the second stage, which will run from April, Involve will host a series of in-depth workshops with boaters across the country. Participants will reflect the diversity in the boating community.
The final stage will be a consultation for all boat owners to give their views on the options developed during the two previous stages.
Ian Rogers, our customer service and operations director, said: "The current licensing system has been in place for over twenty years. Boating has changed a lot in the meantime and we want to ensure the licensing structure is fit for purpose. Feedback from boaters suggests that many feel the current licensing is overly complex and can be perceived as unfair, and this consultation seeks to discuss these areas of concern.
"It's more important than ever that we plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of our waterways so that boaters can continue enjoying them both now and in the future. With income from licensing playing an important part in the charity's finances it is essential that it is spread fairly across all types of boaters as well as other income sources like property, utilities and fundraising. This is the most significant review of licensing in a generation and I welcome the fact that boaters will be helping to decide the shape of things to come."
Diane Beddoes, Associate at Involve, added: "We're delighted to be able to help the Trust complete this important piece of work. Our brief is to apply our principles of transparency, inclusiveness and collaboration to ensure that boaters are fully involved in helping create a balanced and simple boat licensing system."