Hartford Marina houseboat owners furious over ‘boat registration tax’

HOUSEBOAT owners on the River Great Ouse claim they are being hit with an extra tax after being asked to register their homes as boats.

Environment Agency enforcement officers visited Hartford Marina earlier this month to issue notices to about 40 residents, demanding they pay an annual £400 fee or face prosecution.

Adrian Leadbetter, 66, who has lived on a houseboat at the marina with wife Chris, 65, for five years, said he already pays £4,000 a year to the marina and £1,200 Council Tax – the latest charge, he added, is a “scandal”.

“A lot of the people who live here, like us, are OAPs and we are being confronted by this outrage – it’s another stealth tax,” he said. “I basically live in a shed on a floating pontoon. It has no helm and has no engine. How is that a boat?

“We already pay Council Tax and we don’t get any benefit from that as we have no street lighting or rubbish collections – it’s all provided in the marina – and we don’t get benefits from the waterways either as we don’t move.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said that all floating vessels were required to pay a registration fee since the law was changed in 2010. A spokesman added the agency would not be looking to claim the fees for the past two years, but insisted registration was necessary for houseboats.

Candy Reed, a waterways enforcement officer for the Environment Agency, said: “Since 2010, all vessels on our waterways must be registered. All of the money we receive from registrations is invested into our waterways network. This registration process also includes the requirement for insurance and a Boat Safety Scheme Certificate, or equivalent. This process therefore improves the waterways for all boaters.

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“We have approached residents at Hartford Marina to inform them about the need to register their houseboats with the Environment Agency.”

In 2008 Huntingdonshire District Council had to changing planning consent at Hartford Marina as houseboat buyers were told they could live there all year round, but rules only permitted holiday-usage.

• Should houseboats pay river fees? Should they classed as vessels? Send your views, along with your contact details, to editor@huntspost.co.uk