Exchange with Cllr John Tanner

First response from Councillor Tanner

Hi Sharyn

Thanks for your e-mail. I understand the concerns of many boaters and I recognise the contribution people living on boats make to Oxford. I represent a number of boaters in my Isis division.

So far the City Council has only agreed to consult about implementing a Public Spaces Protection Order affecting the boating community.

If the City Council decides to go ahead with a PSPO it would give us powers to deal with any anti-social boaters. I am thinking of the handful of people who moor in inappropriate places, leave litter or have smokey diesel engines, for example.

I am aware that the overwhelming majority of boaters are responsible and behave a very sensible manner. Indeed I would like to see improved facilities for the boating community, including more mooring places, more piped water and better refuse and recycling collection, for instance.

At present the City Council has to engage in costly legal proceedings or seek to divert the Police from other duties if there are instances of anti-social behaviour by boaters.

However the City Council has not decided what to do at this stage. We will listen very carefully to points of view like yours before making up our minds.

Best wishes


Cllr John Tanner (Labour)
Board Member for a Clean & Green Oxford
City Councillor for Littlemore & County Councillor for Isis
32 Sunningwell Road
Oxford OX1 4SX
01865 251441

Further response from Sharyn Hyde

Dear John,

Thank you for your reply to my email. It sounds like you are frustrated at a minority of boaters and see the PSPO as a possible solution to this problem. Like all communities, the boating community is not without its problem members.

Whilst I can see your rationale for considering a PSPO, your points actually highlight our concerns. To use a PSPO in this way would mean a blanket criminalisation of behaviour, which covers all boaters including those who are not causing a problem. What constitutes a problem is very subjective and this means that the PSPO becomes a powerful tool, with potential for misuse with little protection for anyone to challenge. Given the prejudice we experience, particularly from residents backing onto the canal it becomes a tool that enables social cleansing and undermines our way of life. Who decides ”no, not you, you’re OK” vs “you’re a problem, move on or have a criminal record”? It’s too broad a power with too little accountability and too much opportunity to reflect prejudice rather than effective implementation. You’ll lose the people who aren’t causing problems because they don’t want a criminal record, punish the vulnerable who have social problems and lack the capacity to respond in a positive way, and pick a fight with those that are causing problems who will likely escalate their behaviour or take the problem to 5m over the boundary, or pursue it through the courts with legal aid. If you haven’t the resources now to police the situation, and the police haven’t either, I fail to see how a PSPO can achieve anything except create bad feeling, escalate tension and criminalise a community and lifestyle.

I urge you again to work with the boating community to find a positive alternative, and reject the use of a PSPO as unworkable and divisive.

Kind regards,

Second response from Councillor Tanner

Hi Sharyn

Thanks for your reply. For people who live in houses who are anti-social we have a number of effective legal remedies. For people who live on boats our remedies are much more limited.

So I think it would be remiss of us not to consider having a Public Space Protection Order affecting the riverside. However, as you know, we have not made up our minds whether or not to adopt a PSPO.

We will make a decision about that only after the fullest consultation with all involved.

Best wishes