THE BOSS of a Stratford boating company is celebrating after being able to re-launch his full fleet.
Avon Boating had been forced to take a third of its 60 strong fleet of rowing and motor boats off the Avon after Stratford District Council decided there were too many and they posed a safety risk. It was based on there having been nine incidents in 14 years in which the hire boats had been hit by larger boats.
Although there were no reported injuries, the firm which has been hiring out boats to visitors for more than a century, was
told to take 20 boats off the water.
But Nick Birch, managing director of Avon Boating, fought the decision all the way to the courts, and this week he won his case when it was heard at the Justice Centre in Leamington.
He told the Observer: “The decision to reduce the number of boats we have was based on an arbitrary assessment with insubstantial evidence.
“This should never have progressed so far and Avon Boating weren’t given an opportunity to discuss the decision with Stratford District Council.
“We’re now looking forward to providing visitors with a safe and happy outing of the river ahead of next year’s summer season.
“I would like to thank everyone who signed the petitions, supporting our appeal of the decision.”
Wright Hassall Solicitor Andrew Potts, who represented Avon Boating, said the limit should never have been imposed.
He added: “The limit was put in place based on vague evidence of the river being overcrowded, and we’re very pleased to have overturned this decision.
“Avon Boating has been an integral part of Stratford and the town’s tourist offering for many years and has upheld high safety standards throughout the duration of the company. We’re pleased its full fleet will be back on the water and providing enjoyment to people boating on the river in Stratford.”
District council licensing manager Michelle Baird maintained the council was right to take action.
She said: “The authority was correct to be concerned over the serious incidents which have occurred and to conclude that the river is heavily congested.
“However the council had failed to use ‘a scientific formula’ to determine the scale of reduction in the number of boats to be licensed. Consequently, the council was found to have acted with good intent but without an objective methodology.
“Additional conditions have been imposed on the licence with the requirement for an additional patrol boat, and we will now revisit this issue and consider what new course of action is appropriate to address the hazards.”