Formal Complaint and the Waterways Ombudsman.

The Landlord – Canal and River Trust

The Canal and River Trust (CRT) is a government funded charity, a Quango. They are the present guardians of the inland waterways.

One of the charitable aims of CRT is to protect the heritage of the inland waterways.

The government decided to provide CRT with an extra income stream, therefore one of the largest property and land portfolios in the UK has been entrusted to them.

Much of this immense property and land portfolio has no connection to the inland waterways but it does make CRT a very large commercial landlord and commercial property developer.

When CRT was created in 2012 Taylor’s Boatyard ‘inherited’ them as their commercial landlord.

At all times CRT have been given every courtesy, help and accommodation by the boatyard and the boatyard staff.

The Tenant – Taylor’s Boatyard

In 2010 the boatyard business relocated from West London having negotiated a long lease on part of the former Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company’s yard in Chester. The boatyard dates from 1795 and consists of many buildings, seven of which are Grade II listed including the Dry Dock.

Taylor’s Boatyard is a small family business and is the operator of the Dry Dock.

The Dry Dock is the most important building to the business. Its high usage produces the largest revenue of any of the buildings on site. It functions both as a Dry Dock and a Wet Dock which is critical in all months of the year.

The boatyard has been extremely reluctant to make a formal complaint as it has done everything possible to work with their commercial landlord.

At no point has CRT considered any consultation necessary. They have rejected all attempts at any meaningful communication and refused to discuss their major modifications to the culvert.

These unnecessary modifications were carried out to the Dry Dock without any prior knowledge or consent from the boatyard.

All of the serious operational and safety concerns now created by the modifications (raised in writing to CRT) were simply just ignored.

Communication with CRT was, and still is, appalling with no one person in charge of any issue. There has never been any urgency or visible management of the contractors. Emails received from CRT would be sporadic, arrogant, condescending and false.

Early promises of installing a temporary pump to keep the Dry Dock functioning were never kept.

No completion dates were given until early 2020. When we did have a completion date this information was passed on in good faith to the boatyard’s customers. Not one of these numerous dates was ever met. This caused massive problems for both the boatyard and its customers, who understandably took their business elsewhere.

Requests for updates were ignored or met by the general ‘navigation closure notice’ email.

CRT were fully aware of the financial hardship they were causing the business.

CRT have repeatedly refused to confirm that their modifications are safe or even that they conform to regulation.

The complaint – Background

Unfortunately, there is no alternative to the monopoly of CRT for this or any other canal side business.

Normally when disagreements arise between a commercial tenant and their landlord the tenant has the right to get any repair work done themselves. As only CRT and their contractors are authorised to work on the canal infrastructure this right has been withheld from the boatyard.

Culvert operation, maintenance and repair cannot be unknown to CRT and yet their designers appear to have demonstrated an appalling lack of professional competence. It is difficult to believe the designers are incompetent therefore they must have intentionally designed their repair to make the dry dock too dangerous to operate and the building unsafe.

There was clearly something very amiss with this simple culvert repair. Considering this along with the other unresolved serious issues CRT had created for the boatyard during the past few years, the ambition of CRT to further develop the boatyard site becomes very clear. The boatyard is the only undeveloped part of CRT’s vast surrounding ‘ Tower Wharf Scheme’ development which smothers both sides of the canal.

A formal complaint was made against CRT on 5th May 2020.

In line with government guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic the boatyard requested a ‘rent holiday’. Despite CRT knowing that they had removed the majority of the income of the boatyard this was refused. Even a request made by the local MP to Richard Parry (CEO of CRT) “to do the right thing” had no effect. It did however lead to Richard Parry’s involvement in the culvert issue which led to work finally commencing on the actual culvert.

The complaint was processed by numerous different managers at CRT. Each manager taking as long as possible to deliberately misunderstand the issue. This only confirmed our concerns as to the real motivations of our commercial landlord.

CRT Level 1. complaint – John Ward, head of project delivery, 1st June 2020.

CRT Level 2. complaint – Darren Leftley, head of water development, 26th June 2020.

The Waterways Ombudsman

A complaint was made to the waterways ombudsman in writing on 13th August 2020.

  • CRT is deliberately attempting to destroy the boatyard business. They need to demonstrate a boatyard business is unviable at this historic canal site in order to continue with their surrounding property development.
  • As a tenant of CRT the boatyard has been subjected to on-going unfair treatment, harassment and intimidation.
  • CRT is a registered charity but completely disregards its own published charitable aims.