Poplar Dock Community Association | 18.02.2014 15:41 | London
Despite being exemplary residents and genuine pillars of the community at Poplar Dock Marina for fourteen years, the couple have little legal protection and no statutory rights. BWML have enforced a clause in their Terms and Conditions enabling them to evict residential boaters at 28 days notice without reason. Liveaboard boaters are not protected by any statutory legislation. Mr. Newton's actions are seen by Poplar boaters as a new low in the company's treatment of its customers, who are now calling for urgent statutory protection for boatowners, similar to the protection granted to Park Homes residents in recent legislation.
Both Rod and Annie are recovering from cancer treatment. Additionally, Rod (75) suffered severe heart failure last year. Nonetheless, Rod fought on and pursued his complaint, firstly through the BWML/C&RT prescribed procedure to the Waterways Ombudsman. The Ombudsman found that certain issues were outside his remit and required the decision of a court. As a result, Rod took the complaint to the Small Claims Court. He chose the simplest and most cost-effective route through the courts. He prepared and presented his own case against BWML's team of solicitors and barristers. The Judge explicitly stated that the claim had merit and was not vexatious, and at the pre-trial review set aside a full day for hearing both sides.
Rod Taylor was essentially fighting the case as an individual on behalf of all the boat owners at Poplar Dock, since a finding in his favour on the issue of widebeam charges would have applied to other customers. He was supported in court, and in preparing his case, by neighbours who are members of Poplar Dock Community Association (PDCA).
The Small Claims Court unfortunately found against Mr. Taylor on the three main strands of his case, largely due to technicalities and the watertight nature of BWML contracts. However, a period to apply to a Circuit Judge for an appeal is still open, and the eviction notice leaves him fighting extensive legal cases on two separate fronts.
In his Termination Notice, Derek Newton accuses Rod Taylor of “aggressive” behaviour towards BWML staff. Friends and neighbours regard this as particularly galling and defamatory. There have been a number of documented complaints, including correspondence from the local MP, regarding BWML's aggressive treatment of customers to enforce unwarranted price increases and one-sided contractual changes. This case is the culmination of 2 years of unsuccessful negotiations with an intransigent and disingenuous BWML senior management over fair mooring price increases and value for money in the services provided. Poplar Dock residents regard the Notice as a 'gagging order' to prevent Rod from appealing the court decision, and to intimidate further customers from complaining about the company or from taking their own court action.
Poplar Dock Community Association suggests that BWML's aggressive pursuit of profit, and its treatment of vulnerable customers, breaches C&RT's charitable objectives, and will cost the Canal and River Trust brand far more than the short-term profits generated. They are calling on the C&RT to uphold both its charitable aims and its duties under Human Rights and Freedom of Speech legislation. C&RT must step in immediately, take control of BWML (as mandated by new Company legislation) and rescind this worrying eviction threat to Rod Taylor and Annie Gavin.