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I sail on Windermere and have been greatly amused at the way the LDNPA has fumbled around to try and solve a problem of its own making!

A potted history:

Way back in (about) 1976 it was decided to introduce speed limits on Coniston, Ullswater and Derwent Water to stop people water ski-ing on them. Of course all the speed boat owners weren’t happy about this, but accepted the tabled solution which was that Windermere would be kept free of speed limits so that all the noisy powerboats would be concentrated in one small area of the Lake District. As part of this scheme it was also agreed that in order to make it easier to police then all powered boats on Windermere would have to be registered and carry numbers, for which a small administration fee would be charged.

Over the next 20 years greed got the better of them, and the registration fees were gradually hiked up, basing them on rated engine power with punitive rates being charged for high powered boats on the assumption that anyone with a 100+HP engine would have pots of money. This seemed to work.

Meanwhile, in the nineties, a small group of intolerant people decided that speed boating on the lake was unacceptable as it spoiled the peace and quiet. Quite why anyone seeking peace and quiet would go to Windermere eludes me but nevertheless these people were listened to along with their demands about safety, environmental impact, pollution and so on. Eventually a public inquiry was held which found that there were no grounds for a speed limit for any of the reasons put foward. Everyone was happy once more (apart from the afore-mentioned do-gooders of course).

Then we had a change of Government. The whole thing was now looked into again and this time they focused on a chance remark made by the chairman of the original enquiry in his summing up, where he remarked that there might be some incompatibilities between different lake users. This was taken to mean that speed boats were therefore an unacceptable problem and a blanket 10mph speed limit imposed.

The net result was that the number of boats registering to use the lake dropped dramatically, in particular higher powered boats; similarly the numbers of people paying to launch dayboats. The LDNPA seemed amazed by this, as though it was an outcome they had never considered! Consequently the LDNPA and the local council had immediate and major cashflow problems due to this, to the reduced numbers of visitors and to the impact on all the local businesses that depended on boating.

So in order to make up the shortfall on boat registrations they changed the rules. Now the rate charged would depend not on engine size but on waterline length. Thus the fee for my Wayfarer with 2HP outboard went from £5 per year to £40 per year.

Then someone looked into the history of all this and discovered that the whole registration process was simply about tracking and wasn’t supposed to be a stealth tax. It was also discovered that the legal requirement was adequately met by registering with the Small Ships Register instead, which costs £5 per year, so that’s what everyone started doing instead, thus stopping the LDNPA from getting any revenue at all!

The only way the LDPNA could fix this was to get some more bye-laws passed to make their registration scheme compulsory, but after all their past mis-management they seemed wary of leaping in and doing this, instead holding a public consultation to test the water. The results of this indicated that the general public were resoundingly against their proposals. It would seem that they then backed away from going down the legislative route in case the whole 10mph thing was shown up as the undemocratic sham it actually was and being thrown out completely.

Thus they went with the only remaining option available to salvage some cash from this mess and dropped their registration fees to the same as the SSR rates; so now once more you can register your Wayfarer for £5 per year – or not bother if (a) you have no engine or (b) have an existing SSR registration, though you do need to display that number in lieu of the LDNPA one.

A rare victory for democracy!