Cambridge City Council has secured an interim High Court injunction to ban unauthorised punt businesses from using council owned land along the middle river to access the River Cam.
The local authority said its riverside land, including land at Garret Hostel Lane, was being used by unauthorised punt operators, at locations that were not authorised punt stations and that did not have planning permission or approval from the council or the Cam Conservators.
Cambridge claimed there had been an escalation of the use of Garret Hostel Lane, with businesses starting to use a much larger pontoon for embarking and disembarking passengers. This pontoon was said to be blocking the slipway.
“The presence of this unapproved punt station often causes congestion in the narrow lane, which is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists, putting them and the prospective punt customers at risk of injury,” the city council said.
“At peak times, this also causes congestion on the river as punts waiting to embark and disembark passengers have to queue to get access to the pontoon on the slipway.”
In Cambridge City Council v Traditional Cambridge Tours Ltd & Ors  EWHC 1304 Mrs Justice Whipple granted the local authority’s application for an injunction.
As a result unauthorised use of the council’s land at Garret Hostel Lane, Jesus Green, Thompson’s Lane, Jubilee Gardens, Granta Mill Pond, Quayside, Silver Street and Sheep’s Green for commercial punt activity is prohibited.
Anyone breaching the injunction may be guilty of contempt of court and could face a term of imprisonment, a financial penalty, or both.
The First Defendant, Traditional Cambridge Tours, was a company which carries on commercial punt operations on the River Cam. Its punts currently depart from and return to a slipway on Garrett Hostel Lane.
It had no authorisation or licence to conduct punt operations from that site or from any other land belonging to the council, nor was it authorised by the Cam Conservators, the body with authority over the River Cam, to conduct its punt business on the river.
The Second to Fourth Defendants were individuals and directors of the First Defendant. The Fifth to Eleventh Defendants were individuals who were alleged to have been involved in the First Defendant's punt operations. The Twelfth Defendant was "Persons Unknown", to cater for the possibility that there were others involved or likely to become involved in the First Defendant's punt operations or other unauthorised commercial punt operations being conducted from the ouncil's land.
Mrs Justice Whipple’s order included a requirement that there is a payment towards the council’s costs in seeking the injunction.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “It is welcome news that the High Court has granted our injunction application because it means we can stop the unauthorised use of our land at Garret Hostel Lane and other open spaces including Jesus Green and Sheep’s Green.
“We recognise the importance of punting to Cambridge and we will continue to support the diverse range of 11 different punt operators from the punt stations approved by the Cam Conservators.
“Our approach to this injunction, and the wider matter of punting, has been about pursuing what is best for Cambridge, including balancing the views of local residents and councillors with congestion, environmental and planning considerations.”
Cllr Herbert added: “These businesses have operated on our land without ever obtaining permission and created problems for pedestrians and cyclists by obstructing the highway. They have created a major antisocial behaviour problem in the historic heart of our city due to their invasive and thoughtless touting.
"We know that nuisance related to the activities of unauthorised punt operator businesses as they seek to attract customers continues and we will keep working to address it.”
In a related move in October 2017, councillors at Cambridge approved proposals to tackle punt tour touts in the city centre by recruiting a new enforcement officer whose role includes strengthening implementation of an existing Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) at peak times of the day and weekends.
The PSPO makes it a criminal offence for punt tour touts to operate in certain areas of Cambridge, with anyone in breach of the order likely to face a £75 fixed penalty notice. Some 77 notices have been issued to date with eight prosecutions for repeat offences.
The council said it would now enforce the injunction as well as continuing to implement the PSPO.