BOATERS have launched a new campaign against new rules to curb illegal mooring along Oxford's waterways.

Labour-run Oxford City Council wants to put in place a new public spaces protection order (PSPO), which would cover the River Thames, the Cherwell and Oxford Canal.

The order would ban people from mooring boats at riverbanks without the landowner's permission, obstructing paths or the waterways, putting up structures or leaving rubbish and failing to control dogs.

But it is being opposed by boaters and the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) who say the order would criminalise "normal and necessary boating activities".

A new group formed to oppose it, PSPnO, last week demonstrated outside Oxford Town Hall.

It claims 60 of the complaints about noise and smoke from boats used to justify the proposed PSPO came from one person.

Dr Jane Charlesworth, a postdoctoral research scientist and live-aboard boater, said: "Imagine feeling like you can't heat your home in the winter for fear of being fined.

"It's unclear how the council will decide what constitutes a valid complaint right now and they are not providing satisfactory answers to questions put forward about this."

The boating community includes key workers such as hospital staff and teachers, Oxford University research staff and vulnerable adults whose neighbours worry they will lack the resources to challenge the PSPO.

Psychotherapy masters student Cassi Perry said: "It's not about whether I can pay a fine, it is the worry that some of my neighbours might not be able to."

The campaign has won support from opposition councillors in the Green and Liberal Democrat parties.

Proposals for the PSPO have faced criticism from members of the city council's scrutiny committee and the local authority is preparing to hold a public consultation on it.

Elizabeth Wade, Liberal Democrat councillor for St Margaret's said: "PSPOs are still new to Oxford.

"The first one – prohibiting busking, begging and other street 'nuisances' – has only been in force for six months.

"We need to know how the first PSPO is working in practice before this second one – which would clamp down on boaters on Oxford's waterways – is taken any further.

"This is a serious civil liberties issue, with very few safeguards in place to protect our citizens from being criminalised."

Green city councillor for Holywell David Thomas has described the waterways PSPO as "poorly worded, half-baked, and impractical", with Green group leader Craig Simmons last month telling the Oxford Mail it was "unworkable".

But Dee Sinclair, executive board member for crime, community safety and licensing, has stressed there would be several rounds of consultation.

She said the debate had been opened up early, "so we can involve as many people as possible. We want the widest consultation possible."