Reclaim our Riverbank news and updates
"Reclaim our Riverbank" is a residents' pressure group established in October 2014 to convince Richmond and Kingston Councils, the Environment Agency and the police that dealing with the illegal mooring should be of the highest priority. CARA will be keeping in touch with Reclaim our Riverbank, and will send representatives to meetings and pass on news and requests for action (most recent news from RoR at the top of this page).
RoR can keep you updated if you join their contacts list by email@example.com. The existence of a strong body of support from local people has been vital in backing their representations. You can opt out of receiving emails from the group at any time – just let them know. RoR guarantee not to share contact details with anyone and to use your details only in connection with the Reclaim our Riverbank campaign.
The purpose of this update is to tell you about an initiative by Kingston Council to improve their enforcement powers and to let you know the current position on unauthorised mooring.
Control of Mooring in Kingston
Whilst the riverbank upstream from Teddington Lock has remained largely clear this summer, there have been problems with mooring in the town centre, including the ‘slum boats’. The powers of the Council to manage mooring are limited and they have been considering a number of alternatives to improve the situation. They have now indicated that they are proposing to change the way in which they operate the legal processes in order to be more effective. The proposal is to include provisions that if a vessel unlawfully moors on Council land and has been served a valid notice, if it then returns to any council land within six months of the date of issue and the notice period has expired the vessel can be removed without further warning or notice. This is explained in more detail on the Council website and the Council are keen to obtain feedback on the proposal.
This can be found at http://www.kingstonconversations.co.uk/river-enforcement. Please do have a look at the proposals and let the Council know your views by completing the short questionnaire. You do not have to be a Kingston resident to comment. Please circulate the link to your wider network and urge them to complete the questionnaire. It is very important that the Council is aware of the strength of feeling on this issue among river users and friends of the river.
Our view is that this proposal should be supported as it will improve on the current situation and strengthen the Council’s position,
We remain concerned, however, that enforcement authorities and our elected representatives generally have been slow to act on the now widespread problem of unauthorised mooring and to introduce legislation or regulation to deal with it.
The four ‘slum boats’ have continued to blight our riverside over the summer in Kingston town centre and at Molesey and the owner has succeeded in evading the efforts of the enforcement agencies to curtail his accommodation rental business despite known fire risks. Inadequate regulation and a reluctance to pursue powers available have contributed to this and we look forward to a more robust approach in coming months.
The local River Users Group have, with the assistance of Sir Ed Davey MP, submitted a paper to the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency proposing that they should use their powers to revoke the registrations of the slum boats on the basis that their registration is incorrect. In a subsequent meeting EA representatives expressed an unwillingness to do this and for the moment the issue has reached an impasse but will be pursued.
Generally, the levels of unauthorised mooring have been low on the Teddington reach of the river and we have continued to experience a positive relationship with officers from both Richmond and Kingston Council with good levels of information exchange. The Richmond bye law has proved to be effective in discouraging mooring apart from a few issues at Broom Road recreation ground.
We were concerned to see the establishment of a small community of unauthorised moorers on the EA moorings at Teddington Lock. We have asked the EA to explain how mooring is managed and are continuing to pursue this.
Retrieval of ‘slum boats’
Shortly after the three ‘slum boats’ at Teddington Lock were removed by the Environment Agency in February the owner reclaimed them and they returned to moor on the river.
We asked the EA for an explanation of the general process in situations where vessels are retrieved after the execution of a possession order. We were keen to know if the ‘public purse’ reimbursed the costs of the possession operation, whether boats are required to have registration and safety certificates before being released and if there are any provisions in the recent possession orders which would preclude the vessels from returning to their previous moorings.
In summary these are the answers we received.
The owner was ordered to pay court costs. In relation to the costs of the High Court Enforcement Officers, on this occasion the type of writ applied for did not permit the EA to reclaim their costs from the owner.
There is no requirement for boats to be registered before release.
The Writ of Possession in relation to Environment Agency land at Teddington Lock precludes return within 12 months and enables possession action without the need to return to Court in this event. In relation to other Possession Orders (for example at Molesey Lock) the orders expire after 3 months.
Since their retrieval, the boats have moved position a number of times in response to threatened legal action by various local authorities but remain moored on the Thames. Two boats are moored upstream of Kingston Bridge on land managed by Historic Royal Palaces who are requiring the owner to remove his boats. Sadly, it appears that under current powers most authorities will only be able to use civil possession proceedings to move the boats on with the prospect that they will return, requiring endless repeated efforts.
Another interested group in Kingston have submitted a paper to the EA proposing that they should use their powers (the Inland Waterways Order 2010) to revoke the registrations of the slum boats on the basis that their registration is materially incorrect (they are 'houseboats' not 'launches') and move the vessels off the waterway. This paper was forwarded to the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency by James Berry MP but a response is not expected until after the General Election.
Kingston Council activity
We have continued to have a mutually beneficial relationship with enforcement officers from Kingston Council. With your help we have kept them informed about unauthorised mooring and they have been quick to respond with the service of notices. Frustratingly for everyone, a small number of boats continue to return and play ‘cat and mouse’ with the Council. Kingston are progressing a new legal approach which if successful should reduce this activity.
We have also passed on concerns about the absence of signage on the riverbank between the boundary with Richmond and Canbury Park Road. The Council have commented that it has been their experience that signs are neither an effective deterrent or cost effective. The signs when erected are removed. The boats that moor at this site are aware that there is no mooring. They also say that the towpath is now regularly patrolled and that this combined with RoR supporters providing information has been an effective deterrent.
In Kingston Town Centre the Council removed a boat last week as a further demonstration that unauthorised mooring will not be tolerated. Proposals to introduce charges for mooring in the Town Centre and possibly to prohibit mooring on Queens Promenade are also being considered.
Regular liaison meetings, organised by the Council, of organisations with an interest in controlling mooring in the borough are being held to coordinate activity and share information.
Retaining our Riverbank
We have retained a riverbank almost completely clear of unauthorised mooring between the Lock and Kingston Town Centre. This has enabled many people to enjoy walking, running, cycling and having picnics at this special facility over the spring months. Please carry on providing information to us about departures, arrivals and other incidents. Provide as much detail as possible – date, time, name of the boat, descriptions and maybe a photo – but do not place yourself in personal danger. We have excellent working relationships with the Council officers and they are very grateful for the information you provide.
Do continue to ask friends and neighbours to join our contacts list by e mailing firstname.lastname@example.org The existence of a strong body of support from local people has been vital in backing our representations. You can opt out of receiving e mails from the group at any time – just let us know. We guarantee not to share contact details with anyone and to use your details only in connection with the Reclaim our Riverbank campaign.
28 February 2017
Environment Agency moorings – Teddington Lock
We are pleased to tell you that today the Environment Agency removed the three large ‘slum boats’ and four smaller boats from land adjacent to Teddington Lock. The EA were supported by High Court Sherriffs, Richmond and Kingston Councils, the Port of London Authority and the police. As you will know, nearly four months after the court decision in November 2016 to award a possession order, the requirement to leave had not been complied with by the owner and the boats at the Lock remained and continued to trade.
The EA took further legal action and today High Court Sheriffs enforced the possession order. The occupants were evicted and the boats towed away. The boats have been taken to moorings elsewhere and will be destroyed unless the owner pays a considerable sum of money to reclaim them. We are grateful to the officers of the EA who have been persistent and determined in pursuing this difficult case against a boat owner who has blighted our special stretch of river for some eight years. Many supporters of Reclaim our Riverbank have already expressed their pleasure and appreciation.
This owner continues to moor a similar ‘slum boat’ at Hampton Court Bridge to land belonging to Surrey County Council.
Richmond mooring byelaw
The appeal to the High Court by a boat owner against a fine imposed under the byelaw was heard on 19 January. The formal judgement was issued by the Court on 27 January in which it dismissed the appeal. The Richmond Council press release, which can be found via the link below, gives further information on the case and the award of costs against the appellant.
January 2017 - Update 2
Richmond mooring byelaw
The long awaited appeal to the High Court by a boat owner against a fine imposed under the byelaw was heard on 19 January. The formal judgement was issued by the Court on 27 January in which it dismissed the appeal. The full judgement can be viewed at http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2017/84.html&query=(akerman) This is very good news and strengthens the byelaw for future application. We are grateful to the officers of Richmond Council for all their work in repelling this challenge.
Environment Agency moorings – Teddington Lock
As you will know, nearly three months after the court decision the requirement to leave has not been complied with and the boats at the Lock remain in breach of the 8 November 2016 possession order and continue to trade. We have recently received an update on the position from the Environment Agency. The further legal enforcement action to secure compliance started before Christmas is being pursued but is unfortunately taking time to be processed. In connection with their management of the process EA officers supported by the Police visited the vessels on 24 January. They restate their full commitment to pursuing this matter to a conclusion but are unable to provide us with more detail as they do not wish to prejudice the ongoing enforcement action. We will continue to keep in touch with the Environment Agency and hope that the legal proceedings soon secure the removal of these boats which have blighted our area for more than eight years.
The purpose of this update is to tell you about developments over the past couple of months in respect of the control of unauthorised mooring in our area. Generally the riverbank has remained clear of unauthorised mooring (with the exception of the Teddington Lock area) and it has been very rewarding to see local people enjoying the winter sunshine along the river.
Environment Agency moorings
As you will recall, the three large boats used as a commercial boarding house moved onto the EA moorings at Teddington Lock in August last year and the EA were once again forced to take legal action. On 8 November 2016 the EA were granted two possession orders. One in respect of the boats at Teddington Lock and one in respect of a residential ‘slum boat’ owned by the same person at Molesey Lock. The possession orders had immediate effect and the boat owner was instructed to remove all his boats.
Disappointingly, more than two months later this instruction has not been complied with and the boats at the Lock remain in breach of the November 2016 possession order and continue to trade. Before Christmas the EA told us that they were pursuing further legal enforcement action to secure compliance. We have asked the EA for an update on the matter but this is yet to be received. The Molesey ‘slum boat’ is currently moored to private land at Hampton Court Bridge having been the subject of further swift possession action by Elmbridge Council to remove it from Council owned land. The owner of these boats is continuing to evade the efforts of the EA to end his blight on our community and we will continue to press for effective action to be taken including alternative forms of legal action.
One interesting development is that one of the accommodation barges at the Lock has been advertised for sale. Follow this link for more information: http://london.apolloduck.co.uk/image.phtml?id=498631&image=1
Richmond mooring byelaw
As mentioned in previous updates, a boat owner was fined under the byelaw in February last year. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. The case was heard on 19 January. The judges will produce a written judgement at a later date. Richmond Council tells us that they hope this will be during the current legal term which ends on 12 April. Whilst the legal process is inevitably slow, at least this moves us closer to a hopefully strengthened bye law before the summer months. The existence of the byelaw continues to be effective in deterring any further long term mooring.
The Kingston riverbank has also remained largely clear with only a small number of ‘serial offenders’ returning and requiring enforcement action. We have had an encouraging meeting with enforcement officers from Kingston. A new member of staff has joined the enforcement team to deal with mooring issues and Kingston explained to us their plans to improve management of unauthorised mooring along the whole Kingston riverbank in coming months.
The purpose of this update is to tell you about some progress in dealing with the squalid cluster of boats which moved in August to the EA moorings just above Teddington Lock. There is also positive news that at last a date has been set for the appeal against the Richmond mooring by-law.
Environment Agency moorings
As we advised in August, the three large boats used as a commercial boarding house moved only a few hundred metres onto the EA moorings. The EA were once again forced to take legal action against this trespass. The case came to court on 8 November and the EA were granted two possession orders. One in respect of the boats at Teddington Lock and one in respect of a residential ‘slum boat’ owned by the same person at Molesey Lock The owner of the boats was refused permission by the judge to appeal against the decision and required to pay £710 in costs. The possession orders had immediate effect. The EA tell us that they have instructed the boat owner to remove all his boats. Further arrangements are being put in place by the EA for enforcement if the defendant fails to remove his vessels.
We have had a considerable amount of contact with the EA since the judgement and they are clearly committed to pursuing this matter to a conclusion. They have explained that they are unable to provide us with more detail as they would not wish to prejudice ongoing enforcement action.We have also pursued with the EA the fact that these boats are not registered and the action being taken. Additionally we have asked if other legal remedies which they might take are being considered. This is good progress in this long-running saga. We have restated the level of concern and frustration about this continuing blight on our community not least because of the continuing anti social activities by the ‘tenants’ including the blatant use of the adjacent copse as a toilet. We will monitor the situation and make sure you are kept advised.
BBC London lunchtime news on 21 November featured another item on the slum boats which can be accessed through this link - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0833fnj/london-news-lunchtime-news-21112016
As a number of you have reported there have been some new arrivals on the EA moorings in recent weeks a number of which have been ‘chased off’ the riverbank elsewhere. Based on the attention being given to this stretch of river we assume that the EA are aware and will be taking appropriate action.
As mentioned in previous updates, a boat owner was fined under the by-law in February this year. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. At last a date for the appeal to be heard has been set for 19 January 2017. Richmond will not bring any new cases pending the appeal but are collecting evidence of infringements for possible future use. However, the existence of the by-law continues to be effective in deterring any further long-term mooring.
There have been a few occurrences of unauthorised mooring around the Hawker Centre but with the help of early ‘tip offs’ by local residents Kingston Council have been able to act swiftly and cause them to depart. Frustratingly for all these are the same three or four boats playing ‘cat and mouse’ with the Council and we are hoping that the Council can find more permanent legal deterrents to avoid this waste of resources.
Retaining our Riverbank
It is important that we are vigilant to retain our riverbank now that it is substantially clear. It has taken persistence and hard work by all concerned to achieve this position and it is vital that the local community continues to monitor and report new mooring. We have very good working relationships with the Council officers and they are grateful for the information you provide. This information equips the authorities to take prompt enforcement action and enables us to make sure that, if they again fail in their responsibility to protect this special stretch of river, we can once exert pressure for action. Please carry on providing information to us about departures, arrivals and other incidents. Provide as much detail as possible – date, time, name of the boat, descriptions and maybe a photo – but do not place yourself in personal danger.
The purpose of this update is to tell you about the current position following the movement at the end of August of the squalid cluster of boats from the borough boundary to other locations in the area.
The positive news is that the riverbank has remained largely free of unauthorised mooring and it is clear that many people have been enjoying the autumnal sunshine along the river. The very disappointing news is that the three ‘hotel boats’ which have blighted our riverbank for many years look like having a further extended stay on the Environment Agency moorings close to the Lock.
Environment Agency moorings
As we advised in August, the three large boats used as a commercial boarding house moved only a few hundred metres onto the EA moorings. Sadly, the optimistic predictions of the EA that the boats would soon be moving on have not come to fruition. Once again it would appear that the owner has out-thought the authorities and secured a further extended period of free mooring whilst his business continues uninterrupted and his residents abuse our community space by, for example, using the local woodland as a toilet.
EA legal notices to vacate the moorings have been unsurprisingly ignored and we now have the prospect of the EA having to again pursue protracted and costly possession proceedings against this serial trespasser. No timescales are available but the last set of proceedings took some sixteen months. Based on communications we have received the local community are very concerned that the EA were not able to protect their own moorings through the possession order and that the boats and their occupants not left our community.
The EA have confirmed to us that ‘this is one of our highest enforcement priorities’ .We will continue to pursue various matters with the EA in relation to mooring issues and will have the assistance of our Members of Parliament who are as keen as we are to see a final resolution of this long running saga.
Richmond bye law
As mentioned in previous updates, a boat owner was fined under the bye law. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. It is still the case that no date has been set for the appeal by the Court and it may still be many months away. In the meantime Richmond will not bring any new cases but are collecting evidence of infringements for possible future use. However, the existence of the bye law appears to be effective in deterring any further long term mooring.
We have asked Richmond Council to confirm that the shared staffing arrangements with Wandsworth Council would not affect service levels along the river. Councillor Pamela Fleming, the Councillor responsible, has told us that improving parks, open spaces and the riverside remain a priority.
The three small boats from the ‘squalid cluster’ have moored by Canbury Gardens. Kingston Council are continuing enforcement action in respect of these boats. There have been a few occurrences of unauthorised mooring around the Hawker Centre but with the help of early ‘tip offs’ by local residents Kingston Council have been able to act swiftly and cause them to depart.
This update is to let you know that the cluster of boats on the borough boundary has moved under the possession order obtained by the Environment Agency last month. After some eight years the riverbank is at last clear of unauthorised mooring and free for our community to enjoy!
Environment Agency possession action
The much delayed cases came to court on 21 July. The owner of the boats agreed to the terms of an order which required him to remove his vessels by the end of August. Over the past couple of weeks the boats have vacated and a longstanding blight on the Teddington stretch of the river has gone. Of the six boats in the cluster, the three small boats moved into Kingston at Canbury Gardens whilst the large boats used as a boarding house relocated to the Environment Agency moorings at Teddington Lock.
Kingston Council has been typically quick to initiate action against the Canbury Gardens boats. We are assured by the EA that the three large boats will soon be on the move and away from the Teddington stretch of river. Some rubbish has inevitably been left behind and we have asked the Council and Environment Agency to take appropriate action.
Thanks are due to the staff of the Environment Agency for succeeding with this very difficult case.
We understand that the boat at Hurst Park which is owned by the same person is yet to move and presenting continuing anti social behaviour problems. It is the subject of the same possession order and we therefore hope it will soon depart.
Richmond bye law
As mentioned in previous updates, a boat owner was fined under the bye law. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. No date has been set for the appeal and it may still be many months away. In the meantime Richmond will not bring any new cases but are collecting evidence of infringements for possible future use. However, the existence of the bye law appears to be effective in deterring any further long term mooring. Signs have now been erected along the river advising of the mooring restrictions.
Retaining our Riverbank
It is important that we are now vigilant to retain our riverbank. Less than two years ago there were some 60 boats moored long term between the Lock and half mile tree forming the worst kind of shanty town with all manner of anti social behaviour. Today there are none. It has taken persistence and hard work by all concerned to achieve this position and it is vital that the local community continues to monitor and report new mooring. This will equip the authorities to take prompt enforcement action and enable us to make sure that, if they again fail in their responsibility to protect this special stretch of river, we can once again exert pressure for action.
Recently there have been a small number of reoccurrences of unauthorised mooring both upstream and downstream of Teddington Lock. Kingston and Richmond Councils have been responsive to reports of new mooring and quick to take appropriate enforcement action. In most cases initial reports of mooring come from supporters of our campaign and this is providing considerable assistance to the authorities. Thank you for your continuing support.
This update is mainly to let you know that the Environment Agency were successful in their court action to secure the removal of the squalid collection of boats on the Kingston/Richmond boundary and the ‘hotel’ boat moored at Hurst Park.
Environment Agency possession action
The much delayed cases came to court on 21 July. The owner of the boats agreed to the terms of an order which will require him to remove his vessels by the end of August. The order is legally binding and will be enforced through the courts if the agreement is breached. We understand that the small boats moored at Teddington will be removed first followed by the much larger vessels at Teddington and Hurst Park. This is positive news and we can be cautiously optimistic that the very longstanding blight on the Teddington stretch of the river may be coming to an end. The enforcement agencies will be actively monitoring the situation to ensure compliance. The EA have indicated that they will be working closely with the local authorities to deal with any recurrences or relocations to other parts of the river. We will also be taking a keen interest in progress and will keep you up to date on developments.
Richmond bye law appeal
As mentioned in previous updates in February, a boat owner was fined under the bye law. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. So far as we are aware no date has been set for the appeal and it may still be many months away. In the meantime Richmond will not bring any new cases but are collecting evidence of infringements for possible future use.
Richmond bye law signage
We have again passed on to Richmond Council queries raised about the absence of any signs along their stretch of the riverbank advising of the mooring restrictions. The Council tell us that it is planned to erect signs but we still do not have a timescale for this. We will pursue this issue and keep you updated on progress.
Reports of new mooring
There have been a small number of recent occurrences of unauthorised mooring both upstream and downstream of Teddington Lock. Kingston and Richmond Councils have been responsive to reports of new mooring and quick to take appropriate enforcement action. In most cases initial reports of mooring come from supporters of our campaign and this is providing considerable assistance to the authorities.
Please carry on providing information about departures, arrivals and other incidents. Whilst the problem has now been removed in some areas we need to be vigilant to prevent it recurring. This information is valued by the enforcement agencies and enables them to make the best use of their limited resources. Provide as much detail as possible – date, time, name of the boat, descriptions and maybe a photo – but do not place yourself in personal danger.
This update is mainly to let you know about the positive meeting we have had with Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, to discuss the action being taken to deal with unauthorised mooring.
Meeting with Chief Executive of the Environment Agency
Some time ago we told you that our local MPs had secured a meeting at our request with Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency. This meeting took place on 22 June and included a visit to the riverside to see the current mooring. Local MPs Tania Mathias (Twickenham), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park and North Kingston), James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) attended together with Councillors from Richmond and Kingston. The meeting provided a good opportunity for open discussion of our views that the EA could and should have used powers available to it at an earlier stage to deal with the mooring. Whilst we received some answers, we are still seeking a written response to some specific points in our paper, written and submitted to the EA some six months ago, on this matter.
More positively, Sir James Bevan committed the EA to working to resolve the problem of the local unauthorised mooring, especially the removal of the squalid cluster of ‘hotel’ boats on the borough boundary, and to persevere until the job is completed. He also confirmed that the EA will work in partnership with other agencies to make use of all the powers available. Sir James has invited us to contact him directly if we have concerns about the work of the EA. We expressed concern about the safety issues associated with the ‘hotel’ boats which continue to trade despite serious warnings from the London Fire Brigade about real fire risks to occupants. Bizarrely the fire brigade has no powers to act on boats. There have been discussions between the Fire Brigade and the EA about the matter but these have so far been inconclusive. The EA have agreed to provide information to the MPs to try and expedite a decision in the hope that action can then be taken to remove this risk.
The court case in respect of this collection of boats is due to be heard on 21 July and the EA are optimistic that a possession order will be granted to them requiring these boats to leave. This hearing will also consider the ‘hotel boat’ owned by the same person which is moored at Hurst Park. However, the boat owner would have a right to appeal to the High Court which unfortunately will take many months to be heard and further delay the resolution of this long standing blight on our stretch of the river. Finally, we made suggestions about how the powers available to enforcement agencies might be improved and updated. We have been invited to submit our ideas to the EA and have the support of our MPs in this initiative.
We are grateful to the MPs for obtaining this opportunity and to Sir James Bevan for agreeing to the meeting and engaging fully with our issues.
Richmond bye law appeal
In February a boat owner was fined under the bye law. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. At the moment, although the legal processes have now started, no date has been set for the appeal and it may still be many months away. In the meantime Richmond will not bring any new cases but are collecting evidence of infringements for possible future use. The boat owner concerned has, however, vacated the riverbank as a result of the EA possession proceedings.
We have passed on to Richmond Council queries raised by a number of people about the absence of any signs along their stretch of the riverbank advising of the mooring restrictions. The Council tell us that it is planned to erect signs but we do not have a timescale for this. We will keep you updated on progress.
There have been continuing occurrences of unauthorised mooring in Kingston upstream from the borough boundary and in the town centre. The Council have been responsive to reports of new mooring and quick to take appropriate enforcement action.
May 2016 update
Environment Agency possession action
Earlier in the year the Environment Agency obtained possession orders against a number of boats with various dates set by which boats were required to vacate the scaffold poles to which they were attached. The deadline was 22 May and this week the final boat subject to the possession orders departed leaving the riverbank as clear as it has been for many years from the Lower Ham Road to the Lock. Among the boats to have moved on are those occupied by the perpetrators of the worst forms of threatening anti social behaviour. The EA have responded quickly to remove vacated scaffold poles with the assistance of Richmond council.
It is very pleasing to see the riverbank once again available for the community to use without the unauthorised boats and threatening atmosphere which has existed for far too long. It is already noticeable that more people are using the towpath and enjoying the view.
Sadly, the cluster of squalid boats on the boundary remains and continues to trade as a boarding house. The possession case in respect of this collection of boats is due to be heard on 21 July and we remain hopeful that an end can at last be bought to this blight on our stretch of river. This hearing will also consider the ‘hotel boat’ owned by the same person which is moored at Hurst Park.
Meeting with Chief Executive of the Environment Agency
Some time ago we told you that our local MPs had secured a meeting for us with Sir James Bevan, CEO of the Environment Agency, to discuss our view that the EA could have done more over a long period to prevent the problems which we have experienced on our stretch of the river. It has taken a long time to arrange the meeting but this will now happen on 22 June at a local location.
Local MPs Tania Mathias (Twickenham), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park and North Kingston), James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) and Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) will all be attending together with Councillors from Richmond and Kingston. We are grateful to the MPs for obtaining this opportunity and to Sir James Bevan for agreeing to the meeting. We will of course report back to you.
Richmond bye law appeal
In February a boat owner was fined under the bye law. He appealed against the judgement to the High Court. At the moment no date has been set for the appeal and it may be many months. In the meantime Richmond will not bring any new cases but are collecting evidence of infringements for possible future use. The boat owner concerned has, however, vacated the riverbank as a result of the EA possession proceedings.
April 2016 (Update 2)
Environment Agency possession action
In the last update we provided information on the possession orders obtained against a number of boats tied to scaffold poles or anchored to the river bed. The possession orders obtained meant that some 6 boats would be required to comply with the orders by the end of May 2016. The possession cases against three further boat owners would be heard on 21 July 2016.
In recent days, five boats have left and the EA have been very quick to respond and remove the scaffold poles to which they were attached. This included boats belonging to two owners who would have been the subject of the court hearing in July. Currently numbers have reduced to five boats plus the squalid cluster of ‘slum boats’ used as a commercial boarding house.
The EA say that they are continuing to monitor the remaining trespassing boats to ensure that possession orders are complied with within the specified time periods. We are grateful for the focussed attention they are paying to this stretch of river.
Prosecution for registration offences
The Environment Agency have told us that on 12 April they successfully prosecuted two boat owners moored upstream of Teddington Lock for registration offences. These are boats nearest to Teddington Lock and are responsible for much of the anti social behaviour on this stretch of the towpath.
One defendant was ordered to pay a total of some £1181 for failing to display a valid registration plate and the other a total of £612. For those wanting full details follow the link below to the Environment Agency press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/two-surrey-boaters-fined-for-avoiding-registration-fees-on-river-thames. The two defendants have also been subject to court action for breaches of the Richmond mooring bye law which is currently the subject of an appeal to the High Court.
The anti social behaviour of some moorers continues unabated much to the concern of our local community. This includes fires on the towpath, drunken/drugged aggressive behaviour and using the riverside copse as a toilet. The police confirm that they are keen for all incidents to be reported so that they can collate the information and ensure the right level of priority is allocated to the area. It is therefore in our interests to make sure all incidents are reported.
Use 999 for acts of vandalism or 101 for other forms of anti social behaviour – please quote Marine Watch when reporting incidents.
Richmond Council activity
The Council have confirmed that they are collecting evidence in relation to bye law breaches and damage to the riverside open space which can then be used in court. Once the boats have gone the Council will clean and reinstate the damaged areas including the area where fires are currently being lit.
Boats in Kingston
There has been a recent small increase in the number of boats moored in Kingston. This currently constitutes some five boats. Kingston Council have confirmed their commitment to deal with unauthorised mooring and have recently been active with enforcement action both in central Kingston and along the towpath above the Lock.
Richmond bye law enforcement
There are still a few boats moored to the riverbank above Teddington Lock in breach of the bye law, including at least one new arrival. The Council tell us that to date there have been no further mooring offences elsewhere in the borough.
In a bye law case relating to a boat at Teddington Lock in February a judge in the Magistrates Court said that the bye law was sound and that the person prosecuted was guilty of four offences. The court imposed a sentence which resulted in a fine and costs of £720. The person found guilty has appealed to the High Court against the judgement and it could be up to nine months before the case is heard. This means that no further bye law cases will be heard until the appeal is determined. In the meantime Richmond Council tell us that they will continue to collect evidence of breaches with a view to bringing cases to court at some point in the future. This delay is very disappointing as the persons involved occupy the boats nearest to Teddington Lock and generate some of the worst anti social behaviour along the towpath. However, if the Council wins the case in the High Court it will strengthen their position in the future of the bye law.
Environment Agency court action
In the February update we reported that the EA had obtained a number of possession orders against boats tied to scaffold poles above Teddington Lock and that the court had agreed that three other boat owners could argue their case to remain at a later date. We have been advised that the date for this hearing will be 21 July. This represents another significant and disappointing delay, especially as one of the owners runs the squalid collection of boats both above Teddington Lock and at Hurst Park which are run as a commercial boarding house (see below).
The EA expect all the other boats to comply with the possession orders by the end of May. However, it is far from clear what ‘compliance’ will mean and we have been unable to obtain clarification on what is described as a very complex legal matter. It remains possible that the boats concerned will merely detach from scaffold poles and moor again to the river bank, especially given the hiatus in respect of the bye law.
We can only wait and watch and hope that the authorities respond more effectively than has been the case in the past.
Meeting with Environment Agency Chief Executive
As reported last year, our local MPs worked hard to obtain agreement from the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency to meet with the MPs, Councillors and RoR to account for the failure of his organisation to act more quickly to deal with mooring issues. Sadly, despite chasing by ourselves and local ward councillors this appears to have fallen off the agenda of our MPs and we are still awaiting the meeting and answers to our questions.
BBC London News feature
Some of you may have seen the BBC London News item on 23 March which featured ‘under cover’ reporting on the boarding house boat at Hurst Park known as the ‘slum boat’. Follow the link to see the item http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-35871064 Interestingly, this boat is owned by the same person who runs the boarding house boats at Teddington that the London Fire Brigade branded a fire risk some two years ago. We have been informed that neither the Fire Service nor the EA have powers to take action.
Anti social behaviour
The delays in the court action mean that local residents, towpath and river users will continue to experience the unacceptable behaviour of the moorers for at least another summer. This includes fires on the towpath, drunken/drugged aggressive behaviour and using the riverside copse as a toilet. Currently no agency appears to have either the powers or resources to tackle this. We are hoping that the police can suggest a more effective way of reporting and we are waiting to hear.
This update is mainly to let you know the outcome of legal action by the Environment Agency against boats illegally moored above Teddington Lock and at Hurst Park.
Environment Agency action: At the moment some 15 boats remain moored without authorisation above Teddington Lock. This includes the squalid cluster of 5 boats operating as a boarding house on the borough boundary. A ‘hotel slum boat’ owned by the same operator has been moored at Hurst Park since early summer last year. The Environment Agency took legal action against the boats which are moored to scaffold poles or anchored to the river bed. After an adjournment in December the cases returned to court early this week.
The official release from the Environment agency says: ‘On Monday 22nd February, we attended a half day hearing at Kingston County Court to proceed with our River Thames Possession Proceedings, this relates to land belonging to The Environment Agency, upstream of Teddington Lock and upstream of Molesey Lock. Consent Orders were agreed with 6 named Defendants that the Agency is granted a Possession Order, these are suspended between one, two and three months. Those named Defendants therefore have this time in which to repair and prepare their vessels for navigation, and to move voluntarily, else the Order can be transferred up to the High Court and enforced by High Court Enforcement Officers. This then leaves three other named Defendants and for all other ‘persons unknown.’ We will return to County Court for a final full day hearing, which will be held after 1st June, when the first full day can be allocated to us by the court.’
Environment Agency staff will monitor compliance with the Court Orders. If successful this should ensure that at least a further six boats leave within 3 months. Regrettably, the three Defendants who believe they can defeat the EA action and are due to return to court after 1 June include the operator of the boarding house cluster and the boat at Hurst Park which means that the local communities will have to live with the effects of these for a bit longer. Whilst the delays within the court processes are very frustrating, this does now represent valuable progress and the Environment Agency are committed to seeing this through and confident that they can be successful when cases return to court.
We are still awaiting a date for a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, obtained through the intervention of our local MPs, to discuss the failure of the EA to take earlier action in relation to the mooring.
Richmond bye law enforcement: Richmond have continued to enforce the bye law and a further case will be heard in early March. Some of the boats which are the subject of EA action are also those that have infringed the bye law. The Council tell us that their intention is to continue collecting evidence on any boat they believe is in breach of the bye law and to proceed with court action where required.
Earlier in February
Richmond bye law enforcement
There are still a few boats moored to the riverbank above Teddington Lock in breach of the bye law but there have been no further mooring offences elsewhere in the borough. A case which has been outstanding with the courts for some time returned to court in January and the judgement was given on 1 February. The case considered various legal challenges to the validity of the bye law in connection with a prosecution for breaching the Council bye law. In summary, the judge said that the bye law was sound and that the person prosecuted was guilty of four offences. The court imposed a sentence which resulted in a fine and costs of £720. This was based on the defendant’s means and ability to pay. It is possible that there could be an appeal against the judgement but this will not be known for a few weeks.
A further case against another moorer will be heard on 15 February. The Council are continuing to collect evidence and bring cases to court.
Environment Agency action
The cases against boats moored to scaffold poles or anchored to the riverbed are due to be heard on 22 February. These are important cases which, if successful, could see the removal of the large boats above Teddington Lock and at Hurst Park. We will ensure that you are kept up to date on these cases. We are awaiting a date for a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, obtained through the intervention of our local MPs, to discuss the failure of the EA to take earlier action in relation to the mooring.
Unfortunately, a small number of boats have returned to moor in Kingston above Teddington Lock. We have reported these to the Council and appropriate action is being taken to secure their departure.
Other actions by Richmond Council
The Council have been active in removing items related to the mooring placed on the open space. Additionally, work is under way to remove self seeded trees and other vegetation immediately along the riverbank and in the adjacent copse areas. This is designed to improve the sight lines for the enforcement authorities and to remove the screening for the boat dwellers’ unpleasant activities. The final stages of the work will start on 15 February. There have been renewed problems with vehicles crossing the Burnell Avenue open space to service the boats with consequent damage to the open space. After resident consultation the Council will be installing posts to prevent vehicles going onto the open space.
17 November 2015 Update on Environment Agency action
In the recent update we reported that the EA court action against moorers above Teddington Lock and at Hurst Park, Molesey, had been adjourned due the late submission of defence papers by one of the boat owners. It was anticipated that the cases would be heard sometime in December. We have now been advised that regrettably the cases will not be heard until 22 February 2016. We are told that this is the first court date available for a half day hearing and sadly means another frustrating delay in action to deal with these boats. We will keep you advised of any developments.
There has been quite a lot of positive activity over the past few weeks with progress being made on a number of fronts and consequently this update is a bit longer than usual.
Environment Agency action
In the last update we were able to tell you that Howard Davidson, Director of Operations South East at the Environment Agency, had written to say that the EA would be taking action through the Courts against the boats moored to scaffold poles or anchored to the river bed. A court hearing was held on 5 November. The judge signed possession orders in relation to boats near to Hampton Court and the EA are pursuing these. Unfortunately one of the owners of the boats above Teddington Lock was late in providing his defence and consequently these cases were adjourned until December. Whilst this is disappointing, it is good news that action is at last being taken and we will closely monitor progress and keep you updated.
Richmond bye law enforcement
There are still a few boats moored to the riverbank above Teddington Lock in breach of the bye law. A case which has been outstanding with the Courts for some time returned to Court on 22 October. The Court made directions and set out the deadlines for the various procedural steps under the trial timetable with a trial on legal arguments challenging the validity of the bye law listed for 15 January 2016. In the meantime the Council continue to collect evidence of breaches to encourage boats to move on and for use in future prosecutions.
Joint Operation - 10 November
There was a joint operation on the riverside with officers from Richmond and Kingston Councils, the EA and the police taking part. Richmond Council officers gathered evidence for any breaches of the byelaw (4 boats) and removed fly tipped material from the riverside. The EA were also gathering evidence as well as removing structures from the river.
Removal of wrecks
As part of the joint operation spread over two days, Richmond Council and the EA worked jointly to remove sunken boats at various locations along the riverside including at Broom Road recreation ground and close to the Hawker Centre.
Anti social behaviour – response of the Police and Richmond Council
We have received further reports of anti social behaviour by moorers. Most recently these has been about the lighting of fires and congregations of people drinking and behaving in an intimidating manner. Moorers have also been calling at houses close to the river. This has made the towpath a ‘no-go area’ again for some residents whilst others are apprehensive about opening their front doors. We have raised this with the Police Safer Neighbourhoods Team for Ham and Richmond Council. Sadly issues of resources and lack of powers reduce the ability of both agencies to intervene on many of these issues.
Staff cuts have affected the ability of the police to respond but they have undertaken to ask officers to pay attention to the towpath when they are free and not tasked outside of Ham. They do not have the power to deal with fires on public land but they can deal with associated anti social behaviour. Patrols in local streets will be increased in response to callers at front doors The police suggest that ‘If people are getting callers at their door and they are concerned then ignore them at first, if they persist or are threatening then call 101 or the local SNT office on 0208 247 7074’.
The Council tell us that the 1986 bye laws for open spaces do not have specific provisions for dealing with fires However, where staff are available they will respond and the parks patrols will also pay more attention to the area at weekends..Fires should be reported to either the main Council number (020 8891 1411) or the out of hours service (020 8744 2442) and the contact centre should be told it is urgent.
At our meeting with local MPs, Dr Tania Mathias and Zac Goldsmith, and Richmond and Kingston Councillors (see below) we proposed that a Public Spaces Protection Order should be made for the towpath in Ham to help control unacceptable behaviour. Councillor Fleming of Richmond Council confirmed that the Council were investigating this possibility and we await the outcome. The chances of this happening are much increased if the Council can show a record of complaints. If you are affected by or see the anti social behaviour please tell Richmond Council on the numbers above or e mail email@example.com.
Unacceptable behaviour on the towpath is now regrettably common and even the Council bye law patrols were recently suspended due to threatening and abusive behaviour by moorers.
Meeting with MPs
On 2 November we had a very productive meeting with our local MPs and leading Councillors from Kingston and Richmond. All the elected representatives are very supportive of the aim of our campaign and will engage with the Environment Agency over coming weeks to encourage them bring an end to the reoccupation of the riverbank.
River Thames Alliance
We are grateful for the support of the RTA in our campaign. Senior members of the RTA recently met with Sir Peter Dilley, Chair of the EA, to raise concerns about delays in action through the courts and to make him aware of the environmental and social consequences of the mooring.
The RoR campaign group was formed just over a year ago. At that time some 60 boats occupied our riverbank up stream from Teddington Lock. Robust action by Kingston Council has cleared their stretch of riverbank of long term moorers. The introduction of the Richmond bye law in March caused a dramatic reduction in moorers which has unfortunately been negated by the secondary action of ‘pole mooring’ which the Environment Agency have as yet been unable to get to grips with. Meanwhile, the squalid cluster of boats anchored on the boundary continues as a thriving hotel business with all the associated environmental and anti social consequences and despite London Fire Brigade concerns about fire safety.
There has been considerable progress but there is still much to be done before our aim of a reclaimed riverbank for community enjoyment is achieved and we will continue to rely on your strong support.
Environment Agency action
Since our last update Richmond Council, other community groups and RoR have made representations to the Environment Agency asking them to take enforcement action through the courts to deal with the increasing number of boats moored to scaffold poles and anchored above Teddington Lock, some since March this year. In responses received within the past few days we have been pleased to see that the EA now intend to start court processes to remove the boats.
Howard Davidson, Director of Operations, South East has written to say that he agrees that the ‘eventual outcome that we all seek, that the boats either find authorised moorings or leave the Thames, is taking a long time to achieve’ but reassures us that this is not due to a lack of enforcement action on the part of the EA. Mr Davidson explains that the EA have to work within their regulatory/enforcement framework and that, unfortunately, the powers available to the EA and to other riverside landowners are not ideally suited to achieving results rapidly or to dealing with individuals determined to exploit the system. He points out that the EA cannot legally remove poles while boats are moored to them, and then secure the boat to the riverbank, as they would cause a mooring offence to the landowner. They also cannot tow boats away with residential occupants onboard. Mr Davidson goes on to say that ‘the EA served trespass warning notices to 11 boats on 17 September which advise owners they are trespassing and must vacate the land within 14 days. On 2 October 10 boats had failed to move so we have started enforcement following Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules. This will ultimately result in County Court action against the boat owner following timescales set by the legal process. Past experience shows that the owners move their boats before the matter comes to court.’
This is welcome news and means that the EA will be seeking to regain possession of their land (i.e. the riverbed) from the moorers. Experience suggests that this will not be a quick process and we will monitor progress and keep you advised. We are grateful to the Councillors and Officers of Richmond Council for their support.
RoR meeting with MPs
On 2 November we will be meeting with local Members of Parliament, Dr Tania Mathias and Zac Goldsmith, to discuss issues related to the problems of illegal mooring including the recent delays in action being taken and how the enforcement agencies can be given powers that are ‘fit for purpose’. Leading Councillors from Richmond and Kingston have also been invited to join the discussion. We will provide feedback on our meeting in the next update.
September 2015 Update
Recent weeks have seen positives and negatives in our campaign to achieve the removal of unauthorised mooring on our stretch of river above Teddington Lock.
Kingston riverbank reclaimed!
As a result of legal action by the Council against three long term moorers the riverbank in Kingston is now clear of unauthorised boats. Thanks and congratulations are due to Councillor David Cunningham and his officers who have been determined and courageous enough to back their ‘zero tolerance’ policy with action and the shrewd application of the powers available to them.
It is important that this stretch of riverbank remains clear. Kingston Council remains responsive to reports of new moorings and quickly pursues enforcement action in support of their policy. We have been able to assist the Council by reporting arrivals and departures and other activity.
Richmond riverbank full again!
The riverbank in Richmond is now full again and the areas cleared in March are once more occupied with all of the environmental and anti social consequences.
There are currently ten individual boats moored above the Lock plus the squalid collection of five boats on the borough boundary which continues to trade as a boarding house despite some concerns from the London Fire Brigade about their safety. Sadly the boats expelled from Kingston have migrated to Richmond and moored to scaffold poles to evade action by Richmond Council under the bye law, thus adding to the number that are the responsibility of the Environment Agency.
Richmond Council has only two boats tied to its land. The Council have one bye law prosecution outstanding and evidence of other breaches is still being collected for more prosecutions. The number of boats tied to scaffold poles has increased as moorers are doubtless encouraged by the inability to date of the Environment Agency to pursue court action against those which have been in this situation for some six months. Overheard conversation confirms that moorers regard themselves as safe from action if they moor to poles.
EA enforcement officers have responded to the migration from Kingston. They have visited the location twice in recent weeks and given us a very full report of their activities. A number of notices have again been issued for registration offences and mooring to scaffold poles under EA regulatory powers. Trespass warning notices in relation to pole moorers and those anchored to the river bed have also been served requiring vacation within 14 days. The EA tell us that failure to comply will result in legal action being taken – we still have no timescale other than ‘months’ for this action and in the meantime the numbers grow.
Whilst front line EA staff have been active on this stretch of the river, the absence of court action by the EA against the pole moorers is frustrating for our local community and is also a concern for Richmond Council. The benefits achieved through the hard fought for and long awaited bye law are being negated and we are aware that the Council are taking steps to encourage the EA to take action more quickly. Lord True, the Leader of Richmond Council, and our local MPs are also involved in this and have pledged their full support for our community and our campaign.
Members of Parliament
We have asked to meet jointly with Dr Tania Mathias MP and Zac Goldsmith MP to talk about a number of issues related to the mooring including the present apparent impasse on court action against pole moorers and ideas for changes to legislation and regulation. Arrangements are being made for the meeting and we will make sure that you get full feedback.
Removal of wrecks
This continues to be a problem. Richmond Council tell us they are willing to assume responsibility but are frustrated by the absence of consent from the EA. The EA advise that they are still considering the matter before deciding whether to delegate the authority.
August 2015 update
Richmond legal action
According to a Richmond Council press release ‘Andrew Haddon persistently ignored the Council and Police’s joint enforcement action to remove his barge. His barge had been moored at Ham Lands for four consecutive days in May - where vessels can remain for no longer than one hour. Haddon also moored his boat permanently at Broom Road Recreation Ground. He was prosecuted and fined at Putney Magistrates’ Court. Haddon was handed a £270 fine for his offences and the Council awarded £100 towards court costs.’This figure took account of Mr Haddon’s limited means to pay a fine and the fact that he still owed the courts nearly £2,000 from previous Environment Agency prosecutions for lack of registration of his vessels.
A second case against another moorer has been adjourned until 8 September due to a national boycott of legal aid cases by solicitors. Richmond tell us that further cases are being prepared but there are no court dates at the moment.
Environment Agency action against boats moored to scaffold poles
Some four or five boats remain tied to scaffold poles on the river immediately upstream of Teddington Lock. Enforcement action against these boats is the responsibility of the Environment Agency. Notices requiring moorers to remove the scaffold poles were served in March and on further occasions. As both Richmond and Kingston Council have now brought cases to court we asked the EA for an update on when they anticipate taking similar action. The EA have replied to say they are aware this has been a long running issue for the Councils and local residents and are pleased with the result of the recent multi-agency approach and subsequent court action. They intend to take Civil Procedure Action (possession of land against trespass) and their Legal Team has been asked to begin this action. Due to the cost of each individual claim, the EA wants to ensure it handles each case carefully to secure success and the desired enforcement outcome at court. They also want to ensure that boat owners do not just move a very small distance.
In subsequent discussion with EA officials we have established it may be some time before cases come to court but we will keep in touch with them to monitor progress.
We have been receiving reports of increased levels of anti social behaviour from the occupants of boats upstream of Teddington Lock. This includes alcohol and drug abuse, littering, bonfires, intimidating behaviour, using the hedgerow as a toilet and aggressive dogs. Through our Richmond councillors we have asked for the local police to pay more attention to this area. Your feedback on the situation would be welcome.
Kingston court cases
The trespass cases brought by Kingston against the remaining three long term moorers are still scheduled to be heard in the County Court on 20 August. We will let you know the outcome. New moorings along the Kingston towpath have been reported to the Council in order that they can take enforcement action.
Removal of sunken boats
Richmond Council has been working with the EA to arrange for the removal of sunken and derelict boats at Broom Road Recreation Ground and Hampton. The EA have issued the necessary notices but Richmond Council are still awaiting final clearance from the EA to remove the wrecks.
River Thames Alliance (RTA)
We are now members of the RTA Mooring Group which includes Council and EA officials. This will enable us to be better informed about enforcement action on the river and to take part in the development of strategies to combat unauthorised mooring.
Update, 3 July 2015
We have been advised by Richmond Council that they have issued summonses for legal proceedings for breaches of the bye law controlling mooring and the cases are due in court on 14 July. This is important progress as these are the first prosecutions under the bye law introduced on 13 March this year and will be an important test of the Council’s ability to control unauthorised mooring. We will be sure to let you know the outcome.
Richmond tell us that Council staff continue to patrol on a regular basis to gather evidence of further breaches of the bye law and more cases are likely to go to court later in the summer.
Kingston court cases
The cases brought by Kingston against long term moorers will be heard in the County Court on 20 August.
Boats moored to scaffold poles
Enforcement action against boats moored to scaffold poles adjacent to the Richmond stretch of towpath is the responsibility of the Environment Agency. Although that agency has committed to take legal action to enforce notices served since March, we have had no further information as to when cases are likely to come to court. One more boat has joined this group since our last update.
Members of Parliament
We have written to Dr Tania Mathias, Zac Goldsmith and James Berry, our MPs since the May election, to ask for confirmation of their support for our campaign and for their commitment to participate in any wider Parliamentary activity on this issue. Both Tania Mathias and Zac Goldsmith have responded to confirm their support and pledged to help in any way they can. We have yet to hear from James Berry.
Information provided so far about departures and arrivals has been very useful so please carry on. Provide as much detail as possible – date, time, descriptions and maybe a photo – but do not place yourself in personal danger. If you see acts of vandalism – signs being vandalised, damage to trees or the riverbank itself please call 999 as this is criminal damage.
Do continue to ask friends and neighbours to join our contacts list by e mailing firstname.lastname@example.org The existence of a strong body of support from local people has been vital in backing our representations.
Update, June 2015
This note is to bring you up to date with developments on our stretch of river above Teddington Lock and on the upper Thames generally. A visit to the towpath would show pretty much the same situation as some weeks ago with around fifteen boats still moored and defying the attempts of the enforcement agencies to remove them. However, both behind the scenes and on the riverbank there has been activity.
Statements of commitment
In our May update we expressed our disappointment that Richmond Council and the Environment Agency had not yet been able to progress court action against the remaining boats and asked for a prioritised allocation of resources to make this happen. This has produced strong statements of commitment to deal with the problems from senior management at both organisations and some demonstration of this in recent actions.
The Environment Agency isresponsible for dealing with the boats tied to scaffold poles. They have assured us that a very significant amount of EA staff time and effort is going into dealing with our area of concern and that they appreciate that this is a very important issue for us and that we want to see results as quickly as possible. However, they point out that the legal processes to be pursued through the County Court in respect of some boats are lengthy and time consuming and will therefore take some time to produce results. Similarly magistrates court prosecutions by the EA for registration offences can take up to six months.
Richmond Council is responsible for dealing with boats tied to the riverbank. They have provided assurance that their commitment is not just talk and is shared by Councillors, Senior Managers and all officers. They believe that the byelaw is the most effective tool in dealing with the problem and since the introduction the number of boats tied to Council land has dramatically reduced. We are told that five boats are now tied to Richmond Council land in the whole of the borough and evidence of breaches is being processed with a commitment to moving onto prosecution later in the summer.
It has been confirmed that the County Court cases for trespass against the long term moorers will be heard on 20 August. Any new arrivals in Kingston are being responded to quickly with enforcement action.
On 4 June, Richmond, Kingston, Elmbridge and Spelthorne Councils, the Environment Agency and officers from both the Metropolitan and Surrey Police organised a Multi Agency Enforcement Day dealing with boats unlawfully moored on the River Thames. During the Operation Kingston Council removed two boats that were unlawfully moored on Council land, a number of notices were served and unauthorised structures removed from the river bed. Richmond also took the opportunity to have a general tidy of the towpath area.
In a press statements Councillor David Cunningham of Kingston said “Yesterday’s action sends out a very clear message to people who illegally moor their boats along this stretch of the river - you are not welcome here. This action is just the beginning - our enforcement officers will continue to patrol the riverside and take quick, decisive action where appropriate”. Nick McKie-Smith, Waterways Enforcement Manager at the Environment Agency said: “This joint venture shows that we are serious in cracking down on unauthorised mooring and that, together, we are evicting those who don’t respect our waterways and the borough of Kingston.”
Members of Parliament
We have written to Dr Tania Mathias, Zac Goldsmith and James Berry, our MPs since the May election, to ask for confirmation of their support for our campaign and for their commitment to participate in any wider Parliamentary activity on this issue.
River Thames Alliance
Illegal mooring is a problem from Teddington along the whole of the upper Thames. The RTA organised a meeting of all Councils from Richmond to Runnymede and the other enforcement agencies to discuss how to improve performance on dealing with this. As a result the agencies are now networking and will hopefully be more effective in future.
Update, May 2015
Richmond Council and the Environment Agency
The main purpose of this update is to tell you about some very disappointing and concerning developments on the Richmond Council towpath above Teddington Lock. Over last weekend six boats returned to the riverbank and moored on the area so recently restored to legitimate community use. We had been warning the Council for many weeks that the absence of mooring restriction notices, hopelessly inadequate patrol frequency and frustrating delays in prosecutions by the Council and Environment Agency would result in the boating community moving back and it has happened!
In the two months since the introduction we have seen literally scores of blatant breaches of the bye law which have largely gone unnoticed by the Council or where evidence has been collected but is yet to be actioned. It is clear that the opportunity has been missed by the Council and the EA to finish reclaiming this stretch of river and send a clear message to the moorers. This is especially disappointing given the earlier undertakings from Councillors, Officers and the EA about rigorous enforcement and the residents who have been in touch with us feel let down and angry. Five years of effort and many thousands of pounds went into obtaining the bye law whilst all other action was put on hold. At the moment this appears to be at risk due to a failure to properly enforce it.
We made immediate representations to Richmond Council even as the boats were returning and met with the lead officer on Monday. Richmond Council has since told us that cases are now being progressed for court action and an operation with police support has taken place to obtain evidence of breaches of the bye law. The EA response to representations has been disappointing with sadly no indication that it will give any priority to pursuing enforcement action on the notices served more than two months ago. We will be considering how further pressure can be applied to encourage a change of policy.
Richmond Council and EA still talk of their commitment to dealing with this problem but we will only believe this when a prioritised allocation of resources is made to ensure the task is completed properly and promptly. We look to leading Councillors and senior management to make this happen.
Meanwhile Kingston Council started legal action in the County Court on 6 May against the boats currently moored in that borough. We have also had a useful meeting this week with the lead officer for Kingston to discuss river enforcement matters and established a good working relationship. It is clear that Kingston Council is firmly committed to dealing with unauthorised mooring and is allocating it some real priority in terms of staff time.
Both Councils have confirmed that they are keen to know about mooring and related activities and promise to take appropriate action. Do continue to let us know about anything you see by way of arrivals or departures and we will pass it on. Please provide as much information as possible – date, time, descriptions and maybe a photo – but do not place yourself in personal danger. If you see acts of vandalism – signs being vandalised, damage to trees or the riverbank itself please call 999 as this is criminal damage.
River Thames Alliance
The problem of unauthorised mooring afflicts the whole of the upper Thames from Teddington to Oxford and action in one area has repercussions for others. The River Thames Alliance (RTA) is working to establish a coordinated approach among all Councils and other enforcement agencies. A number of community groups are members of the RTA and RoR has also recently joined. We will keep you updated on developments.
Update, April 26, 2015
This is a brief update in response to a number of queries and concerns raised by supporters of the campaign at what appears to be a lack of activity by the Richmond and Kingston Councils and the Environment Agency in recent weeks. Those of you who have been down to the towpath above Teddington Lock will have seen that the situation remains largely unchanged from about three weeks ago with the hard core of boats still remaining.
We have had regular communication with the Councils and EA to keep in touch with what is happening. Kingston Council confirms that legal action is underway against the boats on their side of the boundary. Similarly Richmond Council also tells us that they are in the course of bringing prosecutions against offending boat owners.
There has also been concern that, despite daily patrols, there has been a failure to replace temporary notices in Richmond advising boat owners of the mooring restrictions under the new byelaw. The Council have told us that permanent notices are being produced and in the interim they will replace vandalised temporary notices quickly.
The EA have again confirmed that they are working to deal with any remaining boats which come within their jurisdiction. Each agency has pledged to work in cooperation - a vital requirement in finishing the job.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated. Should we sense any loss of focus we will seek your support in lobbying for renewed priority to be given. Our supporter numbers are continuing to rise but we always need more support so please continue to ask friends and neighbours to join our contacts list by e mailing email@example.com
10 April 2015
It was great to see so many people enjoying the newly reclaimed towpath over Easter. Whilst there has been a very significant reduction in boats due to the good work of the Councils and the Environment Agency a hard core still remain to be dealt with.
As mentioned before, some boats moored to scaffold poles sunk into the river bed to evade the Richmond bye law. Others dropped anchor and moved away from the bank. This put them outside the bye law but into the jurisdiction of the Environment Agency. In mid March the Environment Agency issued notices and took other appropriate action. Boats tied to scaffold poles were required to move within 7 days and the boat owners were also instructed to remove the scaffold poles as unauthorised structures in the river. As a result two boats departed.
On 1 April a further multi agency action day took place involving the police, EA and Richmond and Kingston Councils. Further notices were issued by the EA and some scaffold poles removed. Richmond Council also took the opportunity to clear up some of the debris left behind by the moorers.
However, around five individual boats remain in Richmond together with the squalid accumulation of vessels by the borough boundary stone. In Kingston two more boats have departed and there are now some three boats remaining which we are told are the subject of action by that Council.
The Environment Agency and the two Councils have undertaken to give the removal of the remaining boats their full attention but we have to continue to campaign to make sure that they finish the job and do not again allow the situation to get out of hand. This includes taking action where notices have been issued, effective enforcement with regular patrols and the replacement of mooring signs when they have been vandalised.
RoR has joined the River Thames Alliance, a body comprising riverside boroughs, the Environment Agency and many community/boating organisations which all have an interest in the river. This has already been useful in our dealings with the EA and is another means of applying pressure.
20 March 2015
As you may know there has been further activity by the enforcement agencies over the past week to tackle the mooring. Following the start of the bye law in Richmond last week a significant number of boats moved away. Some, however, tried to evade the bye law by mooring to scaffold poles sunk into the river bed and disconnecting from the riverbank. Others dropped anchors and move away from the bank. This put them outside of the bye law but into the jurisdiction of the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency was quick to respond and visited on Tuesday. They have issued notices and taken other appropriate action. Boats tied to scaffold poles are required to move within 7 days from where they are now moored in the public navigation. The boat owners have also been instructed to remove the scaffold poles as unauthorised structures in the river. We understand that there is no possibility of consent being given for such structures.
A small number of boats moved onto the Environment Agency moorings closer to the Lock but departed after EA intervention. The Environment Agency has undertaken to give this their full attention and to keep us advised of progress.
It remains the responsibility of Richmond and Kingston Councils to deal with any boats moored to the bank.
Richmond Council has told us that they have evidence to take ten cases to Court for bye law contravention and are following up on this. They will also continue to visit the towpath to gather evidence of further breaches. Notices have been installed on the river bank telling boaters of the restrictions on mooring under the bye law. The Ham stretch of river now has no boats actually moored to the riverbank and Richmond Council are also taking similar action in Hampton and Teddington. The position in Kingston is unchanged but legal enforcement action is being taken against all the remaining six or so boats.
We have developed close communication with the enforcement agencies and they have been very cooperative in telling us about the action they are taking. Inevitably some of the moorers will continue to try to evade the actions of the agencies. We are currently confident that all agencies are using the powers available to them but will continue to monitor the situation and press for greater activity if this appears necessary. We will continue to keep you updated and hope that we can continue to rely on your support.
March 6, 2015
This is a brief update to let you know about a multi agency action day which took place today upstream from Teddington Lock. This involved coordinated action by staff from Richmond and Kingston Councils and the police.
Richmond Council staff advised moorers that the bye law would come into force on 13 March and that those with boats moored would be liable to prosecution under the bye law. Notices were placed on boats which were unoccupied. Kingston Council staff also visited boats in Richmond to confirm that robust action would be taken against anyone relocating to Kingston. Kingston have also today confirmed to us that they will be pursuing action against those boats still moored in that borough. We will continue to keep in touch with the agencies involved and monitor progress.
February 2015 Updates
Kingston boats: We have been in regular contact with Councillor David Cunningham, the lead Councillor, and he has been very helpful in advising us of the Council’s intentions. The number of boats in Kingston has further reduced to a hardcore of five, mainly occupied, boats. Kingston Council officers were swift to act to move on a newcomer and some debris along the towpath has been removed at our request.Councillor Cunningham has reiterated that the Council remain committed to dealing with these boats. We have asked to be kept informed and indicated that we look forward to further determined action from the Council in the near future. We have also been assured that Kingston has plans to deal with any displacement from Richmond as a result of the bye law.
Kingston Council is very keen to hear directly from residents, towpath users and river users about the problems which they have experienced as a result of the mooring. This is to help ensure that Kingston keeps abreast of issues and is able to make sure that its powers and resources are kept up to date. Please write to David.Cunningham@councillors.kingston.gov.uk. Be specific about your concerns, for example, appearance, rubbish, anti social behaviour, environmental issues.
We want the towpath improvements to be permanent so it is important that you register your concerns with the Council.
Environment Agency: The EA has been universally criticised and the view prevails that it could be doing more. We have been involved in two events in the past ten days to find out what the EA have been doing and apply pressure for an improved performance. On 5 February we met with Dan Rogerson MP, the minister responsible for the EA. He visited the towpath and saw the moorings and squalid ugly appearance. We made him aware of our concerns about unregistered boats and the problems of sewage discharge into the river. He took our concerns seriously and will pursue them with the EA officials. We will keep everyone informed of his response.
On 12 February we had a meeting with senior EA management to discuss some of the criticisms and received a very full and honest briefing on current activities. The EA has very limited staff resources to cover some 140 miles of river and powers which are clearly inadequate for the current issues. We were satisfied that they are making reasonable efforts but will be keeping in touch to monitor progress. We will also be asking central government to consider updating and improving the powers available to the EA.
The EA ask that if you witness effluent discharges from the boats please note the details (boat/date/time) and if it is safe to do so take some pictures. RoR would be pleased to have evidence to raise with the EA. You can also get in touch with the EA National Contact Centre – 03708 506506, or for urgent incidents 0800 80 70 60.
Operation Riverside: On 4 February a multi agency operation to tackle the problem of mooring and unlicensed vessels took place. This involved Richmond and Kingston Councils and the Environment Agency with police back up. Eviction notices were served on a large number of boats for unauthorised mooring. The EA investigated boats for licensing and illegal sewage discharge offences.
From our meeting with the EA we found out that they will be pursuing the vast majority of boats for licensing offences and have other activities in hand. It is expected that nearly all the boats will pay their registration fees and those that do not will be prosecuted.
The bye law: The approval of the bye law is very positive news. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work by Richmond Council and committed people in the community who deserve our grateful thanks. However, the next stage of the process is vital to delivering the result we all want and have been campaigning for. We know that Richmond Council is fully committed to clearing the borough of illegal mooring and we will keep in touch with them and keep you updated.
What more can you do? Please do tell other residents (and river and towpath users) about our campaign and ask them to e mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register their support. There is still much to do and the more supporters we have the more
pressure we can exert. If you have any queries about the moorings and action being taken please do get in touch and we will try and help.
RICHMOND MOORING BYE LAW APPROVED!
I am delighted to inform you that we have just heard that the long awaited mooring byelaw was confirmed yesterday. The byelaw will come into force one month from the date of confirmation, meaning it will be enforceable from 1am on 13th March 2015. Details of the byelaw can be found at http://www.richmond.gov.uk/byelaws_and_local_legislation
Last week Council Officers joined a multi agency operation involving the Metropolitan Police, the Environment Agency and Kingston Council. The Police and the Environment Agency assisted the Council with attaching notices to vessels moored to land under the control of LBRuT. Notices were served on vessels attached to land between Teddington Lock and the Kingston boundary and on vessels attached to Broom Road Recreation Ground. The notices informed the owners of the vessels that the council had applied for a new byelaw which we hoped would become law in the near future. It outlined the penalties for unauthorised mooring to the Council’s land. Vessels moored to ‘red’ parts of the river (1 hour in a consecutive 24 hour period) and ‘green’ parts of the river (24 hours in any consecutive 48 hour period) were served with the relevant notice.
Officers are providing the information of the vessels that were served notice on to the Environment Agency and will request that they supply us with the contact details of any of these vessels that are registered with them. This will allow the Council to write to the registered owners of the vessel to give them a final warning to move on prior to formal enforcement action being taken.
Officers will also visit all of the boats again in the coming weeks to notify them that as of 12 March 2015 they will be committing a criminal offence by remaining attached to council owned or managed land.
This is great news and will give the Council new powers to tackle the mooring. We look forward to the riverbank being restored to its former glory and available for the enjoyment of residents, visitors and river users.
We will shortly send out a further update on other recent RoR activity but thought you would want to have the bye law news immediately.
January 2015 Update from RoR
Richmond byelaw – This will give Richmond Council new powers to control unauthorised mooring in the borough. At the final consultation stage, which ended towards the end of 2014, four objections were raised with central government (who have to approve the byelaw). The Council responded to the objections at the end of December. We have spoken today to the government department dealing with the byelaw. They have told us that so long as they do not have to raise any further issues with Richmond Council the byelaw could be confirmed by the end of January. We will keep you updated on progress.
Once the byelaw is confirmed there will be a period of thirty days before it is implemented. During that time Richmond Council staff will visit the boats to speak to occupiers and leave ‘notices’ warning that the owners of any boats moored after the byelaw is introduced will face prosecution.
Kingston boats – We have spoken this week to Councillor David Cunningham, the lead Councillor on the illegal mooring. He has confirmed that as promised Kingston are pursuing the remaining boats moored in that borough and will keep us updated on proposed action. The number of boats has again reduced.
Environment Agency - We have written to Dr Paul Leinster, the Chief Executive of the EA, raising the shared view among the local authorities, Members of Parliament, police and residents that the Environment Agency should be contributing more. This concern is in relation to the enforcement of regulations for boat safety certificates, the granting of annual registration plates and the control of waste discharges.
We have received a not wholly convincing response and will be meeting EA senior management soon to discuss this. If you witness effluent discharges from the boats please note the details (boat/date/time) and if it is safe to do so take some pictures. RoR would be pleased to have evidence to raise with the EA. You can also get in touch with the EA National Contact Centre – 03708 506506, or for urgent incidents 0800 80 70 60.
What more can you do? Please don’t forget tell other residents (and river and towpath users) about our campaign and ask them to e mail email@example.com to register their support. We are now a substantial community action group and the more supporters we have the more pressure we can exert. If you have any queries about the moorings and action being taken please do get in touch and we will try and help.
Reclaim our Riverbank (the text of a leaflet delivered local residents nearest the problem boats - you can see the full pdf version here)
Join the campaign to improve the amenity of beautiful Thames riverbank in Richmond & Kingston
In the 1950s, the Thames was declared biologically dead. Rejuvenation efforts since then mean it’s now cleaner than it has been in more than 100 years. But residents of Richmond and Kingston are unable to enjoy the full beauty of the river because of the long-standing and growing problem of illegally moored boats. The problem is particularly acute just upstream of Teddington Lock but extends both up and down river throughout the boroughs.
Not only are the boats illegally moored, they are unsightly and are associated with anti-social behaviour including
dumping rubbish, drug use, noise, drunken and aggressive behaviour, discharging human waste into the river and physical damage to the river bank and surroundings. However, authorities in both Richmond and Kingston have been slow to act for a variety of reasons including costs and concerns about the response from the boat community.
It seems the authorities will only act under pressure from the community so local residents have formed a single-issue group – Reclaim our Riverbank – with the aim of encouraging the respective councils, the Environment Agency and the police to take effective action and treat the matter as a high priority.
The group is not aligned to any political party.
How to make a difference
- Join Reclaim our Riverbank – in the first instance send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Let us know if you can volunteer any time to work with the group or volunteer any skills (e.g. web design, leaflet design, leaflet delivery, street representative)
- Write to your local MP and local councillors about the issue. Be specific about your concerns (e.g. rubbish, environmental degradation).
What does Reclaim our Riverbank do?
- Lobbies local and national politicians of all parties about our concerns
- Raises awareness of the issues around illegally moored boats and the damage they cause to the river and surrounds
- Campaigns for a riverbank that can be enjoyed by the law-abiding majority
- Helps co-ordinate local action and groups on the specific issue of illegally moored boats.
You can opt out of receiving e mails from the group at any time – just let us know. We guarantee not to share any of your personal details with anyone without your consent and to use your details only in connection with the Reclaim our Riverbank campaign.
Thank you for registering your support for ‘Reclaim our Riverbank’. From your e mails it is obvious that everyone is frustrated and angry at the despoiling of our riverbank. It is saddening that for many of you the towpath has become a ‘no go’ area. It is important, therefore, that we gather as much support as possible – so if you have friends or neighbours who share our concerns please ask them to e mail email@example.com and add their name. Numbers have been steadily climbing but we can never have enough support.
Richmond’s bye-law -Richmond Council has recently told us about progress on their bye-law. The consultation is now closed. One objection was received. There were many statements of support – thanks to all those who wrote in.
Once the objection is dealt with there will be a period of thirty days before the bye-law is implemented. During that time Richmond Council staff will visit the boats to speak to occupiers and leave ‘notices’ warning that the owners of any boats moored after the bye-law is introduced will face prosecution. Boats which are derelict will be removed immediately. Prosecutions will follow and where necessary boats will be taken away. Richmond Council staff will patrol the area every day to ensure the bye-law is enforced.
This is clearly progress but we all need to be vigilant to ensure that the long awaited bye-law is being rigorously enforced.
Boats in Kingston – Since the two unoccupied boats were recently removed numbers have reduced from a peak of 31 to about 14. This is also progress but we will be asking to meet Councillor David Cunningham, the lead Kingston Councillor on illegal mooring, to establish the intentions of the Council on the remaining boats.
Zac Goldsmith public meeting –meet Zac Goldsmith and the local Richmond Conservative Councillors to talk about local issues. This is a chance to press our local politicians on the illegal moorings and make your views known. The meeting is at 9.15am on Monday 10 November at the Hand and Flower on Ham Common.
Ham and Petersham Neighbourhood Forum AGM – if you live in Ham and Petersham please consider attending the AGM of the forum on Wednesday 20 November at Grey Court School at 7.30pm. This will be another chance to ask questions and to ask the organisations and individuals present to support our campaign.
Environment Agency – following representations from ‘Reclaim our Riverbank’ about the lack of action by the Environment Agency a visit by the responsible government minister is being arranged by Robin Meltzer, the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate. This will give the minister the chance to see and hear ‘first hand’ about the problems of unlicensed boats and discharges of human waste. Representatives of ‘Reclaim our Riverbank’ will be invited to take part.
Policing the towpath – we have been in contact with the police asking for more effective and coordinated policing. There is a way to go yet but they have told us that they want to hear about anti social and illegal activity along the towpath and have provided the following contact details for Kingston and Richmond. If you see something
happening please do get in touch with the police and let us know what sort of response you get. The police tell us that acts of vandalism and drunken or aggressive behaviour are 999 matters.
Tudor Ward Contact Details
Tudor SNT Contact Number - 02087212580
Tudor SNT email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Non - Emergency Number - 101
Police Emergency - 999
Link to Tudor SNT website - http://content.met.police.uk/Team/Kingston/Tudor
Ham & Peterham Ward Contact Details
SNT contact number - 02082477074
SNT email - email@example.com
Non - Emergency Number – 101
Police Emergency - 999
Link To Ham & Petersham SNT Website - http://content.met.police.uk/Team/Richmond/HamandPetersham
What more can you do?
If you live on Royal Park Gate, Locksmeade or in Beaufort Court (or know someone who does) please do get in touch as we would like to establish contacts.
If you belong to local community organisations please ask them to get in touch and support our campaign (a group similar to ‘Reclaim our Riverbank’ on the Teddington side of the river has managed to get 13,000 supporters!)
We need more people to help us. Anything from delivering leaflets, acting as a street representative or maybe you have a special skill – for example journalism, graphic design, a knowledge of the law or access to printing facilities!
If you can help please e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
You can opt out of receiving e mails from the group at any time – just let us know. We guarantee not to share contact details with anyone and to use your details only in connection with the Reclaim our Riverbank campaign.
17 October 2014
A steering group of interested residents has been working to establish our group which we have decided to call ‘Reclaim our Riverbank’.
Our aim is to use pressure from residents to convince Richmond and Kingston Councils, the Environment Agency and the police that dealing with the illegal mooring should be of the highest priority. An aim which we believe you agree with.
The more residents and local organisations we can attract to the campaign the more pressure we can exert and the greater our chance of success. Our contacts list is steadily increasing. If you have neighbours who are concerned about the illegal mooring please ask them to e mail us at email@example.com so we can increase our numbers and keep them in touch with what is happening. Please pass the word!
You can opt out of receiving e mails from the group at any time – just let us know. We guarantee not to share contact details with anyone and to use your details only in connection with the Reclaim our Riverbank campaign.
THE RICHMOND BYELAW
Richmond Council is to introduce a byelaw which will help them control illegal mooring. This has reached a vital stage and Central Government are asking residents for their views. The Council ask that as many people as possible write and support the byelaw.
The consultation period is until Friday 31 October 2014.
The address for comments is:
Department for Communities and Local Government, 2 NE, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 4DF or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WANT TO HELP?
We need more people to help us. Anything from delivering leaflets, acting as a street representative or maybe you have a special skill – for example journalism, graphic design, a knowledge of the law or access to printing facilities! We also need someone from Royal Park Gate on our Steering Group
Please e mail email@example.com if you would like to help.
Reclaim our Riverbank Steering Group