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No long-term unauthorised mooring on the Thames

January 2017
The "slumboat", an unauthorised vessel let out as lodgings, is currently moored on the concrete platform at the foot of Hampton Court Bridge, immediately downstream of the bridge and opposite the Tudor West Face of the Palace. This is Surrey property, being part of the bridge and highway.

16 December 2016 - This boat is currently moored on Cigarette Island Park, opposite Hampton Court and property of Elmbridge Council which is actively seeking to have it removed.

A landmark judgement at Kingston County Court in November 2016 confirmed that the navigation licence fee payable by boat owners relates only to the right to pass along the River Thames, including anchoring or mooring for a reasonable time to facilitate passage (normally 24 hours in passing). It gives no right to long term or permanent mooring - a decision that should strengthen the hand of the Environment Agency in tackling unauthorised residential boats.

The vessel in Molesey Lock Cut

Two cases of trespass were brought by the Environment Agency against Alastair Trotman, owner of the so-called "Slumboat", until recently moored by Molesey Lock, and three other boats illegally moored upstream of Teddington Lock. In both cases the court granted possession orders to the Environment Agency as owner of the sites in question. This means that Mr Trotman is obliged to move the vessels immediately.

In the case of "Slumboat", this is a barge with no engine and the judge ruled that, for reasons of safety, officers of the EA escort the defendant while it is removed, given the complexities of tides and currents. The logistics will be negotiated between the EA and Mr Trotman.

The original "Slumboat" summons related to trespass on land alongside houses in Hampton Court Crescent and the adjacent Octagon head office. Having been issued with the summons Mr Trotman pulled "Slumboat" downstream on 3 November and through the lock to a new position. Last weekend he manhandled his supply vessels through the lock also. In court the EA pointed out that this was a move of only some 100 metres and the judge allowed the reference on the possession notice to be altered to the present location.

Mr Trotman's main defence was that the EA is not a freeholder and therefore cannot bring a case of trespass. He argued that public bodies do not have access to common law and only have the statutory powers they are given by the state. This was dismissed by the judge who said that Land Registry documents showed the EA to have title absolute over the lands in question with the same rights of protection from trespass as any other landowner.

The defendant also argued that to bring a case of trespass the EA must show that it required the land back "for its exclusive possession" but again the judge ruled this irrelevant. She also dismissed the argument that the navigation licence conferred a long-term right to moor.

Mr Trotman asked for leave to appeal the County Court's judgement but this was refused. He was ordered to pay court costs for each case, amounting to £710 in all, to be paid by 29 November.
Note prepared by Tony Wilson, Hampton Court Crescent.
8 November 2016

Unauthorised residential boat moved downstream (September 2016)

On its way - the 'slumboat' en route downstream, blocking the navigationThe large vessel tied up near the slipway at Hurst Park for months, with cabins rented out as lodgings and commonly known as the slumboat, finally left - only to moor up on the towpath close to Molesey Lock to the dismay of more local residents.

The Environment Agency issued a statement on 9 September:
"The Environment Agency served 7 day enforcement notices to the owner (8 September) requiring the boats to move. The Agency will commence county court proceedings against the boat owner for trespass if the boats do not move and is confident the process will be much quicker this time. The Agency is working closely with Elmbridge regarding other potential offences."

The Agency assured residents that Elmbridge Council too was being active and the two authorities are in regular contact at a high level. There is every sympathy for local residents and an assurance that everything possible is being done whilst following due process within the law.

The Agency added that they very much appreciate our patience, and the Friends' support in ensuring local residents are kept aware of the actions being taken..

The offending vessel made its halting way downstream over a period of some hours on the afternoon of 22 August 2016, blocking the navigation en route (see image above).

Its departure was not without drama as its owner, Mr Trotman, with two others, had no means of propulsion and attempted to move the boat using long ropes. This caused damage to bankside vegetation - the Thames Path is no longer suited as a towpath; as a barge walk in the past, it would have been kept clear of all trees.

Residents from Taggs Island came out in force in boats to prevent it mooring up elsewhere on the Surrey bank. Eventually, after about five hours, the boat was towed by islanders to the midstream pillars at Molesey Weir, where it was finally tied up at about 8pm. The following morning it was tied up in the lock cut, where it was blocking access to the services for other boats.

People passing and stopping spoke about their great relief at seeing a blight removed from the listed Arcadian vista of the riverside at Molesey and Hampton. However, the vessel continues to blight the river landscape - currently at Molesey Lock where it is in the view of residents overlooking the weir and Ash Island.

'Slumboat' at Molesey Lock.

Removal of the slumboat from the unauthorised mooring at Hurst Park had been the subject of a court order, consented to by Mr Trotman at Kingston County Court earlier in the summer (see report below).

Court order for "Slumboat" to be removed within the month

Ubauthorised Mooring on Hurst Park

The floating 'lodging house' in the Thames off the slipway at Sadlers Ride, Hurst Park - defined by many local residents and users of the riverside park as a 'slumboat' - must be removed by the end of August 2016.

This was the settlement agreed at Kingston County Court on Thursday 21 July 2016 between its owner Alastair Trotman and the Environment Agency, which has been attempting to get this large unauthorised residential vessel removed for months.

The boat has been advertised on AirBnB and can accommodate up to ten tenants. A BBC mini-documentary screened earlier this year, with a reporter and insurance expert staying aboard for a night, showed something of the interior of the boat and the state of its toilets. The expert described the vessel as a fire trap.

The hearing at the County Court was brief, with an adjournment called by the judge to ensure Trotman was satisfied before signing the agreement.

"My role is impartial," she told the court, with several local residents in the public gallery. "I can look at the draft order, but cannot advise. The negotiations between the parties are outside of court, to resolve their own dispute, so we want parties to be free to discuss matters."

The judge was clear that she did not want to see a further deferment of the case to another day, which would not be in the interests of the court or any of the parties. It was costly in terms of time and money.

Trotman said he wished to retain the option of the judge hearing the case. It was confirmed that the parties would review the draft consent order during a short adjournment.

The judge put the question to Mr Trotman: "Are you happy, if I look at it, you will be prepared to go ahead with the trial today?"

After Trotman had agreed, the judge added that on that basis she was happy to go ahead; she did want to defer to another day.

Following the short adjournment of about an hour, the order was agreed and this was accepted as an entirely sensible solution. The agreement also applies to other unauthorised boats in Trotman's ownership. Three small boats moored at Teddington must be removed by the beginning of August, and three other larger boats by the end of the same month.

COUNTY COURT HEARING - 22 February 2016
An enforcement action brought by the Environment Agency against Mr Alistair Trotman, owner of the large multi-occupancy boat moored long term at Sadler's Ride slipway, Hurst Park, was deferred until June at Kingston County Court today (22/2/2016). Mr Trotman was joined by two co-defendants.

District Judge Jonathan Smart adjourned the case in view of the nature of the application and the fact that only a half day had been scheduled for the hearing. The start had been delayed until late in the morning because the court had considered enforcement notices on several residential boat owners illegally moored at Teddington Lock. Those owners had been given between six weeks and three months to leave.

Mr Trotman was challenging the EA's enforcement action against his boat at Hurst Park on grounds that the EA did not have the powers to bring possession proceedings. The EA response was that it did have those powers. Mr Trotman claimed he had a right to moor indefinitely, over and above other navigation rules.

The Judge decided that the matter could not be disposed of in the time remaining for the half-day hearing and should therefore be deferred, with time for additional witness statements, replies, standard disclosures, and depositing of additional papers, etc. As this was the second hearing, the June hearing would be scheduled as a final hearing and allocated a full day. The judge felt that this would be better if all parties wanted to have the matter brought to a conclusion.

Mr Trotman explained that his prime defence was that a statutory authority did not have access to common law. Authorities had access only to statutory powers, not common law, and any power an authority had must be expressly written down by statute.

The judge pointed out that the Agency was the registered owner of the land in question at the land registry. It was not so much a question of proof of title but whether there was a right of possession. It was clear the matter could not be dealt with on this occasion, but it should be completed within a day - there was argument more than evidence; the dispute was more about legal consequences.

Mr Trotman told the court he wanted to minimise costs. The judge stated these would be the costs incurred of the action. Mr Trotman told the court that he was on a minimum wage, as opposed to the Agency officers. The defendants were asked for their postal addresses as hitherto papers had been served on them in person and this could not continue. The judge added that if a date was not allocated for the one day hearing within the coming three weeks the court should be reminded.

He added that the technical point that there was a different common law right, separate and distinct from navigation, was an interesting one and that Mr Trotman might need further legal advice on it in order to prove a right going over above any statutory right - a point denied by the Agency. Such a right if proved could permit a boatowner to put a boat wherever they wished. There could be adverse possession of the riverbed, for example. Mr Trotman replied there was no adverse element - he had a right to be moored. The Judge commented he would be interested to see some further argument.

"In accordance with Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules, we have issued proceedings against a total of 17 boats moored over our bed of the river in three separate locations between Teddington and Moseley locks: The towpath upstream of Teddington Lock; at Hurst Park; and at the mouth of the River Mole by the Hampton Court railway bridge. This was brought to County Court in Kingston on Thursday 5 November.

"Unfortunately one of the owners failed to deliver their defence case in time so the cases concerned above Teddington and at Hurst Park were adjourned. The court has now listed the final hearing for 22 February 2016. This is the first date available for a half day hearing. We hoped for an earlier date but must accept the date allocated.

"The judge signed possession orders for the other case in respect of boats moored in the entrance to the River Mole by Hampton Court station.  Those orders were immediately served on the relevant boats, one of which had already left. We are aware 2 of the remaining 3 boats at that location have now left, if the remaining boat does not move, we will transfer the issue to High Court Enforcement Officers to get the boat moved.

"It is important we continue to deal with all 3 cases at the same time, to avoid the migration of boats evading action at one site, by simply moving to one of the other two sites."

Live-aboard boats are mooring up on our riverbanks without permission. Ourselves, various River Groups upstream and down, and the Hampton and Molesey Riverside Trust are in touch with the Environment Agency, local Councils, each other the local MPs to try to get the problem resolved. The River Thames Alliance has recently succeeded in getting an All Party Parliamentary Group for the River Thames re-established. We prepared a database of all riparian MPs along the Thames for the RTA so that we can get our local representatives on board to improve the state of the river overall.

For several months, this unnamed boat has been moored near the Sadlers Ride slipway where cabins are let out for accommodation, despite the fact there are only very basic services for those living aboard.

Recent reports about unauthorised mooring in our area:

Kingston riverside clampdown

Spelthorne unauthorised mooring prosecutions

Comments can be sent to :

This disgraceful eye-sore is probably unlicenced and has been blighting our riverside at Sadlers Ride for months. I hear the owner rents out cabins for up to 10 people and has many similar vessels along the Thames. Surely there must be something the Council or the Environment Agency can do to stop this or maybe even the police.- HF

It looks like a massive fire hazard to me, there are gas cylinders visible all over it and the superstructure seems to be mostly wood. I think they are using the car park as there has been an increase in the cars left there overnight recently. - AK

How come Richmond, Kingston and Spelthorne all take legal action against these boats while Elmbridge does nothing. The Environment Agency, who we are constantly told have the power to deal with it, also take no initiative in this. Does this mean all the river tramp boats are going to converge on Hurst Park now as Elmbridge is such an easy target. - JH

JH is right!. Elmbridge is becoming a sitting target for these illegal moorers. There are no sanitary arrangements and owners do not pay for boat licences - legal boat owners have to pay a small fortune for an annual boat licence as I well know! We are told that without a licence we will not be allowed through the locks but clearly these boats are allowed passage without being stopped. Without a licence they can't get insurance and nor will they have safety checks. - TL

While walking our dogs, I often hear, rather than see, boats motoring along the river past Hurst Park, at night without any lights showing at all. Why is this? Are they part of illegal goings-on at night on the Thames involving the illegal moorers? I have often wondered.- FG

(From the owner and landlord of the large tenanted houseboat moored by Hurst Park slipway) 15.09.15
Dear Friends of Hurst Park
I am delighted to that Autumn squill has been found in the park.
I am saddened that you should picture my barge, describing it as "without authority" "unauthorised" "on our riverbank" without approaching me first in a friendly cooperative manner. Such a confrontational approach only serves to make divisions between myself and the other local residents or visitors where none need exist.
Before I can address what I believe are your unfounded allegations in the friendly cooperative manner that I suggest you should of approached me with. I will need some more information from you within twenty four hours.
Whose authority are you referring to that I need but do not have?
Who has not authorised me as you suggest I need authority of?
Why is it relevant to friends of Hurst park that there maybe only "basic" services aboard, (not that any admission is made to the level of services)
What evidence do you have that the barge is moored here "permanently" as you suggest rather than temporarily?
Can you please provide copy of the land title registry that has your name on it for this location to support your, as yet unsubstantiated claim, that it is "our riverbanks"
I would also ask you to remove the incorrect comments for your website
as I am displaying on riverside my 2015 river license. Barge is also fully comprehensively insured through Euro marine, despite the fact that non powered barges are only required to have third party insurance.
As a courtesy to you and gesture for my willingness to be cooperative please also note that I have owned these posts for many years and used to have a pontoon on it. the pontoon had a boat on it for many years before that also.
I also point out to you the sign on side of barge which states that other boats are "welcome moor here for 24 hours at own risk" A free benefit for the boating public.
It may be beneficial if I also point out that my posts mean my barge sits a few metres away from "your" riverbank. I also note in passing I provide bankside lighting and experienced watch on water and path which is hugely reassuring to night time walkers.
I look forward to your prompt advices. - Alistair Trotman

Comment on behalf of the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency:

Our Waterways Enforcement team is dealing with this issue. In this instance we suspect that the owner of the houseboat is committing a number of offences. The Environment Agency is the registered owner of the river bed in this location. We have already served a total of three enforcement notices against the houseboat for mooring over our river bed adjacent to two unauthorised mooring piles. We have also served an enforcment notice for the unauthorised mooring piles and for not having a 2015 boat licence to keep the houseboat on the River Thames. The owner has now registered the boat for 2015.
The owner has so far failed to comply with our instructions to remove the houseboat from Hurst Park so we will start possession proceedings using civil procedures for trespass offences at the beginning of September. We have recently successfully prosecuted the owner of four unregistered boats also illegally moored at Hurst Park. The owner has now moved the four boats, sold three of them and registered the one they live on for 2015. Therefore we are confident that by using civil procedures we will resolve the issue of the illegally moored houseboat also.
The craft is now registered for 2015 as a houseboat with no fitted engine or diesel/petrol tanks. We will check the owner's 2015 registration application to ensure they have made the correct declaration of fitted appliances onboard. In the meantime we welcome any witness statements of pollution incients from the houseboat.

On behalf of Paul Leinster, Chief Exec, Environment Agency