RARE  Great Burnet Autumn Squill - a rare plant now confirmed growing in Hurst Park and nowhere else in Surrey RARE Bee Orchid in Hurst Meadows The Hurst Marker RARE Hybrid Duck at Hurst Park Lady's Smock (Cuckoo Flower) Hurst Park signpost

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Vista across Hurst Park


slumboats at hurst park

The authorities continue with efforts to rid our river banks of long-term unauthorised, unregulated and unmonitored residential boats and accommodation barges, commonly known as "slumboats". From Elmbridge Council,. there is an update here. In addition, Surrey Fire and Rescue issued two legal notices against vessels near the Sadlers Ride Slipway at Hurst Park (pictured above), as follows:

1. Enforcement notice: issued when SFRS consider the risk to occupants in case of fire is more serious than can be dealt with by the sending of a letter. An enforcement notice stipulates a time scale for when any corrective action must be completed by.

2. Prohibition notice: issued when the condition of a building (or other accommodation) and the lack of fire safety provision mean that there would be significant risk of death or serious injury if a fire started. The notice prohibits or restricts the use of or access to part or all of the accommodation, until it is made safer.

Following the serving of the notices by Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, Trotman was charged with an offence under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. At court in November 2019 he was given a fine of £12,500. His appeal against this was dismissed, but he has pursued his right to take the appeal to a higher court. The matter was heard at Guildford Crown Court late 2020 and judgments were made against the appellant. The Crown Court upheld the case presented by SFRS and awarded costs against the appellant.

A report of the case is available here.

Alistair Trotman, owner of the barges, has two other charges laid against him by the Environment Agency relating to two of his "slumboats": namely that in March 2019 the vessels overstayed in Molesey Lock Cut and there was a refusal to obey a Harbour Master's instruction to move. Trotman has pleaded "not guilty" and a trial date was set for 27th/28th April 2020 at Staines Magistrates Court.

On 13 January 2020, appeals against Elmbridge Council's Planning Enforcement notices to remove the "shanty town" of gates, fences, sheds, storage, and other impediments on public land alongside the Thames Path were dismissed. This land has been appropriated and damaged by those occupying the colony of unuthorised live-aboard vessels along the riverbank at Molesey Reservoirs. The appeals against the notices was judged to be "not valid" by the Planning Inspectorate. As a result, those boats moored up opposite Aquarius Sailing Club had one month from 13th January 2020 to comply with the requirement to remove fences and structures, and to cease using the land for the permanent mooring of boats.

The borough Planning Compliance Team was set to visit the site on 14th February 2020, or thereabouts, to ensure the notices have been complied with - but it is clear to those walking the Thames Path here that this enforcement did have an impact. Some boats moved, and ground was again open to the public and had been cleared. The damage to habitat, some of it destroyed with chain-saws, remains but the riverbank should have a chance to regenerate over the growing season. We had kingfishers here until recently, along a riverside that is a valuable habitat for a whole range of native species and a designated Site of Nature Conservation Importance. Users of Hurst Park who want to walk on upstream have found this reach a no-go area with the illegal encampments springing up on our public land along the water's edge.

So at last, the legal wheels of justice start to grind - slowly but perhaps we have some traction, although further slowed by the current pandemic. Two of the slumboats are up for sale, but meanwhile, Hurst Park itself continues to be sorely blighted by these unauthorised multi-occupation barges, each of which has something like ten little cabins rented out by the owner.

We continue to press for action through our MP, councillors, the Environment Agency and the Councils.

A third lodgings vessel (slumboat) arrived at Hurst Park on 30 April 2019 and a fourth arrived at the end of July 2019 to add to those that arrived in June 2018, and they're still there.

The persistent, vexed issue of long-term unauthorised mooring is something that this group, working with others, has been focused on for years - but with little success, with the authorities unwilling or unable to take meaningful action and apparently paralysed.

As we all can see, unauthorised live aboard and lodgings vessels (tramp boats and slum boats) pervade our river banks and damage the landscape and environment. Many of those upstream of Hurst Park are also staking a claim to the land nearest their boats, all along the Thames Path, erecting fences with locked gates and setting up a shanty town.

Along with other resident and river-related orgnisations - notably Reclaim Our Riverside2 and the River Users' Group - we raised the problem with MPs at the All Party Parliamentary Group for the River Thames on 30 April 2019. Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton and our stretch of theThames through Molesey, is a member of the parliamentary group and has been kept fully informed.

Speaking under an agenda item entitled "Abuse of the Public Right of Navigation", Mr Raab made it clear he wanted to see meaningful action to rid our river of this blight along Molesey's riverbanks. He commented: "The problem has got worse and will keep getting worse."

He urged the Environment Agency to apply its powers robustly and rigorously and, if there was challenge, to test them. "It worries me that we will still talk about this in a year's time and things will remain unchanged. I can't take a lax approach and let the problem manifest itself in this particular area."

In another approach, Elmbridge Borough Council is issuing planning enforcement notices to a total of 18 boats along the Thames Path near Molesey Wetlands that have erected structures. Another approach under consideration is Public Space Protection Orders. EBC is working with Spelthorne and Runnymede and will report in June. We will keep you posted.

For the Agency, officers said that they did not believe they needed additional powers. However, they also said there was no quick remedy and there were no plans to update old byelaws with derisory penalties. The Agency added that they did not have police powers or a cost-effective way of disposing of boats if they removed them from the riverbank. Keeping them secure had to be at tax-payer expense.

Elmbridge Council has made it clear that any development on the public open land, flood plain and Green Space of Hurst Park and Meadows is unlikely to be permitted.

See more here.

You can find the background and history to both applications from 2018 and from 2016 for a Water Activities Centre at Hurst Meadows Riverside, starting here.