I regularly paddle up and down the river between Weybridge and Walton whilst training as a member of Weybridge Rowing Club and Thames Valley Skiff Club. Over the last few years I have witnessed a significant increase in boats moored without permission along the river.
Within the Public Right of Navigation there is deemed a right for boat owners to stop on land, subject to the necessary landowners consent, for a reasonable period, the Environment Agency (EA) considering this to be 24 hours. The law only allows the owners of the land that the boats are moored on to take action against an unauthorised mooring. As the EA owns most of the towpath running through Elmbridge, they consider the most effective method or dealing with this issue is through prosecution for repeated trespass offences. But anyone regularly using the river or the towpath can see that this has so far failed to produce any reduction in the number of illegally moored boats.
However, there have been two recent developments which indicate some positive steps towards tackling this problem:
- Those occupying a number of moored boats near Cherry Orchard Gardens in Molesey had encroached onto the towpath and erected fences, gardens and garden furniture. Last year the Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) Planning Compliance Team issued nine enforcement notices to have these removed. The notices were appealed, but on the 13th January the government’s Planning Inspectorate turned down the appeals as ‘not valid’. This means that the enforcement notices can now come into effect. The notices require the use of the land for the permanent mooring of boats to cease, and any structures, fencing or enclosures to be removed. The period for compliance is one calendar month, i.e. by the 13th February.
- The EA has decided to engage in procuring the services of a specialist company to help it manage moorings on its land. They have previously managed their designated mooring sites where charges applied for stays of more than 24 hours, e.g. at Hurst Park Wharf, Molesey, at Miskins Wharf, Walton, and at Desborough Island. This time it also wants the appointed company to be responsible for managing boats moored outside its designated mooring sites. This is a significant change. It wants all boats to be moored in accordance with any applicable terms and conditions; this should mean that overstaying boats are moved by their owners/masters without delay or enforcement procedures will be put into place. Subject to the quality and affordability of the responses received, the EA hopes to make an appointment and have all necessary arrangements in place before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend of 10-12th April.
Finally, EBC has no powers to move/evict boats on EA land but it has continued to work closely with Surrey Police and the EA. If you identify a crime or anti-social behaviour then this should be reported to the police or reported on-line at:
To report any other non-urgent matter relating to the river contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 03708 506 506 during office hours. The EA will also seek to take action against any incidents of pollution in the river that are reported to them. If you witness any dumping of waste into the river you can report this on their hotline 0800 807060 and they will investigate.