Agenda item

Unauthorised moorings

Decision:

Resolved that

 

(a)      the proposed consultation on approaches to manage mooring without consent be supported;

 

(b)      the results of the initial stakeholder consultation be reported back to the Cabinet once the consultation period had closed, in order to agree next steps; and

 

(c)      managed moorings be trialled for a period from Hampton Court Bridge to Surbiton on Elmbridge Borough Council-owned land.

Minutes:

(Link to Council Priorities: Character and Environment, Quality Services, Community Wellbeing)

 

The Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture introduced the report that sought approval to commence stakeholder consultation on a range of options to seek a long-term solution to manage the ongoing issues of mooring without consent.

 

The Cabinet acknowledged that in recent years, there had been an increase in the number of boats moored without permission along the River Thames.  This had recently been exacerbated following the increased enforcement activities in Kingston and Richmond which had displaced boats into Surrey.

 

The Portfolio Holder explained that the Environment Agency (EA) was the navigation authority for the non-tidal River Thames from Cricklade in Wiltshire to the tidal boundary at Teddington in Middlesex, passing through the Boroughs of Elmbridge, Runnymede and Spelthorne.  The EA had the responsibility to manage the waterway and ensure that it could be used safely by as many people as possible.

 

The Cabinet noted that the EA and other landowners did provide short stay public / visitor mooring sites to encourage passing boats to stop for short periods and enjoy the peace of the waterside and use local amenities.

 

A number of sites along the River Thames had taken the decision to charge, either for mooring at any time, or after an initial free period.  In these cases, signage would usually show the charges payable and by mooring at these sites the boat owner / user was agreeing to pay them.  There were also many less formal areas along the River Thames where boats could moor.  However, as most of this land was private, boats were encouraged not to moor on private land and where no mooring signs were displayed.

 

The Portfolio Holder advised that within the Public Right of Navigation there was deemed a right for boat owners to stop on land, subject to the necessary landowner’s consent, for a reasonable period.  This followed the EA’s policy that 24 hours was considered a reasonable time within normal navigation unless signage stated otherwise.  Boats could stay for longer, provided they had the landowner’s consent to do so.  The Cabinet noted that all vessels on EA waterways, which included narrowboats, cruisers, barges, unpowered house boats, canoes and rowing skiffs, had to be registered.

 

The Portfolio Holder took the opportunity to update the Cabinet on the current position with regard to unauthorised moorings within the Elmbridge area.  Elmbridge currently had 50 to 80 boats moored along the River Thames without consent between the boundary with the London Borough of Kingston at Surbiton / Thames Ditton and Weybridge, with the majority being moored on a mixture of private and public land.  The Borough had recorded 89 complaints linked to anti-social behaviour with the main issue being mooring without consent.  To inform residents and Ward Councillors of the action being taken in this regard, a dedicated web page had been produced which was updated regularly.

 

The Cabinet noted that as the enforcement activity in Kingston and Richmond had displaced boats further along the river, it was proposed that Elmbridge, Runnymede and Spelthorne Borough Councils work in partnership to bring about new powers at the same time and in a coordinated fashion.  In this regard, an early stage of public consultation with key agencies who had a stake in the use and enjoyment of the River Thames, would be carried out between June and July 2019 to seek a view of the possible solutions that could be taken forward to manage the issue.  The possible solutions included the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order; Byelaws; managed moorings; and a ‘do nothing’ option, the details of which were outlined in the report.

 

The Portfolio Holder further advised that at the same time as the stakeholder consultation was being carried out, it was proposed to implement a 1 year pilot for managed moorings on Elmbridge owned land from Hampton Court Bridge to the borough boundary with Kingston.  This would include Cigarette Island, Albany Reach and Ditton Reach.  Signs would be installed at regular intervals along the rivers’ edge of all 3 sites informing boats that mooring was permitted at a cost of £150 a day.  It was considered that this high price would deter boats from staying.  The Cabinet was pleased to note that for the 1 year pilot, District Enforcement had offered to enforce the area at no cost to the Council.  At the end of the pilot, the results would be reviewed and presented to Cabinet.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Community and Corporate Development welcomed the comprehensive report and was pleased to note that consideration had also been given to those individuals that could face homelessness should action be taken to end an unauthorised mooring.

 

The Leader then invited Councillor A. Tilling, a Weybridge Riverside Ward Councillor, to address the meeting.  Councillor Tilling thanked the Head of Leisure & Cultural Services and his Team for the work being undertaken in testing a Community Protection Order procedure to move a residential barge off a stretch of water in Walton on Thames.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture then asked the Head of Leisure and Cultural Services to provide an update on the current position with regard to unauthorised moorings.  The Head of Leisure and Cultural Services referred Members to the Council’s website where information regarding unauthorised moorings within the Borough was being updated on a daily basis.  Current areas of concern included Cherry Orchard Gardens where planning enforcement action was being taken to remove the boats and structures that had been erected next to the boats.  In the same area, Community Protection Warning Notices had been served as a result of the destruction of the riverbank.  An update was also provided in respect of Ditton Wharf and as the 21 day appeal period had now ended, arrangements were being put in place to secure a Magistrates Court hearing date.

 

The Cabinet supported the approach being taken to seek a long-term solution to manage the ongoing issues of mooring without consent whilst being mindful that the Council could only act when it affected Council-owned land.  The Council would of course continue to work with the other partner agencies as appropriate.

 

Resolved that

 

(a)      the proposed consultation on approaches to manage mooring without consent be supported;

 

(b)      the results of the initial stakeholder consultation be reported back to the Cabinet once the consultation period had closed, in order to agree next steps; and

 

(c)      managed moorings be trialled for a period from Hampton Court Bridge to Surbiton on Elmbridge Borough Council-owned land.

Supporting documents: