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Family fight to keep home

PUBLISHED: 00:33 25 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

A FAMILY living on a houseboat is preparing to fight for its right to keep the vessel on its mooring - despite planners' attempts to evict them.

Elizabeth Berry and Terry Langridge claim Suffolk Coastal has kept them in the dark about proposed enforcement action and if they are forced to remove their barge, they will be legally homeless and will have to be rehoused by the council.

A FAMILY living on a houseboat is preparing to fight for its right to keep the vessel on its mooring – despite planners' attempts to evict them.

Elizabeth Berry and Terry Langridge claim Suffolk Coastal has kept them in the dark about proposed enforcement action and if they are forced to remove their barge, they will be legally homeless and will have to be rehoused by the council.

Meanwhile, the couple, who have a daughter, 13, and son, nine, have suggested a solution to a row over a blocked footpath which is believed to have triggered the council's bid to move them on.

Council officers claim the boat at Wilford Bridge, Melton, is a home set up illegally on the river – against a government planning act and policy for the area – and are recommending councillors give the family three months to move.

But Ms Berry said the barge had been lived on in Melton for eleven years and has established use.

She had seen the report for the south area development control sub committee on Thursday and it had many omissions – including not mentioning proposals for improving the site, that the lease is commercial and has established commercial use, or that boats have been lived on at the wharf for many years.

The family pay council tax, which they claim makes the land and buildings with the mooring become domestic property.

She would be writing to all the committee members, and was also considering a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Ever since a footpath was blocked off along the river wall and diverted, the family has been subjected to harassment, threats and abuse, and vandalism.

"We get some people who will stand and stare at us for long periods or they take photographs of our property or make a point of walking around the site taking notes," she said.

"Some will jeer or make rude signs and comments. Some will deliberately throw bags of dog mess or rubbish over the fence and break signs.

"After taking professional rights of way advice we now have a plan of action and the first stage is to reopen the top path as soon as it can be diverted from its existing route and the fencing issues along it can be resolved.

"If the district council had given consent for a fence when asked a year ago, it need never have been closed. We will have to apply to the Land Tribunal to remove the need for consent."

Council officers claim a 2,750 litre oil storage tank to supply a power generator, patio table and chairs barbecue and household items, and now electricity connected, has turned the boat into a permanent home.

They say it is a unauthorised development under the Town and Country Planning Act, and against policy which states new moorings will not be granted between Sun Wharf and Wilford Bridge.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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