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Houseboat occupants told to leave

PUBLISHED: 20:08 23 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

OCCUPANTS of a houseboat who have stirred up a barrage of protests after blocking a river path may now be told to move their home from its mooring.

Councillors will this week be asked to take enforcement action against the couple, who have set up home illegally on the river at Wilford Bridge, Melton, and give them three months to sail away.

OCCUPANTS of a houseboat who have stirred up a barrage of protests after blocking a river path may now be told to move their home from its mooring.

Councillors will this week be asked to take enforcement action against the couple, who have set up home illegally on the river at Wilford Bridge, Melton, and give them three months to sail away.

When officials visited the houseboat and land leased to one of its occupants at Wilford Wharf, they found a 2,750 litre oil storage tank to supply a power generator for the boat, patio table and chairs barbecue and household items.

On a second visit they found an electricity company had actually fixed up a supply to the houseboat and installed a meter box!

Suffolk Coastal says these actions are considered to be development which is unauthorised under the Town and Country Planning Act.

Boats can moor on the river and have done for a long time, but none of them before have been turned into a permanent home in this way.

The council, which owns the land, says the houseboat and land use is against policy in an area which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area.

Policy states that new moorings will not be permitted on estuaries, rivers and coastline and will not be granted between Sun Wharf and Wilford Bridge.

"Representations relating to the use of the land for the mooring of a houseboat have been made to the council by a number of local residents as well as residents of Woodbridge who use the public right of way that runs alongside the river," said director of planning and leisure Jeremy Schofield.

"If a retrospective planning application were to be submitted, seeking permission to retain the houseboat in its present location, it is considered this could not be recommended."

The human rights of the houseboat occupants had been considered but it was considered the rights of residents should prevail and be protected.

On Thursday the south area development control sub committee is recommended to authorise Mr Schofield and chief executive Tom Griffin to take all necessary action to remove the houseboat by October.

The houseboat occupants have been at the centre of a row after fencing off the river wall footpath, which although was well-used is not on the footpath map and currently not an official right of way.

Elizabeth Berry, one of occupants, said the path was closed off for health and safety reasons following an incident involving a small child last year, and security and privacy following trespass, criminal damage and harassment.

"The land is private and there is a public liability issue which we must consider as we have a responsibility if the path is not a public right of way and if they wander off the path," she said.

More than 200 walkers have filled in user evidence forms claiming the walk on the river wall should be a public right of way.

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