Watermans Park Moorings

Anonymous comments fuel anger among responsible river residents

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Boaters who reside by Waterman’s Park have been angered by a London Borough of Hounslow’s report regarding the area.

Matt Harmer, Brentford Ward Councillor, instigated a Councillor’s Call for Action in 2009 regarding the moorings on Waterman’s Park.

The moorings debate has been going on for over a decade.

The boaters have been described as squatters by other residents and have been accused of damaging the environment.

The report states that the Borough Solicitor took legal action to remove many unauthorised vessels to make way for new moorings at Waterman’s Park in 1999

Gary Cowen, who has resided there since 1997, has had very strong feelings about the report.

He said: “The council took us to the High Court but they set it aside as it was so full of irregularities.

“The Council’s report seemed to be based on gossip and scandal from unnamed persons to which I was not given a right of reply.

“The idea that the unlicensed mooring owners are throwing diesel, gas bottles, fridges into the river is plainly ridiculous.

“Unfortunately there is a great deal of rubbish in the river and the outfall in front of my boat regularly pumps out raw sewage from Thames Water.

“I have personally called for an ambulance, on occasions, for unconscious drunks in the park and myself and other residents pick up the rubbish scattered around the park.”

Nigel Moore, Brentford’s waterways guru, has a different insight into the matter.

He said: “The moorings alongside Waterman’s Park are all ‘authorised moorings’ in that the mooring facilities are licensed by the Port of London Authority (PLA).

“This ‘Riverworks licence’ was originally granted to the gas works and was taken over by the Council when they took over the whole area and turned it into a park.”

“Regarding the case being taken to the High Court it sounds like some confused gossip that can only relate to actions by the PLA (Port of London Authority).

“A few years ago they took possession proceedings against two barges in particular.

“The case was brought to the County Court, not the High Court.

“However the PLA were advised by the judge to withdraw, as the land was not in the PLA’s remit, instead it was in possession of the Crown.

“Those who arrived 5 years and more ago have actively cleared up considerable amounts of the riverbed rubbish on their own initiative.

“The boaters have done what they could, with the help of Thames 21.

“However this does not address the removal of derelict hulls as that will require heavy machinery, and therefore is expensive.

“In short the Waterman’s Park boaters present no greater or lesser pollution hazard than most of the other Thames houseboat communities.

The London Borough of Hounslow’s report states that licensed moorings would provide an increased presence in the park outside daylight hours, increasing surveillance and reducing the potential for vandalism, drug use etc. 

The anonymous e-mails in the report describe the actions of those that live in the unlicensed moorings as damaging to the environment stating that many of the boats are extremely unsafe and polluting.

The amount of oil and sewage going in the river and the huge amount of debris surrounding their boats is heartbreaking. 

The report states that while the licensed crafts are paying council tax and utility charges the unlicensed craft users are not. A licensed mooring would provide revenue uplift for the council.

Mr Cowen told me some people mooring there do pay Council Tax, and he believes that the London Borough of Hounslow is unwilling to hold discussions with the unlicensed community regarding the future of the site.

Mr Cowen called for co-operation with the Council to see if an adequate and amicable solution could be found.

Mr Moore informs me that the Council have the ability and responsibility to licence use of the moorings by boaters, which would give them the opportunity to set appropriate conditions for regulating matters in everybody’s best interests.

Business proposals have historically fallen down and the Council are obviously not going to ever want to involve themselves directly.

Mr Moore believes that the boaters concerned should form a co-operative group of whatever functional character, and enter into an agreement with the Council to improve and control the moorings for the benefit of all concerned. 

Tom Moore

December 22, 2010

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