Policeman and baby among families forced to move off Surrey canal as

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Across the country, rows between homeowners and boat-dwellers have been breaking out for decades.But a family in Surrey is fighting with one group of boaters who fear being forced from their homes on the River Thames in Surrey, as locals say noisy Summer boaters are to blame for the issues.On the Thames riverbank in West Molesey, Surrey, around 10 boats are moored on a stretch of unregistered land, meaning the group which includes a serving policeman and a months-old baby, have not been obliged to pay mooring fees or council tax.Some of the residents have lived there with little disruption from the authorities for nearly 13 years.But local mother-of-three Lara Seal, 36, whose house is metres from the riverbank, claims that a small group of antisocial temporary boaters prompted complaints from other locals in July.She told The Telegraph: “Two or three boats last Summer gave the good ones a bad name. They were drinking, shouting, they have a lot of dogs.“The permanent group are my neighbours, we have a community and all look after each other.“They have all been tarred with the same brush.”Following complaints over the “eyesore” stretch of river, the Environment Agency began removing 20 abandoned boats in the area in October and November last year, using its powers as the navigation authority of the non-tidal River Thames.It owns the riverbed and has applied to the Land Registry for the rights to the land at the side, which could see the permanent community disbanded and moved on.The residents, who claim to have all the valid relevant registration certificates, are now fearing “eviction” and are locked in a battle with the Environment Agency as they fight to have the land registered to them.According to Inside Out London, they are now putting in measures to secure the land around the bank, installing posts and gates at the recommendation of a squatters’ advisory service, in the hope they will win rights to the land.“We seem to be acting well within our right,” Paul, a police field intelligence officer and one of the West Molesey riverbank residents, told Inside Out London. “I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable doing anything that was improper”.However local pressure group, Reclaim Our Riverbank 2 still think the group’s behaviour is unfair, and believe they should be paying their way.In an email seen by The Telegraph, campaign founder David Garrett wrote: “The boaters’ permanent community inevitably attracts a wide selection of itinerant moorers all looking for the same free parking, and the present community have all been demonstrably unable to control the antisocial element of these.“For the group to claim that the presence of a liveaboard police office has a beneficial effect is clearly complete nonsense.”But Ms Seal fears that freeing up the space could attract even more antisocial people to the moor in area, causing more disruption to her family.A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “It is not correct to say this is an eviction. A number of boats have been moored at West Molesey for a considerable length time without consent from the landowner, which is required for stays of more than 24 hours.“By doing so they’re obstructing the other 20,000 boaters who pay to use the Thames. We have taken action out of consideration for all licenced boat owners.”A film about the West Molesey boaters airs on Inside Out London, BBC1 at 7.30pm on Monday. 

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