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A council was today accused of harassment after it launched a court bid to evict houseboat owners to make way for a £5.4 million marina.
Hounslow council is planning the 26-berth marina at Watermans Park in Brentford, opposite Kew Gardens.
But boat owners who live there claim it is an attempt to “gentrify” the area and have refused to leave. They are now fighting allegations of trespass at Central London county court.
Stephen Javor, 64, who has lived in his boat Nemo’s Sister for 13 years, accused the council of an underhand campaign to force them from moorings. He said power had been shut off, car parking restricted and intimidatory signs erected.
“This campaign of harassment by the council is a clear example of a process well known as ‘social cleansing’, now evident throughout the capital and beyond,” he said. “A small community of boat owners and dwellers is being sacrificed for the private commercial gain of property developers.”
Plans for the £5.4 million marina were approved in May last year. Boat owners said that an alternative marina could be built for far less and without moving them on.
But council barrister Iain Colville argued in court this week that the boats were moored illegally and their owners were damaging council land. He said: “Without consent, they moor their boats on the land and run cables, pipes and conduits on and across the land… The council needs them to leave Watermans Park by ending their trespass in order to pursue its development.”
Boats have been moored on the former gasworks since the Sixties but have been at the centre of disputes with the authorities for two decades.
The case was originally brought against 25 boat owners but most left after the council offered not to pursue them for legal costs if they moved on.
Of the eight who remain, Mr Javor, builder David Devere, 59, photographer Paul Mendoza, and Vernon Roberts, 37, were in court this week.
Mr Mendoza, who has lived on the Wight Queen since 1998, said the council wanted to get rid of what it considers “eyesore” boats and instead create “safe deposit boxes on the water”.
Mr Colville asked the judge to grant an injunction forcing the boat owners to leave within seven days and not return. The council is also claiming £500,000 in damages and, if successful, could ask for its £350,000 court costs to be paid. The hearing continues.
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