Chelsea houseboat owners win latest fight against mega barges in west London yacht club war


Chelsea houseboat residents have won their latest fight against the introduction of “mega barges” in the community near Battersea Bridge.

People who have lived in the hamlet of houseboats in Chelsea Reach fear property developers want to force them out of their homes to make way for “super boats” which can be rented out for huge profits.

Kensington and Chelsea councillors this week ruled that three new large, luxurious vessels that appeared in the community in Cheyne Walk earlier this year breach planning controls and enforcement action could be taken.

The vessels, which replaced some smaller boats that were evicted for non-payment of fees, are split into two apartments with one being advertised for rent for over £8,600 per month.

Members of the Chelsea Reach Boatowners’ Association (CRBA), who have lived on the river for decades, successfully argued that the new boats would disfigure the riverside that has remained almost unaltered since the 1930s.

"We believe the council must fulfil its obligation to safeguard the appearance of the riverside", one resident told the council planning meeting on Tuesday.

"You have the legal discretion to take enforcement action. If not, the appearance of the moorings will change dramatically, the community will be displaced and a valuable piece of Chelsea's heritage will be destroyed."

Barrister Andrew Prynne KC, who lives on the 46ft houseboat Periwinkle, added: "When the intensification tipping point is reached, the character of the moorings will have changed irreversibly and the remaining houseboat community will have disappeared to make way for the new boats.

"The new multi-dwelling boats are much longer, wider and taller than even the largest existing houseboats on the moorings...on a boat by boat approach each new boat amounts to a massive intensification."Residents have been in a fight with property developer Andrew Moffat since February 2016 when he bought the Chelsea Yacht and Boat Club (CYBC), which owns our moorings between Battersea Bridge and Lots Road.

They say they have faced large increases in maintenance charges, as well as huge premiums for the ten-year mooring licences because CYBC wants to “increase its revenues through the sale of luxury new build boats attached to long-term mooring licences”.

Mr Prynne KC was asked to pay around £500,000 to renew his licence. This amount was later reduced to £13,800 after 11 owners took their case through a binding arbitration process known as Expert Determination.

The residents' campaign has been backed by celebrities, including The Good Life actress Felicity Kendal and Madness frontman Suggs.

A spokesman for Mr Moffat told the Daily Mail that the "duration and cost of the licence varies".

He added: "Legal advice from a KC concluded that there were no planning breaches. It is wholly incorrect to suggest otherwise.

"Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company proactively tries to work with any owner who is behind on their bills. Owners who have properly engaged with the company have seen reductions on their outstanding bills and longer-term arrangements to help them."

A meeting to decide what, if any, enforcement action should be taken against the three new barges will be held in the new year.