Norwich boaters sail into stormy waters over River Wensum fence dispute

PUBLISHED: 12:32 28 June 2012

Boats moored on the Wensum at the site of the historic Port of Norwich. Negotiating new fence and gates installed to obstruct access.
Photo: Bill Smith

Boats moored on the Wensum at the site of the historic Port of Norwich. Negotiating new fence and gates installed to obstruct access. Photo: Bill Smith


A dispute has broken out between boaters and a landowner about a floating community moored in Norwich.

Seven boats are based on the River Wensum, off ABC Wharf, King Street – a site significant to the river’s history for more than 500 years. But a fence has been erected in recent weeks on the riverside, which boaters say has made it difficult for people to walk to their vessels via ABC Wharf. They want it to be taken down and their place on the river secured.

The boaters say they have contracts with a tenant at ABC Wharf to moor off the land, an agreement they have been advised allows them to stay. But ABC Wharf landowner John Thursby said this was not the case and he wants a more formal agreement with all the boaters. He said he had been advised by his solicitor to regulate the waterway off his land and would be happy to provide facilities if this were agreed.

Both sides accept electricity has been cut off for 11 months – though they disagree about why it has not been restored.

Mr Thursby said: “I would be quite happy if they came to me and said, ‘look here Mr Thursby, we want to stay, we want to sign a licence’. They would have to pay something I suppose. That’s not in essence what it’s about. It’s about the legalities of the licence.

“I need to know they have insurance, their boats conform to the safety scheme and they treat the yard and tenants with more respect than they have done over the years.”

The Broads Authority said boaters needed a toll licence to use or keep their vessels on the river, plus third party insurance and a valid boat safety certificate. But landowner permission was needed for boats to moor. The boaters say they have this through their landlord, but Mr Thursby says an agreement needs to be in place with him.

University of East Anglia (UEA) philosophy lecturer Ben Walker, who has been mooring there for five years, said all necessary licences and insurance details were in order.

Mr Walker said: “It’s been difficult for about a year and it’s been getting worse. We certainly don’t have a detrimental impact here – there’s no mess, no noise. My girlfriend and I have talked about leaving as it’s stressing us out.”

The boaters say they play a vital role in looking after the river and have saved people and dogs. A petition with 573 signatures has been collected to support their case.

What do you think? Email


  • Steve.Has anyone said that they are mooring illegally.Whatever the boats might look like,as long as they have paid their tolls and insured etc there is not a lot you can say.My concern would be where does all the sewerage and rubbish go!There are lots of boats on the Broads 50 yrs old.I will not comment what I think of a lot of them.

    Report this comment

    john kendall

    Friday, June 29, 2012

  • Steve, the boats that are part of the marina are insured, have safety certificates, and pay to moor there. (There are a number of squat boats further along the bank of river, which I can't comment on.) They don't represent a fire or safety risk, according to the fire officer who visited last month - but the new fencing certainly does. Over 700 Norwich citizens have signed a petition asking for their residential owner's rights to be respected. Every year at least one person is pulled out of the river by the residents, normally people that have drunk too much in the riverside complex. We're a pretty normal bunch of people, who love living on the river, that's all. I'm sorry to hear that you have such a negative opinion on our community.

    Report this comment

    Ben Walker

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

  • While city centres become increasingly sterile, regimented and boring, the Wharf and the boats stand out. It must be the most photographed and painted piece of Norwich. I would hate to see it go.

    Report this comment

    John Adam

    Friday, June 29, 2012

  • Whilst sitting enjoying a leisurely drink at the riverside complex, I have regularly commented on the eyesore these boats in ill-repair are on this stretch of river. Time they moved on, or paid the proper price required for mooring on somebody elses property. Surely it is also a serious fire risk to the rear of the waterfront nightclub?

    Report this comment


    Thursday, June 28, 2012

  • Steve.Just to add to your comments.How many fires have there been on boats at the rear of the nightclubs and how many idiots have had to be rescued or even worse,drowned at the rear of the nightclubs?If you are really concerned about safety then close the nightclubs.

    Report this comment

    john kendall

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Latest from the EDP

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 9°C

min temp: 2°C

Listen to the latest weather forecast

Show Job Lists