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Norwich City FC gives houseboat owners just four days to leave riverbank

PUBLISHED: 15:20 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:26 17 January 2019

Boat owner Ben Wallace aboard his house boat, Tiramisu. Photo: Luke Powell

Boat owner Ben Wallace aboard his house boat, Tiramisu. Photo: Luke Powell

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Boat owners facing eviction by Norwich City FC have been given just four days to pack up and leave.

Boat owner Ollie Jones, left, with Isaac Erdman, who used to moor in the same area. Photo: Luke PowellBoat owner Ollie Jones, left, with Isaac Erdman, who used to moor in the same area. Photo: Luke Powell

House boat owners on the River Wensum were told they have until Saturday to move from the riverbank at Hardy Road.

The area, which is owned by the football club, has been an unofficial mooring spot for several years.

But on Tuesday, the small community was served an eviction notice stating they were trespassing on private land.

Ollie Jones, 36, has been moored on the riverbank for the past two years.

He said: “It’s been really good here and it’s handy for getting into the city for work.

“It would be good if we could reach some sort of agreement [with the landowner] to stay.

“I would spend the whole week clearing the place up if they wanted us to.

“It will be sad to move on.”

Some of the boats moored alongside the river bank in Norwich. Photo: Luke PowellSome of the boats moored alongside the river bank in Norwich. Photo: Luke Powell

Norwich City FC was asked why it had ordered for the boats to move, but a spokesman said the club had no official comment to make.

The riverbank is next to the ATB Laurence Scott building and is overlooked by a residential development which is under construction.

House boat owner Ben Wallace, who works as a takeaway driver, said boats had moored in the area for at least a decade.

The 39-year-old said: “It doesn’t seem too unfair to me. But the frustrating thing is that we are running out of places to go.

“We are planning to all move together. Not by Saturday, but by Tuesday at the latest.

“It will make it difficult for me with work. It is just another upheaval.”

About seven boats are currently moored alongside the riverbank. A small make-shift camp has also been erected nearby.

While the boat owners said they pay river tolls to the Broads Authority, they do not pay for mooring.

The encampment next to the riverbank. Photo: Luke PowellThe encampment next to the riverbank. Photo: Luke Powell

Deliveroo driver Amos Erdman said he was “not surprised” the community was being moved on.

The 21-year-old, who has been moored there for about two years, said the build-up of rubbish could be behind the decision.

“I have been expecting this for a while to be honest,” Mr Erdman said.

“It was a lot better when I got here, but now a few junkies have ruined it.”

The bailiffs were joined by Norfolk police to serve the eviction notice on January 15.

The notice gives the boat owners until 5pm on Saturday, January 19 to leave.

A life on the water

Those living alongside the riverbank at Hardy Road say they could not imagine life back on dry land.

The location of the boats at Hardy Road. Photo: GoogleThe location of the boats at Hardy Road. Photo: Google

Ben Wallace has been living aboard his houseboat, called Tiramisu, for the past 15 years.

Prior to his existing moorings, he spent time moored at Jenner’s Basin on Thorpe Island before the land was sold and closed off.

He said: “This way of life makes you more independent. But although you have to rely on yourself a lot, you also rely on those around you.

“So many people [living in houses] don’t know their neighbours these days. But here you all do. It is like a small community.”

Ollie Jones, who is originally from Cornwall and has been in a boat for the past four years, said: “It is too cooped up in a house. Here you have freedom.”

His vessel, called the Golden Nugget, has an organic toilet and a gas stove for cooking. However he said he has to rely on the nearby swimming pool for showers.

Other residents

Amos Erdman initially moved to the stretch of riverbank to join his brother.

The 21-year-old has worked on boats his whole life and grew up on an island in Scotland.

He initially came to Norfolk to help his brother build a boat, but ended up staying.

Despite not officially being allowed to moor at Hardy Road, he said the community had a good relationship with the nearby factory.

He said: “We get some staff come over and talk to us, and they might give us wood [to burn].

“I did have a flat that I was paying £450 a month for, but I just couldn’t afford it anymore.

“Official mooring spots can be quite expensive, while this is free, which is what attracted me to it.

“It [the houseboat community] is a massive community. We all know each other and help each other out.”

A small make-shift camp next to the boats belongs to a Big Issue seller, known as ‘Essex’.

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